Mack Williams: Acquaintance/friend
Just the other day, I ran into an old “acquaintance/friend” (friend, but encountered with the infrequency of an acquaintance).
I first met the man and his wife some years before while working at a little curio shop run by an East Indian lady by the name of “Santosh.” Some might call him “curious,” because of his appearance and interests in “The Wisdom of the East,” including its traditions and the writing of oriental characters.
His look is that of a mountain man, with long hair. This “Western” look, combined with his oriental interests reminds me of that most famous of the mysterious Caucasian mummies which turned up in China some years ago (as a species, man doesn’t just “mark time”).
The gentleman and his wheelchair-bound wife would stop in the little store so she could see what new jewelry had arrived. Her husband was very attentive and gentle in assisting her choosing. She liked silver rings inset with semi-precious stones. The man would then show me some of his latest artwork, sometimes tiger-themed, sometimes Manga. The store’s “exotica” — statues of Buddha, dragons, incense, etc. — rubbed off on this man, giving him an air of the “exotic” too.
Then I saw him a year ago at my mechanic’s garage. Saying his wife had recently passed away, the man had a most profound look of sadness in his eyes (dry eyes, but on the threshold of “liquidity”). He was in the process of moving, as his landlady’s rental property had been foreclosed.
My most recent meeting up with him of the other day went like this: Upon pulling out of the grocery store parking lot, I spied my old acquaintance/friend and a younger lady walking towards the store entrance. I parked, went in, catching up with him as he headed towards the restrooms. Always a gentleman, I asked him to forgive my interrupting his trip to the toilet.
He seemed truly delighted to see me and gave me a big hug. I noticed he seemed a little out of breath ( but not from hugging me; I’m not that exciting).
He said he had recently experienced a heart attack, and this was his first little trip outside. An angioplasty had fortunately cleared out the majority of the “sludge.” He introduced me to his lady friend (fiancée) whom he said would soon be graduating from nursing school, after which they would get married. He proudly said she would be his wife and home nurse. Although I don’t think he has any singing voice at all, I immediately thought of the late Bing Crosby and his wife Kathryn (when you’re an old “analogy boy” that’s how life is). My late wife, Diane was also my home and public piano accompanist to my singing voice.
I showed off my new, or rather, resumed walking skills, telling him of my recent hip replacements.
After this, I thought to myself, but didn’t dare say to him: “It’s not the bones that kill you (unless they’re cancerous); it’s when that ‘squishy stuff ‘ inside stops working. That’s when you’re done for!”
We both said it was good to see each other again and wished each other well!
There are dear friends whom we encounter almost daily, either in person or by phone. We also have acquaintances with “passable” personality whom we see infrequently. Then, there are the “acquaintance/friends” separated from us by distance and running in different circles. We also encounter them infrequently, but they become true friends whenever encountered again, like friendship re-hydrated (or “Sea-Monkey” eggs hatched after many dry years in the desert!).
The old TV show “The Naked City” concerned itself with police stories involving residents of New York City. It was one of my favorite shows while growing up in the late 1950s, and I, along with my parents and brother Joe, never missed it! At episode’s close, the announcer always said, “There are 8 million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.”
Concerning today’s column, a paraphrase of that old TV show’s sign-off: “Of the multitude and variety of inter-connective human threads woven throughout our lives, this has been but one.”