I must be getting old. I’m feeling the cold this morning – more than, I think, usual. Checking the facts – a popular pastime these days – it was 9˚ when I woke up and stoked the fire. That qualifies as bloody cold. We like to say things like, “It dropped into the ‘single numbers’ early this morning”. Insider talk. You had to be there. That kind of stuff.

At sunup there was actually some sun visible in the distance. It is now cloudy and – though my eyes are not quite fully open – I am pretty sure that was a white speck that I saw drifting past my window that gives a narrow view onto the hillside out back.

I’ve loaded the little Waterford stove twice now and the base chill that kept gnawing at my hands and knees (I hate to wear long pants inside) is finally broken and I feel safe and warmly secure in my little bubble of heat.

Oddly, and completely off course, thoughts of warm rain bounded down the years and there we are walking out of a pocket wilderness in southwestern Arkansas in a gentle but persistent rain that I made no attempt to avoid. Soaked to the bone without a single shiver. Pure joy!

Then, all at once, that little white speck is a genuine squall streaming horizontally across my window to the woods.

When I was a kid, and the almost like-a-clock afternoon summer rain shower came along, we would put on our bathing trunks (we called them bathing trunks) and went out and turned our faces up into the falling rain. There was no chill. It was almost amniotic. Perhaps it was truly an unconscious attempt to return to the safety and promise of he womb that made this ritual such a prize.

March – don’t bet on it.

Sonny was a childhood friend of mine. He lived across the street. We were good friends and we hung out sometimes. Sonny was the kind of guy you liked but, at the same time, didn’t want hanging around all the time. As a matter of fact, I didn’t like anyone hanging around all the time. I can’t explain it, but there it was. He had these red cowboy boots that he always wore. It didn’t matter what the weather was, he always wore those red cowboy boots. They went “clop clop” when walked.

He used to tell these phantasmagorical stories about the place he came from up in North Louisiana. There were snow caves and wild horses. Remember, this was Louisiana. I always wondered if he actually thought I believed him. He said he and his pals would choose up sids and shoot at each other with 22 rifles. He showed me a little white scar on his belly that was supposed to be from a bullet. I never liked calling someone a liar, but I was tempted.

Sonny was always wanting me to do something with him. He pressed. I never liked being pressed. He would get this idea and then come over and want me to go do something. I never did like that kind of situation. That’s when I first realized that I needed to know what the program was before the show began. It’s been a life long issue with me.

One day, Sonny told me he had this great idea and we could have some real fun tomorrow up on Baton Rouge Bayou. It was a fun place so I agreed to go with him and promised to meet him in the morning. When I woke up and dressed my mother told me that Sonny had been run over by a car as he tried to push his mother out of the car’s path. It had happened the night before. I asked if he was alright, and she said no. He was run over by the car and died, but his mother, who was in the hospital, was going to be OK.

Talk about confusing emotions. Sonny was a hero, but was dead. We didn’t go to the funeral. I have always wondered why. Of all the pointless rituals we humans put up with, the memorial ritual when someone dies is one of the most important. As we remember those who have passed on, we need to be reminded of our own mortality. But most of all it is important to say, “Goodbye”.

I remember being surprised that I missed Sonny’s constant flow of off the wall ideas of something exciting to do. That was my first experience with real grief. Missing even those parts of Sonny’s life that were aggravating was, as I later realized, a central part of the grief process. I wasn’t sure what to say or feel or do. Suddenly this friend was gone and would never return. All I could think about were those red cowboy boots.