09/1941 — 08/2022
Copyright 2022, Jack A. Urquhart
A Prose Poem for Ray:
From the beginning, you waited for me; You waited a lot staying put long enough for me to understand how well suited for each other we actually were: both of us backwoods born, waiting like faithful Quakers for the simple gift of finding ourselves in the place just right.
A born teacher, you were patient, understanding that with repetition comes confidence; and so you showed me, again and again, that you could be trusted -- an waited for me to know that it was true.
Worldly wise, you recognized the necessary boundaries of personal space, and remained unobtrusively close through the best of times, through the crushing grief. You knew that silence and space can work wonders, And you waited to touch me until it would mean the most.
And then later, tarrying on a lighter note, you took your time again, permitting only an inscrutable gap-toothed smile, as under your tutelage, I matriculated from boxed wine to the buttered joy of Chardonnay, aged in French oak, from the plebeian satiations of chips and dips and salsa, to the voltaic charged thrill of oysters on the half shell.
"Why settle for table salt and grease," you said, "when here is the briny essence of the eternal sea, a nougat of slippery bliss on a mother of pearl bed -- just waiting to luxuriate at the center of your tongue?"
A true gourmand of the heart you waited for me to develop a taste for these finer things; Waited for me to get what it means to accumulate a thousand favorite recipes, to pour over a list of ingredients like a born-in-the-bone scientist determined to crack the physical and chemical mysteries that would unlock culinary magic.
It took me a while to understand that food is more than sustenance. But you waited for me to get it, planted a kiss on the top of my head like a gold star -- when there at table, spoon in hand -- I finally did; when the little epiphany that this is more than a meal; this is pure love, deliciously served, artfully plated, on an everyday dinner service just for two.
And then, amidst the terrors of those last months, you found the will to wait for me again -- you summoned the strength that would allow me the chance to wait on you. A mere one-hundred days and change was all I had against decades of your patient love.
And so, I sang to you at the end. I was all I could think to do. Just sing to you from my bedside pallet through that final night so you'd know you weren't alone. The words to "Simple Gifts" turning, turning in my head hoping desperately for the both of us to come down right.
And then, at dawn when I tip-toed momentarily from your side to summon more of your favorite tunes (rendered more pleasingly on key) you slipped silently away. Twenty-four years you'd waited, waited for me to catch up; And there it was -- the first and only time you couldn't.