About 40 years ago, I met a very pretty, very sweet girl when she suddenly married my good ol' Navy buddy, Brian, who turned out to be my truest life-long friend. Since then,Vera, the girl, was always there by his side.
"A good woman to ride the river with," Brian would describe her, taking the measure from those beloved Western novels by Louis L'Amour.
"Yup," I say, in the succinct spirit of L'Amour.
The girl treated Brian like rough-cut royalty on that river, kind of like a king, and she gave my friend two princes, their sons, Shane and Brad. She took care of those riders night and day, however the river ran.
I spent a lot of time in that household, supported heart and soul in my dubious adventures, as if I was first cousin to the king, royal blood. And, if the king and his cousin yearned for a pitcher of martinis and a platter of homemade nachos supreme to accompany three TV movies in a row, Vera was supremely tolerant, armed with her understanding that men, though loathe to admit it, are genetically programmed to make asses of themselves--at least occasionally.
It wasn't easy on her, but she knew; the men would eventually come home, always.
Then as suddenly as I met her she was gone in a shock too soon--bam--take that boys. I had assumed that the king and I would never see her go, that she would bury us. But no. At 62 she was gone--while we kept aging along the river, riding more slowly.
It didn't seem right. She was too gentle, too sweet, too young....
Like a fragile flower, I wondered? Well, maybe...like a flower that looked beautiful, smelled sweet and died too soon? Yes, but no, those flowers didn't complete the picture in my imagination. I needed something more, something that does things. She was more like one of those graceful dandelion parachutes, floating on a current of air you didn't even know existed, carrying a kindness to the life around her--in fact, carrying life itself.
That's how I think of her as she floats in my memory, gently, slowly, brushing my cheek with her very human grace.
Thank you, my friend, Vera.