Thursday, August 14, 2008

He was as odd as they come, but music lived through Todd

BACK ON PEARCY AVENUE. As a kid, I lived six years on Liberty Street and four years on the other side of the block, on Pearcy Avenue, in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Ted and Nancy lived four doors down from us on Pearcy Avenue. They had a son named Todd. He was four years younger than me. The family attended church with us and our families frequently exchanged hospitality, so Todd was very much a part of our family’s life back then.

IN MEMORIAM. Just a few years ago, Todd died of complications of various diseases brought on by a severely weakened immune system. He was 41 years old. I was unable to attend the memorial service that was held for him in West Virginia. I wrote the following poem and sent it along with a friend.

The little boy down the street
was different than me:
I was scrappy;
Todd was scrawny.
I rode my bike a lot;
he rarely touched his.
I read books when I had to;
he read them for fun.
I readily tanned in summer;
he cultivated a constant pale.
I tried to toughen him up,
but he was football-resistant.
While I played outside,
Todd played the piano.
I was okay with music,
but he lived for it.
I did well to sing in tune
and laughed at his early vibrato.
Todd seemed always out of step,
except when the music began.
Then he would soar to heaven
and we would look up in awe.

The little boy down the street
was thirteen when I moved away.
I was four years older than him;
a world apart to adolescent minds.
In that frame of mind,
I viewed him an odd,
but accepted him as so.
Whatever agonies he suffered
I dared not have known.
I moved on through college;
and saw him last at my wedding.
I do not know what life since held for him,
or all he was able to offer it.
I can only imagine a voice
trained and seasoned with grace;
A mind filled with eloquent words
penned by thoughtful dreamers;
And hands flowing over ivories,
drawing melodies from a keyboard.
Beyond disease and deathbed,
that is how I will remember him.

Rest well, my little friend,
And sing us all to heaven.

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