Sunday, February 11, 2007

Dum Vivimus, Vivamus

About six months ago, I got a phone call from the friend my first child is named after. He had been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer; the doctor had told him he had two months to live.

One of his many interests was vintage dance; a week or two later he spent a week at Newport teaching, as he did every summer. When I visited a little later, I got to watch him doing Civil War bayonet drills with a group of fellow enthusiasts, helped him organize his extensive collection of materials on the history of fencing, much of which he had arranged to have webbed. The friend who had taken charge of that project dropped over with his girlfriend; they were both given a lengthy and expert lesson in waltzing. Patri and his wife had done a draft of an article on how to put on a 19th century ball; he was working on revising it.

Patri's house in the Boston area is full of stuff--real 19th century clothing, replica clothing, material for making replica clothing, a wide variety of fencing artifacts, a private museum collection specialized in 19th and early 20th century fencing, dancing, garb and related subjects, accumulated over decades. He spent a good deal of the next few months organizing and making space. Other activities included helping his older daughter with math and putting on their annual Halloween party, complete with a crashed Quidditch player in front of the house. When we came to visit over New Years, he was working on transferring an Escher drawing to a sheet as a stage backdrop for one of his daughter's projects.

Since then we stayed in touch with regular phone calls. I consulted with him on the history of science, the field in which he has his doctorate, for ideas to use in the fantasy novel I am currently working on, read him new passages for his comments. "Insufficiently clever" has long been his favorite term of disapprobation, so I used him as my consultant on cleverness.

If all had gone according to plan, he would have spent the past week in Vienna, teaching vintage dance as he had done several times before. He didn't quite make it. In Heinlein's Glory Road, the hero's sword has a motto on it: Dum Vivimus, Vivamus. "While we live, let us live." Patri lived that motto up to the last day of his life.


Anonymous said...

Condolences for your loss, and the loss to the world of an admirable and wonderful man.


Anonymous said...

My sincere condolences.
He seems like a great human being.


Anonymous said...

One of the more disheartening aspects of growing older is the inexorable rise in the number of "absent companions."

A glass, then-- to your friend's life.


Anonymous said...

I last saw him at Arisia, where he and Barbara pretty much ran the fancy dance ball there. The week before that, he and his sister came to my show rehearsal and helped out our two guys with their galliard technique, from which I also learned a lot.

If you end up coming east for the memorial, whenever that is, you are, of course, welcome to stay here.

Anonymous said...

Cheers to those who show us how to live.

The Sanity Inspector said...

My sympathies to all concerned.

Somena Woman said...

Once again, I am sorry for your loss. Hell of a year David, eh? Thank you for this post... a poignant reminder to have our priorities straight. Best and Highest Regards to you and the family.