My Friend Frankie
When I was a boy my first friend wasn’t another little boy or girl but a bent, worn 80 year old man. It was the early 1970’s. We lived four miles from town. My two brothers were much older than I was. And the television only got in one channel clearly. I spent most of my time then playing alone outside in the yard and woods near our home. It was only a matter of time then before my exploring led me to “Little Frankie’s” house. Everyone called him Little Frankie because he was short and bent from a lifetime of hard work. Our only other neighbor at the time too was a much bigger man also named Frank.
Little Frankie’s house was a slowly crumbling structure that was over 100 years old. He lived in the only three rooms of it that were still safe. Although he had money from a lifetime of working and saving, he preferred to live there. His house had no electricity or running water. He cooked his meals and heated his house with an old cast iron stove. He got his water from a mountain spring that ran next to his house. He still worked everyday weeding, gardening, cooking, and cleaning. For some reason, though, we became fast friends. A first generation, Italian immigrant, Frankie didn’t speak English very well but I understood him enough. He would fry potatoes in a cast iron skillet on his stove and share them with me. Then he would talk and show me old photos from years and years gone by. He became my Godfather and best friend in those earliest years of my life. There was a peacefulness and serenity about him that seemed out of place then and even more out of place now. He worked hard, worried little, gave freely, smiled easily, laughed gently, and loved kindly. I am still working today at living as beautifully as he did back then.
Our friendship was short-lived because he died when I was still a little boy. It was my first experience with death and I mourned Little Frankie after he was gone. Yet, a part of him still lives on here in my heart and mind. I am a better person because of the brief time we spent together. I am kinder, more loving, and closer to God because of our friendship.
My friend Frankie showed me how to live simply, happily, and well. And I thank God for letting him touch my life. I think we all too have those special teachers in how to live and love, who touch our lives briefly but stay in our hearts forever. May we always love them, cherish them, and embrace what they teach.
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