Buck and I have a newly-divorced friend who is renting a neat old house on Perdido Bay. We drove over to see him late Friday afternoon.
“Don’t forget the lasagna!” Buck reminded me, and I grabbed the foil-wrapped frozen brick of sauced pasta that my good intentions had thus far failed to follow through upon.
The bay is about twenty-five minutes from our house. We left our serene woods and drove through a motley collection of subdivisions, strip malls, closed businesses, and several newly built nondenominational churches so appallingly ugly they look as though they would positively repel souls.
We had seen this old house once before. Back then, it had a dilapidated, abandoned air about it and the inside smelled faintly of neglect.
Our friend has turned it into Home. This crusty electrician, his growly voice showing traces of Michigan even after all his years in the south, has transformed the house into a warm ship captain’s quarters. Pictures of his family line the walls, including ones of the athlete-scholar who was about to enter college a few years ago when brain cancer brought those damnable fatal seizures.
The kitchen sparkles, ferns hang on the sun porch, and a tiny orange sherbert kitten, “Julio,” climbs the screened porch door, meowing piteously to come inside. Our friend shrugs and grins as though embarrassed to be caught with a pet cat. “I got lonesome,” he said.
He likes to do yard work when he is depressed, and the process of deconstructing a marriage has resulted in a flurry of landscaping for this bayfront lot. It is full of a tangle of old bushes and trees: azaleas, camelias, banana trees, fig trees, loquats full of immature fruit, sago palms, ginger lillies, and huge old pines and cedars that have withstood every storm. Our friend has clipped, trimmed and rescued them. He planted winter rye grass, lush and fresh-looking.
Our friend put the lasagna in his refrigerator to defrost. “Thanks,” he said. “I pick up H. (his daughter) tomorrow. We’ll eat this Sunday night while we watch the Superbowl together.”
On the way out, I noticed he had picked a spray of blooming azaleas and put them in a vase on a low table in the living room.
Looks like life is beginning to bloom again for this good man.