lundi, septembre 28, 2009

A man of breeding

When I was younger, I read a lot of Louis Auchincloss, that son of old New York wealth and standing who wrote about the repressed longings and moral conundrums of the moneyed class of New York. Well, how could he not, and how could I not?

My ex and I were privileged to be bookends in a memorial service yesterday at which Louis Auchincloss (still very much alive) might have found himself at home. If the WASP writer had been chronicling the Main Line and had penned happy endings, the Quaker meeting house memorial would have offered a lovely finale.

We had come together, some of us from very far away, to celebrate the life of a friend, father, co-worker, grandfather, World War II hero and postwar diplomat. His wife, who had invited me and my ex, sat ramrod straight as her children, now middle-aged told stories about their much loved father. His bravery during the War. How he'd fallen for his lovely co-worker at the Marshall Plan Paris offices. The places they'd seen together.

And the less concrete memories. His kindness. His humility. The love he had for children and grandchildren. The courage with which he faced his death. His wife had asked me and my ex not to be too religious, for her husband was not religious. But the service was filled with the themes of transcendence, mystery, departure, reunion. When it came time for N.'s 13-year old grandaughter to speak, she said, through tears, that her grandfather had never treated her differenlty because she was the youngest of the five.

It was by far one of the loveliest services I have ever attended. And as we left the reception, I pondered how good fortune, character, and a happy marriage helped mold N. into a man so profoundly mourned -- and celebrated. Breeding does not have a lot to do with bloodline, except maybe in horses. N. probably would have chuckled at the notion that pedigree counted for a lot. But he was truly lucky -- and we who knew him were blessed.

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