FAREWELL, RALPH. I HARDLY KNEW YOU.

I have few to no readers of this blog that I know of. There is a loyal writer and old friend and classmate in the Pacific Northwest. Thank you, Frederick. I’ve just discovered through Ancestry.com, an Irish cousin living in England and I think I can now count him among my readers.

This is okay. When I’m ready and feeling more “public,” I can certainly try to draw people to share what might be common emotional ground with me. I don’t like getting too political.

But many times, I asked myself as I poured out my thoughts, is there anyone out there? Any new souls who’ve stumbled upon my lair in cyberspace? But I’m certain much of the writing in the world gets written and deposited in life’s proverbial walls, foundations and mental niches, sort of like time capsules, to be found and read later, hopefully with appreciation, perhaps mostly by family.

However, I learned last year that I had one other loyal reader, and he was a surprise to me. His name was Ralph Williams, a former neighbor at Blue Heron Townhouses where I lived in Lancaster, Massachusetts prior to moving to Florida.

And this week came sad knowledge.

I learned yesterday that Ralph passed away on Wednesday, August 11th. I don’t at the moment know the cause of death.

This news shocked me, and made me very sad.

Ralph might have been as old as 80; I don’t know. He was pale and portly, genial, soft-spoken, a smiling man, a gardener and owner of a landscaping service. He lived around the corner from me at Blue Heron. And as long as I was at Blue Heron, he was president of the trustees.

I have no idea how Ralph found my blog. He started adding little affirmations to some pieces I wrote here last fall or so. This came out of nowhere to me — and pleased me no end. Then he left me a spritely message on my voice mail, asking for a call back. He would have had my phone number, too, from my Blue Heron days. The call was an additional surprise. When I called, he greeted me cheerfully (like an old friend) and wanted to recommend another on-line writing platform where he felt my work could find a home.

I never really knew Ralph except to tell him of maintenance issues. He worked hard, along with the other trustees, to make us comfortable. There were the usual rumbles and disputes with residents over “issues.” (Why anyone would want to be a trustee, I don’t know. But I guess it’s to have control over your residential destiny, and to be of service. God love them. )

I do recall, shamefacedly, having fired off an exasperated email to Ralph once over a piece of recycling or trash that wasn’t picked up by the trash contractors. I was unreasonably agitated over a number of things and this was just a final straw. Ralph responded, “I don’t respond well to rants.” He was right; I had ranted, and I apologized. No problem, he said, and he dealt with the issue.

In truth, I had never, in any true sense, been friends with Ralph; never, ever spoken with him on the phone while at Blue Heron. We were acquaintances. The call he made to me down here was his first. In those three minutes or so, I felt we became friends. I’m remembering now, sadly, that in one of his blog comments, he’d written: “I wish I’d gotten to know you better while you were living here.”

Yes, so sad to read now.

Ralph had especially liked my post, “October Untitled.” I believe he also said he liked “Monday Night Nowhere.” I told him I knew of only one other person who read my blog semi-regularly. To which he said, earnestly, “my wife and I look forward to it.” That made me feel very special — and a little nervous.

I worried that perhaps my choice of subject matter in recent weeks and months may not have been of that much interest to Ralph or his wife. He seemed to like the ruminations that coursed over the state of the world at a given moment, noting especially the political state of affairs, but doing so in a decided state of disenchantment, even sourness, leavened with an abiding hope. Putting it less ambiguously, I was obviously unhappy, for instance, with Donald Trump’s on-the-job evolution, while harboring, almost to the end, a scintilla of hope that, among other alarming deficiencies, he’d become better able to distinguish his own egoistic interests from the nations interests. And that’s just the most salient edge of my deepening disenchantment with many things, bordering on disgust and anger at the antics of many parties and mobs abroad in the land. I suspect Ralph shared that point of view.

But we’d never once talked politics while neighbors. In fact, we met only when I was walking my dog past his place, or, in his absence, heard his dog barking within.

Ralph had lived many years at Blue Heron and had chosen a townhouse unit with a side yard where he could plant a beautiful garden. I last spoke with him at a gathering by the gazebo on the little green at the heart of Blue Heron. I talked about the decision to leave and go to Florida. It’s a decision with which I was not then and am not now at peace. But that’s another story.

So, Ralph, this is quite a loss. Greater than I might have imagined.

There was a memorial gathering for Ralph today (Sunday,August 15) in a Lancaster, Mass town buildings. I have no idea what Ralph believe about eternal things, final questions, the after life. I just know I believe he is in God’s hands. He was a good man. Those who knew him better than I have added a trail of commented on Facebook. Many spoke of his smile, and his hard work. I can see him patiently conducting those trustee meetings at the library meeting room.

Once last year, I announced to the echo chamber of my non-existent readership that I’d be taking a little hiatus from this blog. I was feeling spent.

Suddenly there came back to me in the usually empty comments box the words of Ralph Williams. He wrote, “hurry back, Greg.”

I’ll miss you, Ralph. I wish you, too, could “hurry back”. But ” the fever of life” is over for you. Someone else will be tending your earthly garden. I send my prayers and condolences to all your loved ones.

Rest in peace my new lost friend and once loyal reader. Some day I hope to “hurry back” north for good. No more Florida adventures by this eternally restless soul. And when I see a well-tended garden, north or south, I’ll think of you.

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