From time to time I would like to share with you stories about people who influenced my life. Here is one…
When I was very young, I met Robert Frost’s nephew. Yes, the famous writer/poet, Robert Frost. I was nine or ten. He was old and I am sorry that I do not remember his name. But, I will never forget him and I will never forget his home.
During my childhood, my father began learning how to play a lute and then a guitar. My father would become absolutely obsessed with whatever hobby he would become interested in. He would doggedly research, call people, meet people and would quickly become an expert. So, while learning to play these instruments, he became fascinated with how the instruments were made and who made them.
One of his guitar teachers was acquainted with Robert Frost’s nephew who happened to be a violin maker. He lived in Kerman, California, which was not too far from Fresno. My father, of course, was very interested in meeting him, and so, the visit was arranged. My father invited me to come along. When we were children, we absolutely understood that we could go anywhere with our parents, but we were expected to be completely silent and not cause any problems. I was still eager to go anywhere!
We left when it was dark outside. This man lived on an old farm. His workshop was a converted chicken coop. We knocked at his door. He answered. Although he was expecting us, he was clearly grumpy. For a child, it was a bit confusing. I was certainly used to doors opening and whoever answered breaking into big smiles and exclaiming and warmly ushering us into their home. He more or less motioned us into his home. He would not look at me and it was clear to me that he more than likely did not like children. He spoke in a lower and muffled tone, so it was hard for me to understand what he was saying. I gleaned that he was extremely protective of his work space and that it was very unusual for him to allow my father to see it, and unacceptable for him to allow a child to view it. I was to stay in the house while he showed my father his violin making workshop.
The man turned around, walked through the short entryway, farther into the back of the house and indicated that we should follow him, which we did. His house was extremely simple. There were very old planks of wood for walls and planks of wood for floors. The home was small. The room he took us to was practically empty. I silently looked around so I could assess where I was, if I would be safe and what was happening here with this man. There was a dim light bulb hanging from the ceiling. On the far wall was a counter and stove, which I understood was his kitchen area. Right in almost the exact center of the room was one easy chair facing an old black and white TV. The chair was cushiony and had straight legs. On the right side of the chair, on the floor, was a medium sized aqua colored plastic bucket. Filled nearly to the rim with a thick brown liquid. I curiously looked into the bucket until understanding and then repulsion hit. The bucket was full of his tobacco spittle. Oddly, my mind began reeling and I could not comprehend why he would not dump it out and clean it daily!
Before he took my father to his workroom, he somehow communicated that it was also unacceptable to him for me to sit in his chair. So he went and brought me a milk crate to sit on while they were in the shop. I also would not be allowed to watch TV. My father made sure that I knew I was to stay put on the crate until they got back. My father also knew that I would not in anyway violate his trust. I sat and did my very best to avert my eyes from the tobacco spittle and absorb this man’s home.
It was hollow. Waves of emptiness and startling loneliness began washing over me. I felt this man had no desire to be in the world or be around people at all. I was clear that it wasn’t just children he did not like. It felt that he had been so disappointed by people in his life that he simply had no use for them. Part of me felt offended, but another part of me felt his fragility, sadness and his resignation. I had no compulsion to ‘save’ him, which was often my reaction when I encountered people in pain. My sensation and inner command was only to witness him, his home and his life.
I sat and breathed every inch of his home in with my eyes. I willingly felt everything he felt about his life and what he went through each day.
I have no memory of how long I sat there and when my father and this man came back. I have no memory of us leaving and driving home. My only vivid memory is of sitting in his house and I remember that as if it was yesterday.
Here and now, I honor this man and his life. I offer gratitude to him for allowing a young girl to enter into his sacred space and sit silently listening to his thoughts. His life did not go unnoticed.
So much love to all of you for allowing me to share.