The alchemy of tears

They were the best of friends during the best of times and it was the same for the worst times.
Wally, Ginny, Ray and Joanie were so close I always thought of them as “The Inseparables”; and how inseparable they were.

Ray and Joanie were our neighbors across the street from where my sister and I grew up as children; they were a second mother and father we never realized we had until several years ago.
And they really were the best friends my mother and father ever had.
Right up until the very end . . . thick and thin.

But Ray and Joanie are moving next month to the Midwest to be closer to family and my sister and I couldn’t let them leave without saying a very special goodbye.

This story is about their love, their patience, the passage of time and all the little things we as human beings hold so dear.

This story is for Mr. & Mrs. P . . .

Last Sunday night, we had two longtime friends over the house for supper.
It was a happy gathering overall while on another more subconscious level it smacked of something sad, albeit bittersweet because we were ultimately gathered to say our goodbyes.
Ray and Joanie lived across the street from us for what seems like forever and I feel we’ve known them our entire life.

I always considered them to be something of a second mother and father to my sister and me even though they had two daughters of their own who are now married and off raising their own families.

At every significant event in our lives they’ve both been there.
They were also the very best friends to my mother and father refusing to let Alzheimer’s come between them regardless of how difficult their visits to them would someday become.

Believe me; I understand the difficulty and frustration involved in sitting with a person that no longer knows you.
There would come a day when it seemed that no one really cared about my mom and dad and the bewildering fog they were both passing through.

But Ray and Joanie did; day by day, week by week, month by month, year by painful year with their seemingly endless reserve of love and compassion.

Yes, these two were special. And still are.

My sister and I decided we needed to get together and give them something unique and deeply personal not only to remember my mother and father but us as well. After a brilliant suggestion from my wife, I think we had the bases covered.

We ate Chicken Shish-kabob from the grill, Caesar Salad and Rice Pilaf and sat reminiscing on the deck and laughing about the many better days long since past.

With the evening winding down, I gathered everyone on the deck and presented Joanie with a pretty decorated box.
I looked at my sister and could already see the storms brewing in her eyes.
Funny thing was this felt good and so right.

Joanie opened the box and reached in, pulling out something small and wrapped in emerald green tissue paper.

That’s for you, Joanie, I said, from my mother.

Inside the tissue paper were two of my mother’s Hummel’s, a young girl holding a butterfly and another of a little boy smoking a cigar.
Judging from her expression, she knew these two figurines well.
(*as we hoped she would)

She reached back into the box and pulled out something wrapped in royal blue tissue the size of a roll of paper towels.

That’s for Ray
, I said.

Here, Ramie, this is for
you, she said.

Ray tore the royal blue paper off to reveal a German beer stein, something from my father’s collection that I know Ray had seen gracing their hutch for years.
When you lift it to drink, it plays music; kind of cool and totally Ray.

All of us (9) were a bit teary at this point but it seemed so utterly natural.

The tears we cried were the alchemy of many wondrous things: sweetness and sentimentality, happiness and sorrow, loss and regret for the people, places and things of our countless yesterdays past; but most of all they were tears of hope for ourselves, our families and the future of our precious lives and possibly of a world we seldom understood.

Maybe crying was what we were supposed to do at a time like this.
Granted, it was a tender, almost “Walton Family-like” moment but it was sweet nonetheless.
And my God, it was real; real people, real tears.

We said goodbye that night accepting of the fact that for as much as we feel rooted in the mundane routine of our daily lives, we must move on to new journeys and adventures. . . like the one Ray and Joanie are currently undertaking.
I wish them both peace, health, laughter, good times and endless games and conversations with their grandkids.
That’s the very least I can do.


15 thoughts on “The alchemy of tears

  1. Michael,
    It’s moments like these that make our lives special and meaningful. What angels they are to have stuck by the family all those years when it would have been so easy to walk away. That is the sign of real friends, the ones who will cry with you, stick by you, even if you don’t know they are there. Bless them and luck on their new journey.

    Yup, nail, meet head.
    Great folks, kindred souls.
    I’m really going to miss them.
    This night was so incredibly emotional but in a positive way.
    I’m so glad we had the get together.


  2. Everything you wish for them, will be granted to them because Lord knows they deserve it. Nothing beats friends like the two of them. You’re a lucky man, Michael.

    As I said, they are special people.
    They just don’t make ’em like that anymore.


  3. Every time I read your posts; I get a peak into your pain. I sat here crying while reading between the lines and getting an understanding of what you have/are going through. It must have been sad to say “so long” to friends that know you and your family so well. Very sweet writing, everyone should be as lucky to have such wonderful friends.

    I’m still not sure if I “caught” the moment.
    There was just so much going on, you know?
    I hope I did them justice.
    This was a toughie to write and there’s still this impending feeling that I missed something.
    Ever happen to you?


  4. wow. bittersweet, fer sure. they are a link to your parents that are slipping away.

    there is something so palpably upright, so noble and, well, righteous…about that generation that we should all be mourning. once people as wonderful and nurturing as that age group have ‘crossed over,’ i fear for our society.

    when my gramma sara crossed over in 1995, there was a definitive shift in the sense of decorum within our family. it’s never been the same since.

    i don’t think you missed anything, Constant Writer. but being a visual artist, i would have liked a photo.

    what a beautiful send-off.

