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Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Friend I’ll Never Meet

He was a veteran of life. He was a lover of books. He was, by his own account, a shy man who had trouble meeting strangers. Not a party animal, he touched many people through his blog, “Collecting Children’s Books,” and through his Facebook postings, many of them stories about his boyhood and other family members. I don’t remember the first time I visited Peter’s blog, but it quickly became one of my favorites, and we commented on each other’s postings and e-mailed once in a while.

Last year (was it only last year?) he bought a house and moved his parents into it, along with his beloved library of children’s books, many first and signed editions. He planted flowers and vegetables, baked pies, painted with watercolors to illustrate his stories, and photographed wild ducks visiting his pond. All of these quiet adventures he shared online, with writing that was honest and direct, engaged and engaging. Two weeks ago he posted about Maurice Sendak. Always, he jogged memories of everyone’s favorite childhood books, reminding us of characters we loved long ago.

It seems like only three days ago (but I can’t tell for sure, because older Facebook posts on Peter’s wall seem to have vanished—at least, I can’t call them up) that Peter wrote of a fall and a broken ankle. Now today I checked in, not looking for any big news but wondering how things were going, and to my shock I see that a family member has posted in Peter’s place, that he has passed away, and friends are offering condolences. I can’t believe it. 

Others knew Peter personally, from childhood or from work. I only knew him online and never even knew his age, but I can’t believe this friend I hadn’t met is now someone I will never meet—and that I miss him so much.

Peter, there was no one else like you, and no one can take your place. Others thought so, too. Here's one other of many. 

8 comments:

dmarks said...

Speaking of children's books, the latest adaptation of The Borrowers, The Secret World of Arrietty">http://www.suntimes.com/entertainment/movies/10626447-421/tiny-spirits-hit-big-screen-in-arrietty.html is out on DVD. I'm tempted to get this. It sounds good. And it will be the first time I've been tempted to actually watch a Japanese cartoon.

Dawn said...

I'm so sorry PJ. I do believe the internet has helped build friendships where none were possible before. I'm sorry you never got to meet him, and I'm sorry I never even read his blog. But wasn't the world lucky to have had him at all. Hugs. I know it's hard.

P. J. Grath said...

Dawn, you can read his blog by following the links in this post or by loading it from "My Blog List" in the right-hand column. I'm glad his brother is learning from Peter's Facebook page how many people's lives he touched.

As for the new Borrowers film, dmarks, I think I'll wait to get a report from you. I'm a Purist when it comes to the Borrowers. (And also to Anna Lavinia.)

Bybee said...

I know how you feel because I feel the same way.

P. J. Grath said...

There are so many of us! I hope he knew.

Helen said...

Poignant.

Kathy said...

I actually remember reading this, Pamela. What a sweet sad story. It sounds like FB did help you realize how many people's lives he did touch.

P. J. Grath said...

It's true: all the exchanges on Fb really did help me come to grips with the fact that Peter was gone. They also were a comfort, letting me know how many people who had never met him felt as bereft as I did.