There are a number of people on my Christmas card list who unfailingly return a card to me every year, or even send theirs before I get mine out. Dick was one of those, and each year his card featured a red cardinal as part of the design. I didn't get one this year from him, so it was not a complete surprise when I opened the oversized envelope which came in the mail yesterday. Instead was a note from his daughter informing me of his sudden death last month, enclosing a copy of the funeral program, and letting me know they found my address in his address book.
He was a friend, and more than that, more than 20 years ago. I can date it because that's when I moved up here into this house, and became "geographically undesirable". Since our relationship had been more cozy than passionate, I had anticipated that. There had never been a possibility of more. He never really got over his divorce, for which he held himself responsible. Dick was a recovering alcoholic.
I was lucky. I got to know him in the context of a support group for re-singled people, long after his sobriety had been established. In fact, he did counseling for others with the same issues for many years. Though I pretty much lost touch except for the cards after I moved away, I suspect that happened as long as he was physically able to do so.
I also knew him as a gardener. In the spring his shady Mahtomedi yard turned nearly solid blue with scillas that had naturalized years before with some help from the local birds. It was so lovely that I determined to plant some in my own yard once I moved in. They've been growing and spreading, in my case with help from my youngest son, who delights in collecting seeds and scattering them in the newest designated locations or giving them away to spread the joy. Every spring as they pop through the snow they remind me of Dick. It's a fitting memorial, I think, to a very kind, caring, gentle man: Richard Rogers Sr., 1929-2011.