This blog is intended to be an amused look at the ironies of the world around me. Listening and observing are what I love to do almost as much as anything else.
That said, I have struggled with deciding what topic to begin my blog with. Economy? Barrack Obama? Politics? Oprah? Sports? Religion? That lady wearing the funny glasses? What deserves my bemused attention and withering gaze? But my mind eventually found its way to a sober and very personal subject that I have said little about – one that deserves prominent status in my life story. My friend Delbert Titus.
He was from Stowe, Vermont and we met at a church camp in northern New York state when we were teenagers. We had many things in common like music, offbeat humor, people, poetry, and many other things not common at all. But we seemed to hit it off and spent large chunks of time together after that, ‘entertaining’ anyone who would dare to participate with us. We were also reflective, deep and would often talk about deeper feelings – not typical guy talk, I guess. Early in our friendship I nicknamed him “Durwood” after a name Darren’s mother-in-law mistakenly gave him on the TV show Bewitched (don’t ask).
Durwood was a gifted pianist and singer and found endless joy in putting the two together for others or even just for himself. He loved to laugh, write, and simply getting to know his friends better. One of the great highlights of our lives was the time that we made a monumental decision together: we decided that we weren’t going to die! And since we had decided it, well … that’s the way it would be …
We roomed together for two semesters when we attended Bible College, and it was during that time that I discovered another side to Durwood. A dark, sad, brooding personality existed alongside the overt activities and extroverted energy and often his only refuge was sitting alone at a piano and losing himself in his music. We never talked about it but I know that he hated those times and he was also frustrated by my ‘level’ personality. And it was about that time that I began to realize some of the unspoken things that were floating beneath his surface.
I asked him to be the best man at my wedding which he accepted and so those pictures exist to this day to remind me of him. I only saw him one more time after that, shortly after our wedding more than 32 years ago.
Marilyn and I lived in Kingston, Ontario and built a life together. Durwood moved to Rochester, New York and attended Robert’s Wesleyan Collge before working at a church as a musical director. Marilyn contacted him many years ago and they talked briefly but I wasn’t home on that occasion to be part of the conversation. My good friend and best man had disappeared from my life.
A couple of years ago we heard that he was very sick and I was asked to contact him. I sent emails and left phone messages but they were never returned. When he passed away I wasn’t able to attend his memorial service and the fact that I’m not able to say much more about him is the sadness, I guess. I wish that we had been able to talk, to reconnect, to laugh and to say something important. Our lives are incomplete because we didn’t complete our lives.
My greatest concern is that he knew that I was a minister and didn’t want to be ‘preached’ at in some way. If that is true that would be the bigger sadness because that is exactly who I am not. In fact it’s what I’ve come to hate. But maybe that’s just my baggage.
The good news is that it’s said that he was at peace in the end. I have great confidence in a just and gracious God who holds each in his hands and my hope is that we will have a chance to talk and laugh on some special day in the future life. And I just felt that honoring his memory and importance was something I had to do.
Finally, I must say that I am disappointed that he didn’t hold up his end of the “not going to die” decision we made together those many years ago. I guess that means that now maybe I won’t be able to either…