Somewhere in the third quadrant of the last century, before ‘my time’, Bob purchased a classic navy blue blazer at Trimmingham’s in Bermuda. Quality. Would last forever. I have seen this blazer only a few times – since Bob rarely gets “dressed up”. It is taken out of hiding only for special occasions. I recall some years ago, during a purge effort, going through Bob’s closet and encouraging him to rid himself of items perhaps even the Salvation Army would not find of interest. When we got to this blazer, it was allowed to stay, still looking great, fashionable and in perfect condition. I agreed: it was and is a classic.
Last Saturday was opening night for the Charlotte Symphony’s season and, since it was “chilly”, the blazer was pressed into service. In all his sartorial splendor, waiting for the performance to begin, Bob did what he always does – began to read the program from cover to cover. Inserted in the program was a small questionnaire. Since the conductor of tonight’s performance would be one of three candidates considered to replace the orchestra’s beloved retiring maestro, the audience was asked to weigh in on the potentiality of the candidates, hence the questionnaire.
To ready ourselves for this task, Bob started searching the pockets of his blazer for a pen. Immediately, he withdrew a folded program, opened it and showed it to me. It’s several years old – a program from the memorial service of a dear friend and neighbor from Marshfield Hills – Peter Lange. Peter! I could see him! Tall and handsome with that shock of white hair. How he loved travel, music, life! One look at this piece of personal history transports me to the North Community Church and that day. The familiar faces, the loving tributes, the wishing we were all there for another reason. Anything but saying goodbye to Peter. Bob folded the program and put it back in its place. The inside breast pocket.
Still searching for a pen, he found another folded program. Another memorial service, another beautiful man, a dear friend and neighbor….George Harlow. Another hole in the world left in his wake. And then, one more: a friend’s younger brother. Too soon. Much too soon.
Finally, ticket stubs for the 2004 Boston Pops Christmas Concert. In a flash, I’m there! One of the rare occasions that all of Bob’s grown children were ‘home’ for the holidays. Everyone all gussied up for the event. The giant wreath, Santa Claus. A spirited sing-along. The reading of THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Keith Lockhart with his red bowtie! Remember?
Oh, I could have made some fresh remark about how he never throws anything away – heaven knows I’ve said it a million times! I could have mused that a new jacket might be in order. I mean, really, one every 40 years or so wouldn’t be too extravagant! I asked him again how long he has had this particular blazer and he tells me about buying it in Bermuda. How the store isn’t even there anymore. They went out of business when the cruise ships were prohibited from docking in the harbor. The style and quality of the blazer, how it was made to last a lifetime. A lifetime of special moments.
He finds the pen at last. And it works. As the lights dim and the young conductor takes the stage, we settle in to enjoy the orchestra, sad to know that we will be ‘losing’ someone we love, hopeful about what that special new someone will bring to all our lives. At the end of the concert, we will fill out our questionnaire and turn it in. But the program will be folded and tucked into the inside breast pocket of Bob’s blazer.
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