Tuesday, September 2, 2014

September Song for a Butterfly

“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you
it’s going to be a butterfly.” — Buckminster Fuller

Not too long ago I learned that a very dear man, a poet, had left this world. I woke up thinking of him today, recalling the day we met.

He was seated with his wife at a writing workshop I was attending. I noticed them because there was a shine surrounding them both, like a patina, and I found myself staring at them until my curiosity could stand it no longer.
I turned to my friend Mary. “Tell me about those two people sitting on the front row.”
“That’s B.C. and Vida Cole.” She rolled her eyes letting me know that anybody with a lick of sense would have known. Mary’s facial expression always say a mouthful.

“They’re a fixture around here,” she added. “They drive down from North Carolina every year because they met and fell in love here. Is that the most precious thing you ever heard or what?”

B.C. went to the podium and began reading one of his poems. It was humorous and we all giggled. B.C. talked like he laughed—as if his vocal chords were constricted. He twanged his “A’s” like hill people often do. When B.C. said something that began with an “A,” it came out flat, like “that fat cat.” 
I later learned that he loved to tell tall tales on himself. I once heard him say, “Last week Vida said to me, ‘Go look at yo’sef in the mirror, B.C., ‘cause you got chocklit ice cream stuck in your mustache.’ It was dripping off my chin onto my new shirt that she had paid a whole bunch of money for. So I said, ‘That would make a right good story.’ Haw. Haw.”

B.C.’s laugh, if not always his tall tales, was infectious.
He sported thick muttonchops that curved around his long face. Those sideburns suited him because they framed a ruddy complexion that turned a deeper red by the time it reached his pencil-thin nose. Every time B.C. smiled, that nose of his joined up with his lips and crawled up his face like the two were in cahoots, as indeed they were.

Grinning, he would take an index finger and push his silver rimmed glasses back up to where they belonged. He did that a lot because he smiled so often. I never heard B.C. whistle, but I always expected him to stride unhurriedly into a room with his lips poised in whistle-mode tweeting like a canary. Happy, contented men always whistle.
B.C. didn’t wear bright pink trousers, he headlined them. His royal blue suspenders topped off a black Polo shirt that was buttoned up to his chin. The Polo shirts he wore were probably the only concession to popular trends he ever made. B.C. Cole was way past caring about fashion statements—he made his own declarations and he made no excuses.
You have to admire a man like that.
He was a born romantic with an innate sense of how to make his woman feel special. It seemed as if he wanted to touch Vida as often as possible, if only with an occasional tap. I watched him as he listened to the lyrical words read by another poet. After a bit, he leaned in close to Vida until his smiling face brushed her silver hair, just behind her ear. Pretty soon, not hurriedly or without thinking, he kissed a little section of her hair. It was so gentle that Vida, accustomed to his loving ways, barely blinked. But she noticed.
Their devotion to one another stretched beyond their years as man and wife. Like Blue Boy and Pinky, one of them was incomplete without the other.
When Vida lost her hearing, B.C.’s ears became her ears. Much like the tender kiss he often gave her, Vida scarcely noticed the transition—it’s possible that neither of them was conscious of her hearing loss. They functioned as one finely tuned, well-oiled piece of people machinery, the kind that automatically slides into place at the first sign of a glitch. B.C.’s old eyes became weaker toward the end, but even with poor vision, he saw beyond hearing loss or time ticking away.
He was a special man whose loving ways provided him with a grin that emerged from a cocoon spun of joy. That grin crawled like a caterpillar across his innocent, child-like face and morphed into a laugh that might have come from a butterfly— if butterflies could laugh. 



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