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Reply #15: We were great friends - [View All]

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Tangerine LaBamba Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Aug-11-09 09:50 PM
Response to Reply #12
15. We were great friends -
If you get me started about him, I'll go on forever. I loved that man.

In person, he was tall, slender, very graceful, soft-spoken. He was like a ghost, a shade, sometimes; he could just sort of disappear in a group. Which he liked.

He was very, very, very smart. Brilliant, but he'd shudder if he knew I was using that word to describe him. He was trained as a physician, you probably know that, wanted to be a pathologist, but contracted TB during his residency (or internship - I'm not sure), and ended up in a sanitarium for a year or so, where he wrote "The Moviegoer."

He was a Catholic convert, and like all converts, was very devout, a great believer. I, who had been brought up as a Roman Catholic, a much younger, Northern woman, was as different from Walker, the quintessential Southern gentleman, as anyone could be. We met through mutual friends, Obie Hardison and his wife, when Obie was the head of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, and Walker came to town to speak there. The Hardisons invited me to a cocktail party in Walker's honor.

What they didn't know was that I'd written a letter to Walker Percy a few years earlier, when I'd read a book of his at a very difficult time in my life, and Walker had written back (that letter is framed and matted, hanging right here, in this study, over my desk), and that had begun a correspondence that we'd both hugely enjoyed. That we were going to meet in person was just a great delight for both of us.

We had about seven years of friendship before cancer took him away. We talked a lot, in person and on the phone, and we never ran out of things to talk about. Suicide played a large role in both our lives, so we had what we used to call "our secret language," and, I think it's in "The Thanataos Syndrome," if you ever encounter Walker's fabulous exposition on "non-suicides versus ex-suicides," that's an almost-verbatim transcription of a conversation we had one hot summer morning in his kitchen in his home in Covington, LA.

He was a prince of a man, a rare gift, a man who took it all in, a man who lacked the protection that skin gives normal people. He had to protect himself from the world sometimes, because he lacked that filter that preserves most people from the backstories of people he encountered. He took it all in, as I said, and it touched him everywhere.

I miss him. Thank you for giving me a chance to talk about my beloved old friend........
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