Greeting to all and welcome new friends to the EastWing,
Did ya ever make a promise that ya just had to keep? It had to be carried out, it just had to be kept, ya don’t even know why it had to be kept, but it just did. And so ya carried it out, carried it out the best ya could. It was about 10 days ago I completed one such commitment I’d made way back in the very early days of 2011. A pledge to a friend of mine to carry out his last request of our friendship. A friend in need.
It was hard to do that last request thing, the last request of a dear friend. It was a two part thing with six months in between parts one and two. It was damn hard to do that thing. Sometimes in life we don’t do things because they’re easy, we do things because they’re the right thing to do. We do such things because even if they’re hard things to do in life, and ya know it gona be hard, but ya still do ‘em, ‘cause they’re the right things to do in life. Then when you’re done, you even more so know it was the right thing to do in life.
This thing I’d agreed to do reminded me of the poem “The Cremation of Sam McGee” when it read “a friends last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail”. A request had been made of me by a friend in deed, and so It was a thing to heed, and I swore I would not fail. On the evening of June 13th 2012, at Grand Central Station, in downtown North Judson IN, I carried out the final half of that last request.
It was not a long term friendship. But was an intense friendship. Ya know how sometimes two people just right off the bat, get along. So it was with me and my friend. We just got along. Right up front, right off the bat, we got along. He was a soldier in WWII way before I was even born, but we got along. And our friendship just proves, ya don’t have to be in the same generation of people to make friends. We proved that point, ‘cause we got along.
I knew my fiend only in the last six years of his life. But that was enough. Ya don’t have to know friends for a lifetime to make lifetime friends. In his case, six years was enough. How much is enough? I don’t have a clue. But what I do know is, six years is, for sure, enough.
We met as a result of me creating Grand Central Station in North Judson IN. He came in one day as a customer, and left that same day as a friend. It was at his suggestion that we devised the “Round Table” at Grand Central Station.
The Round Table at Grand Central Station is simply a group of people who share a common interest in anything and everything worth discussing as a group. Social, political, personal, whatever, while setting at a large Round Table in an atmosphere conducive to pleasant and stimulating conversation. At my friends’ suggestion, it was modeled after the famous Round Table at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City during the 1920’s & 30’s of the last century. That was back in the day for my friend.
We compliment, challenge, dispute, agreed, disagree, argue, ridicule, and so much enjoyed the company of every person who’s ever sat at the Round Table, and there were many. The Round Table has attracted nobodies like me and my friend. Plus local people of influence, along with two different Bishops of the Catholic Church as well as preachers and priests, saints and sinners, plus local, state, and national elected officials who just happened to be going by and stopped at the Round Table to say hello.
Special treatment did not and does not exist at the Round Table, even the Bishops of the Catholic Church, were treated with the same level of respect, ans at times, disrespect, the same as the nobodies like my friend and I. Everyone who’s ever had the courage to pull up a seat at this table immediately becomes family of the Round Table. When ya sat down at the Round Table, ya sat down to a completely different set of rules. The Round Table just makes ya feel at home in the company of friends that are in a special way, family. Friends that will criticize ya in a heartbeat, and love ya in the same breath. The Round Table of Grand Central Station, it’s a suggestion of my friend, it’s such a special time, being at the Round Table.
The last decade of his life had not been kind, in fact, life had been hard. Financial woes had rendered his life miserable. Lack of money does that to ya, makes your life miserable. But the end game of his life was to play out much like a Hollywood script for a movie with a happy ending, riding off into the sunset. And so his life ended.
It ended on a cold, windy, dreary day of winter, as the snow fell on the banks of the Wabash, my friend rode off into immortality, hopefully going in the right direction, but never the less, making new friends along the way and telling ‘em all about his Indiana home on the on the banks of the Wabash, far away. He had spent the last days of his life at the Indiana Veterans’ Home in Lafayette IN. He was never more happy in his lifetime than being where he was when he died. It is that thought that makes me happy.
We talked a lot, me and my friend. We talked of many things, such as “ship and shoes and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings”. He wondered if Lewis Carroll was smoking the stuff in order to write about a walrus and a carpenter eating oysters while they walked along the sea shore. Ya do have to wonder, maybe it was the stuff, the stuff of story tellers. I don’t like oysters, and I don’t smoke. We just talked a lot, me and my friend. We did talk of many things.
One of the things we talked about was his desire to express to the people who had come into this life toward the end game, his appreciation for such friendship. We talked about that a lot, me and my friend.
He was one of the most interesting people I’ve ever known, that friend of mine. A warrior, a cement salesman, a scholar, a college professor, an author, an artist, an art gallery owner, a world traveler, and just before he died he once again had returned to college and was enrolled in a Masters Degree Program at Purdue University. He was just a friend of mine.
We talked by computer much of the time, email was the norm. Sometimes he had a need to talk direct, and so he’d tell me to call him. He had access to local phone service, but long distance was an unusually large price per minute. I convinced him I had unlimited long distance service, and so when he needed to talk by phone he’d email me the message “call me up” and I would. Sometimes I’d call on the telephone and we’d talk for hours on end. He had the time at the Veterans’ Home to talk for hours on end, and so I made the time from the EastWing to talk hours on end. We talked a lot, me and my friend.
He said he had a need, after his death, to express to his care takers at the Veterans’ Home how much he loved and appreciated the care and attention that was afforded both him and his wife in his lifetime, when it was the time he needed it the most, at the end of his life. He asked me to express that need to the employees and volunteers of the Veterans’ Home. I agreed to do so.
Said he had a need, after his death, to express to the Book Club of the North Judson Library how much he had enjoyed the friendship and the company of the Book Club Group. How much his membership into the Book Club of the North Judson Library had meant to him. I agreed to tell ‘em the importance of their friendship to my friend.
My friend died. And at a later date, a memorial service was scheduled at the Indiana Veterans Home there in Lafayette IN. I went to that service with the purpose of fulfilling part of the agreement with my friend. I’d tell ‘em how he felt about ‘em all. When the Military Chaplain asked if anyone else had something to say about my friend, I stood up ‘cause I’d come there with something to say. I told ‘em everything I was supposed to tell ‘em, that bright sunshiny day in early 2012, up there on the high banks of the Wabash River, as the cold north wind mustered up a bone chilling breeze just outside the chapel doors, there at the Indiana Veterans Home.
Now the Book Club was a little more complex situation. He wanted it to take place in the summer time, if he died in the winter. To tell the Book Club in the summer, ‘cause he enjoyed the Book Club so much more in the summer time, as it was just so damn hard to get out in the cold to go to the Book Club, but he did. He got out in the cold and went to the book club meetings.
So I waited till the summer time came by, till ya could feel the warm sunshine on your skin even when the wind blew, till ya knew it was summer once again. And then on the 13th day of June, I told the North Judson Library Book Club the rest of the story. The story of my friend Tom Boldenweck and what he thought about ‘em all, and what he thought about the North Judson Wayne Township Library Book Club. I just told ‘em as Tom and I agreed I’d tell ‘em. Just told ‘em the kinda stuff Tom wanted me to say.
Now a friends last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail. I just told ‘em the way it was meant to be told. And so it was on the evening of June 13th 2012, I presented to the North Judson Wayne Township Library Book Club the final testament of Tom Boldenweck. He loved ‘em all, and it turned out they loved him too.
Precious memories how they linger, how they ever flood my soul. In the stillness of the midnight…..
Stay safe in Afghanistan.
From the EastWing, Talking ‘Bout A Friends Last Need is a thing to heed.
I wish you well,