    Tanks, Yvonne.
    It was a really nice night with good food, music, beer and much laughter.
    I pray we are able to do it again soon.
    I kept a picture out because I felt they wouldn’t have wanted me putting their faces on the internet.
    Maybe it’s just my protective side . . .


  5. I hope I did them justice.
    This was a toughie to write and there’s still this impending feeling that I missed something.

    You did, Michael. I felt such love in that post. I hope you get the chance to visit them in the Midwest.

    Whyvonne was right about that generation. They have such a warmth and vitality that I find missing in most of the people I meet today.

    That you felt love was all I really needed to hear.
    And yes, that generation. Some of them are truly amazing people.


  6. I think you “caught” the moment beautifully. It was an awesome post. If you can figure out what you missed, maybe you could re-write it. Add to it. But if not, don’t fret. Like I said, it didn’t feel to me like it was missing anything.

    I don’t know if writing my stories is something I’ll ever accomplish or not. I have some pretty good moments that are still hanging around. I’m studying them, thinking of a strategy (when I get a chance to think); but, so far, I haven’t come close to even touching them.

    Reading yours inspires me, though. 🙂

    Bottom line, Lolly, is that you must write them; even if they’re for “your eyes only”
    My stories help me to remember many little things, things I’d never have thought of had I chosen to not write them down.
    If I inspire you in anyway, I’m deeply humbled.
    That’s a real nice thing to say.
    As always, thanks for your wonderful thoughts.


  7. The gifts you gave your family friends were truly from the heart. A very touching and beautiful post. It’s so sad to see who disappears when tragedy or sadness strikes a family, and the fact that this couple kept up the friendship through the hard times is a wonderful testament to their loving nature. What wonderful friends they (and you) are.

    The two of them were there for my mother and father through all of it.
    True friends ’til the end.
    Thanks, OB . . .
    Gotta stop by your place real soon. :0)


  8. they sound like wonderful people. you are lucky to know them, and them, you. The gifts were truly fab and i must admit i did shed a tear, don’t tell anyone!

    Glad to read you’re feeling better, Reg.
    Had us all worried there.
    I won’t tell anyone about the tear.
    Seems my writing has that effect from time to time.
    I appreciate you mentioning it. Means I “connected”. I like when I’m able to do that.


  9. Thank you for sharing this bit of both letting go and celebration of the love that is shared.

    These stories mean alot and even moreso when they are hard to write.

    ~ RubyShooZ ~

    Peace, love and understanding.

    It’s always weeks after I’ve written something like this that I stand back and think, “cool, I’m glad I wrote that.”
    Tanks for the p,l & u Rubes


  10. Thanks for sharing such a special moment! What wonderful gifts you shared with them! Your parents would be thrilled that their precious belongings were given to such special friends. More families these days should share ‘Walton-like moments’. It’s a time to treasure forever!
    🙂 Lynn

    You are right as far as more families sharing these types of moments.
    And yeah, mom and dad would have been thrilled


  11. Happens every damn day…. *But, I got you loud and clear. I wish I had these mad writing skillz. I basically have a very hard time tapping into how to describe my feelings. Maybe that’s why I turn it into humor, it’s easier for me. If I had more time I’d take a writing class. That’ll never happen. I have my hands in too many creative pots at once. I draw, I knit, I make all kinds of crafty stuff, I make webpages and graphics, and I like to write. But, I would NEVER consider myself a “writer”. Not like you and some of the others on my blogroll. You all are so intense, interesting, insightful, intelligent, oh and wickedly clever- witty; and I mean damn straight-up funny! I’m so glad I found all of you. You all have a different style and that’s what I love! My writing is more of just blabbing about my “day to day”. For years I put a little interactive page on my personal family website to chat and none of my friends or family EVER participated. I had given up. One night at work, I stumbled onto this wordpress thing and I finally got the results I was looking for. I never thought it was possible to make a friend on the internet (I wasn’t looking to either) but I’m amazed at what I’ve found. I consider myself really lucky to have stumbled into this group of fine writers. So, yeah, to answer your question from up above, “Happens every damn day” *but I’m having fun trying to figure out the best way to say things. It’s so therapeutic and an awesome way to keep memories alive. You are awesome, thank you for sharing and have a fantastic weekend 🙂

    Therapeutic is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, isn’t it?
    I’m very glad you found your way here as well.
    Your insightful comments give me a deeper understanding of my written words.
    Thanks so much for always taking the time.


  12. What an amazingly wonderful night to share with us all….they sound like some really special people Michael, but thats not surprising really, I get the feeling a LOT of people in your life are special….because you are such an amazing person yourself.
    Cheers, Kelly

    {blushing} Aw, shucks, Kel. I’m just another guy . . . that has some great friends.
    Blessed? Oh yeah.


  13. Michael,
    You’ve said it all. Adding more might be over-kill. You’ve caught them well. What a wonderful story. They say into each life some tears will fall. I’d say you had your share..but there are tears of joy…and thats a good thing. Cheers.

    I appreciate your comment, Matty.
    And yes, happy, sentimental tears are a very good thing sometimes.


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