For the last nine years I’ve been reading two to three times per week to my friend Vin, who is in his 90s, most proud of his Italian heritage, and the poster child/man for living with dignity, joy, and gratitude though blind. He lives a mile down the hill from us so it’s an easy bike ride to his place. A retired principal, a thoughtful conservative, and Red Sox fan, he has become a good friend of mine. Among the nearly 100 books we’ve read are: Italian murder mysteries with Inspector Montalbano by Andrea Camilleri; we batted around Joe DiMaggio: The Hero’s Life by Richard Ben Cramer; we trekked through A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson about his adventures hiking the Appalachian Trail. Today we are in the midst of The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff, historical fiction about the early years of the Mormon church juxtaposed with a story about a renegade sect of “Firsts” in southwest Utah who still practice polygamy.
When we get together, we check in about the day’s events from the news or in sports (Our Red Sox are in a “wait til next year” mode). We either sit inside, I on the Lazy Boy lounger, he close by on the far left end of the couch. If it’s warm enough we sit out on his patio in side by side Adirondack chairs so I can read and he can easily hear. Ever the perfect host, Vin always offers fruit or bakery goods from the counter, even wine or a beer. Typically, water is my drink of choice as a lubricant for my throat. On the table before us are horehounds, a hard candy, to soothe our voices. Generally I read for an hour.
Today my gift is a loaf of homemade oatmeal bread that I made for an old friend and his wife. With a $39 Wal-Mart bread machine, I make bread that can be cut into thick slabs for toasting. Brendan Wilkes says, Bread brings people together. (I have no idea who he is, but when I googled for a quote on bread, this one rang true.) Once I return home today after our reading session, he’ll have a tangible reminder of our friendship.