"Life tastes good" says an ad for Coca Cola.  Peter said that with his life long before the copywriters got it.  Kind, loving, generous, full of fun and humor, of vim and vigor, he would often give you this warm sweet smile ... when he would lift his eyebrow, as though to say "Oh? Is that so? And how would you know?" And his laughter, his spontaneity, his uncanny ability to see something funny or ironic in the ordinary, to say something witty about the pedestrian, or make an acerbic comment on what someone else said ....  Being with him then, I would laugh out loud, and be inspired to try to be funny too, maybe to make him laugh again so he would go on to top that with something new and even funnier.

When Peter had an idea, it was usually intriguing, a good one; when he wanted to go somewhere, I wanted to go with him; when he wanted to do something, I wanted to do it with him too.

He was that rare sort of person I just really Enjoyed Being With, spending time with.

Fun-loving and adventuresome (whether or not what we were doing was strictly legal, or even safe), courageous, and loyal, from exploring the vast and exciting area below Carnegie Tech and Oakland when we were in elementary school (when we got home he told Mom those long scratches on his back were from a neighbor's bushes and not from my knocking him down on the railroad tracks), through taking a week's bicycle trip around County Kerry in Ireland in high school and being the first into the freezing ocean at a scenic spot and daring Robin and me to join him, to driving with our two families together to Tidewater Virginia and back for a Thanksgiving feast with Aunt Sue and Uncle Eddie's family in a huge van packed with food, stereo and VCR.  Ah, the sybaritic life with Peter.  He always managed to add just the right bit of shine, of elegance (in his dress, and in his manner), of sparkle, ... of just plain FUN, to any situation.

Now don't get me wrong, Peter was sometimes so insufferable and so sure of himself, even when he was wrong, that I wanted to pound him (and I did, repeatedly, until the last time we fought -- to a bloody draw and I knew I could never beat him again), but mostly he was breathing fire and vinegar, and man, I was glad to have him at my back in strange or scary circumstances. With Peter around, you knew things were gonna be FUN, and even more important, things were gonna be OK, too.

I just loved being with him, and spending time with him.

In recent years I took Peter far too much for granted; before his cancer I had not been spending the kind of time with him that I used to.  And I regret that.  With both of us living in Pittsburgh it was easy to spend time with him, but mostly I allowed the different paths that our lives and personalities had taken, and the general and constant busy-ness of our work and our families, to mar the bonds between us, to obscure the care we had for one another, until it seemed we had little in common (thinking "what's the point?"), and it seemed that expressing our feelings for one another was just a bit embarrassing, just a bit unnecessary, and now it seems I shall have to live with that regret, because I shall have to miss him always, awfully, ... terribly, ... I shall miss that Enjoyment of Being With him.

Because I did so love being with him, and spending time with him.

But you know, since we are at a Service of Christian Worship I hope I can share without too much sentimentality that I shall miss him only for a while, until I get to join him where he's no longer ravaged and sick, join him in fact where right now, it is said, he is once again a delight -- and quite probably also a trial -- to our mother.  Mom's death 12 and a half years ago, from a different cancer, is still fresh to me, and I still miss her.  When she was alive it seemed to me that Peter was able to love her much more, or somehow much better, than I, that one of his really special qualities was his teasing and joyous relationship with Mom, and I used to love seeing them together, and I know she felt as I do about enjoying Peter's company ...

and how much she too, enjoyed just being with him, just spending time with him.

So for now I shall have to continue to miss both of them, terribly, ... achingly at times, but also warmly and even with anticipation, since, after all, I am looking forward to something Wonderful, to being with them again, to spending all of Time once again with both of them, and only meanwhile, waiting here, to the beginning.

Copyright W. Penn Hackney, 2001

Once I found out the secret of the Universe. I have forgotten what it was, but I know that the Creator does not take Creation seriously, for I remember that He sat in Space with all His Work in front of Him and laughed. -- Lord Dunsany, "The Hashish Man"

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