Good Eat’in and Being Sustained By Friends
In October 1979 the eat’in at the Wark house was the best it had ever been, and all my life it had been pretty damned good. During that month, in every corner of the kitchen, filling every shelf in the refrigerator, and stacked in the freezer there were lasagnas, casseroles, baked goods and cakes of every kind.
I don’t know how they expected my mom and I to eat it all. But, it came in useful for the non-stop parade of strangers I had never met before that my mother greeted at the door, every day, hour after hour. My mother introduced me to each of them. At 16 I knew perfectly well it was proper to meet their eyes, extend my hand and shake. So I did. Some of them handed their homemade goods to my mother while they gave me a hug.
It was a non-stop march of goodie-laden folks there to console my mother and say goodbye to my father, who was in the back bedroom dying.
I never knew just how many friends my father had collected in the 25 years since he and my mother had come to California from the Midwest. There was a core group of adults who we saw at the house fairly regularly for holidays or dinner parties or summer pool parties. Some we called “aunt” or “uncle”. But it was nothing like the size of the contingent that came to say goodbye to my father and feed us.
It seems odd that the well of concern and sympathy and friendship and empathy that others have for you and your well-being is most conspicuously on display when you most need it. Why isn’t it on display when you don’t need it? Why hadn’t these people come around before my father was dying? Despite what it seems, it’s not odd.
It’s a fact of life that while we maintain inside us a concern for all those we love, like, cherish and respect, we also are required to go about our business of work and caring for family. And this is a lot of work usually. But that concern we keep inside is never buried, but rather is ready to stir us to action when we know those we care for need it. And that’s when we act.
The folks that marched into our house in October 1979 were acting on their love, friendship and concern for my father and for his family. And it was this same kind of motivation that stirred my and Kathy’s friends into action as our little boy Henry recently lie on his back, in an intensive care unit in Oakland, suffering from skull fractures in two places and bleeding under the skull and as Kathy and I were literally shocked out of our wits.
I think a justified sense of loneliness must be one of the greatest killers. I think the knowledge that you really are alone in your despair must be what kills hope. And I think everyone knows the danger of this and is compelled to jump into action whenever such a think threatens friends and family.
Kathy and my friends, so many of them placed in the wine industry like us, jumped to our aid with calls, notes, messages, prayers, sympathy and optimism of the sort that never let us once think we might be alone. Some where good, close friends. Others good acquaintances. Others Facebook and work friends. And some who reached out were those you would never expect to; people with whom I had dueled and written off as careless. They aren’t careless.
To say that Kathy and I are grateful doesn’t quite capture how all of you made us feel or how you helped. You sustained us.
And through us, you helped sustain our little boy who is, as I write, sleeping soundly in a soft, comfortable nest with a prognosis from fine doctors informing us he is well and will not suffer more than the shock he encountered and momentarily cracked bones that will heal. Nothing bad will linger into the future we are told.
When my father finally passed my mother was a remarkable source of strength not just for me, but for the friends who had earlier come by to comfort us and say goodbye to my father. The strength they passed to her was returned to them and given to me just when it was needed. All of our friends and family can count on us to keeping safe the strength they recently gave us so that it is at the ready when they need us.