|Words and photo by F LoBuono|
After a time, I got to know Joan, or Joannie, as I affectionately named her. She calls me "Al" because I remind her of Al Pacino (although she says that I'm better looking!). She is part of a large family in the area with many sisters, all characterized by their red hair. I learned that Joannie had been through a lot in her time on earth. As a younger woman, she lost many years to addiction and, from time to time, still struggles with those stubborn demons. One of the ways that she dealt with her misfortune was, instead of feeling sorry for herself, to give back to others in the most simple of ways - by spreading joy to everyone who came in contact with her. And, through this, she became one of our towns most beloved figures. I look at her as what the Buddhists call a Bodhisattva or Spirit Guide, i.e. one that, by example, helps to show us the path to righteousness and salvation.
About two years ago, Joannie felt like she needed a change. So, she decided to move in with one of her sisters in California. Of course, this left a huge hole in the collective consciousness of our little village. It was as if someone had let some of the love escape. We could not help but notice the loss of her calming presence. But, ultimately, it was a good move for her and she is thriving. She has found comfort in her renewed faith, the foundation of her recovery.
We speak on the phone from time to time. But, Joannie is not much of a "phone person". That's OK. I don't need to talk to her to feel her presence. She will always be a part of this place and, therefore, me. Besides, like today, she does get back for the occasional visit with her sisters. We met for breakfast this morning at Johnnie Cakes and, of course, it was like we had never been apart. She beamed when she saw me and the feeling was mutual. Love and affection just exudes from this women. We made a few stops along Broadway to visit some old friends. The reaction was always the same: JOANNIE!! So good to see you. We LOVE you! It did her heart and mine, good. At her request, we held hands and prayed together. She is always trying to save my soul - and, despite my misgivings about formal religion, I always accept her blessings - ALWAYS.
After a few hours, it was time to go our separate ways. Joannie would be returning to California in the morning. But, there was no sadness - only joy in each others company with the knowledge that we will always be there for one another.
God Speed, Joannie.
She would like to hear that - from me.