Friday, I went to the memorial service for my friend's father, Larry. He was a writer, an editor for the Post, long retired, he had been suffering from dementia for quite some time. That is always an intellectuals great fear, our bodies going is one thing but the mind is our treasure.
I really wish I had spent more time talking to him in life, he was a fascinating man, his wife, even more so. They were very much involved in the civil rights movement, he and his wife were from Alabama. He was one of those rare men who supported his wife, Sidney absolutely, even if he didn't necessarily agree. And his wife was a spitfire(sadly, she died of leukemia in 1993). Larry would sit at the lunch counters and when a black man would walk in and ask to be served, Larry would tell the counter man, "Go ahead and serve him, don't bother me."
He was the example for better behavior and I wonder if he knows how much he changed the world. As a writer, he brought this experience to the world. Sidney was one of those brave people protesting the war and marching for civil rights and speaking out with the confidence to be admired. I knew her only as the woman who drove us to school once a week. How I missed out.
I rode in carpool with their only daughter, Suzy. She was the shiny and positive person in the car and, like me, had three brothers. I always appreciated her happy face in the mornings, though I said very little, she was my favorite person in the car that consisted of girls who would not socialize but lived near one another.
Later, when I was in high school, I met her older brother, Todd and briefly considered dating him. I liked him quite a bit, he was always fun to hang around with but he never quite got around to asking me out. One summer night, he walked me home and we stopped on the corner and kissed for about twenty minutes but there was never any follow up. He was too shy to bring it up again and I was too flighty to be caught that summer. Still, it evolved into a nice, comfortable friendship and he ended up being best man at my wedding because he is very good friends with my husband.
At the memorial service, people were invited to tell their favorite stories of Larry and I found out so much more that I didn't know. Growing up, my husband spent quite a bit of time at their house and I can't help but think, since his own parents were divorced when he was young, he must have absorbed some of this example of a strong marriage. After all, I am in the rare position of having a husband who will back me no matter what. It seems like he got a piece of that somewhere and I heard that over and over at the memorial. It was beautiful to hear about a man who not only loved his wife, but valued the woman he was married to. The last time I was with Larry, he told me the story of how his daughter changed schools and why they supported that with her. His devotion to how she felt and where her life decisions were going to take her touched me deeply.
Not having a very understanding father myself, I really valued this conversation. I wish I had known these people better but I think somehow, they touched my life in more ways than I can know.