Thursday, December 29, 2016

calypso is dead

Telephone calls in the middle of the night seldom bring good news.

Just before midnight last night, my telephone rang, waking me up. It was Anita Wilson. And the news was not good.

Anita is the wife of John Wilson. You probably do not know him by that name. But, if you are a reader of blogs about Mexico, you know his work. Under the pseudonym Calypso.

When I was preparing for my move to Mexico, his (Viva Veracruz) was one of the blogs I read regularly. At the time, he wrote almost exclusively about his life in Veracruz -- a state where I had seriously considered settling. Most of his reports centered around his interactions with his neighbors near their ever-growing inventory of houses.

He also moderated a forum where participants could offer their own appraisals of Veracruz, and to do what forum denizens do: natter on about one another. It was the forum where I got to know John on a personal level. Two participants had manged to get themselves into a rhetorical corner by pummeling the feelings of one another. John sought me out to "pour oil on the waters," as he put it.

From his choice of words and attitude, I knew he was a fellow believer. Our shared faith was a bond that made our friendship special -- and fertilized its growth.

Ever the real estate mogul, John purchased properties in Puerto Escondido -- becoming a bicoastal expatriate. Anita, his wife, and he would spend about equal shares of the year in Veracruz and Oaxaca.

His readers, me included, particularly enjoyed his reminiscences of his days as a producer at Columbia records. He knew his stuff. He was an incredibly knowledgeable engineer. That gave credence to his stories of the musical legends with whom he worked. He was not a name dropper; he was a life sharer.

I met John and Anita in person two years ago when I went on a road trip of southern Mexico with my cousins, Dan and Patty (coming home). One of our stops was Puerto Escondido -- and I was not going to miss the opportunity to share some time with one of the bloggers I had known for years.

The two of them were exactly as I expected. In the few hours we had together, we talked as if we were old friends. We were. This electronic community is every bit as binding as any other.

I knew something was not quite right this year. In the summer, Anita called to ask me about the medical treatment I sought when I fought my bouts of cellulitis. John had an infection in his foot, and he was curious.

What struck me a bit odd was I could hear him asking questions of her in the background. In the past, John and I had talked directly. She followed up with more calls. Same procedure.

Earlier in December, she called on John's behalf to ask about my new computer. I was glad she did because I had become a bit concerned about his infrequent blogging and some of the comments he left on my blog that seemed just a tad odd.

He finally took the telephone and told me all was not well with him physically. He had fallen and hit his head, and had not felt his usual self. That was the last time I talked with him directly.

In her call last night, Anita told me he had died of a very common respiratory condition. (She mentioned the condition, but I was still groggy, and I do not want to pass along any false information.)

It does not matter that we all know we are mortal and that death's coach always waits just around the corner. After all, life and consciousness is the only state we have experienced.

But each of my brushes with death -- especially, these last two years -- always takes my logic away. It is simply hard to wrap my knowledge of physical existence around the fact that one day a friend can be there experiencing life with me; the next moment they are gone. As if they had left the room without a word.

I am fully aware that saying I will miss John is a cliché. It is also true. He taught me a lot through his writing. It is impossible not to learn when someone shares the essence of his life with you. The fortunate thing about writing is that I can still enjoy his on the internet. Writing offers its own semblance of immortality.

But, more important, I can say the faith John and I shared has strengthened me. Before he ended our last telephone conversation, he made a point that his physical condition did not matter. He would have liked to have lived to be 100 years old. "God willing," as he put it. But he knew his faith was not dependent upon circumstances: circumstances may change, but presence makes the difference.

My prayers are with Anita. I asked her last night if there was anything I could do. She asked only for my prayers. She is working her way through the Mexican bureaucracy of death and dealing with her own grief. But, she too, is a woman of faith.

Our lives are the better for having known John. I know mine is. And that is what friendship is all about, isn't it?

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