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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

My friend Arlene

I have written about my friend Arlene Lawson a couple of times. For those of you who haven't known her yet, she was a Canadian/American who I have befriended when I joined Writersvillage, an online university for writers sometime in 1998. We had been online friends since then and our relationship was strengthened when she came to the country to visit my family. Our story is a living testimony of how the internet, in spite of the horror stories we've read or heard over time, can be a tool for lasting friendly relationships. For those of you who missed this story, you can read it here.

When Arlene passed away on December 8, 2006, a huge part of my being has been taken away. She was not only a friend but "she was my mentor, my muse in poetry, my confidante who always listened when I whined, laughed at my antics, my source of energy everytime I felt so-so, my fan who believed in everything I do, my patron who had taken me to places I would not have dared go". As if to add insult to injury, my mother who was bedridden and suffering from Alzheimer's disease for several years, died two weeks after while my closest aunt (possibly the only one I have known) and best friend, passing on several months earlier. That was a very lonely year for me.

Yesterday, I was very happy to receive from our common friend, Bob Wands, a book of her poems together with pictures, which I think summarizes what she was when she was alive. Bob (her best friend) is co-owner with Arlene of an online poetry e-zine which also saw print called "The Country Garden Mouse", a namesake of her once -upon-a -time souvenir shop in Steveston, BC. During the memorial service, Bob "was given permission to extract from her computer all of her writing, and many of her pictures." Bob painstakingly sorted out these pictures that "have a relationship to the poetry, intending to chronicle ... from (our) many conversations - were the important periods of her life." AS a result, this book aptly titled, "The Real Arlene" is born. Reading this book reminded me of long conversations with her over the phone, the internet and during my stay in Canada.

Arlene is by far one of the best poets I have come across in my years of stay in the university. Just to show you how good she was, here is a poem she wrote about the most painful experience she ever had. In November of 1959, she lost her 23 month-old baby, Theresa, (she could have been the same age as I) on her lap when she was killed by a drunk driver. In this poem, we can feel the anguish of a mother who has cared so much for her daughter only to lose her so soon. The brevity of the poem and its simple imagery makes it very powerful for me. Here it is:

Empty now


Pack away
forsaken playthings.
still damp diapers
folded dresses


Wipes the final
finger smudges
from off

Arlene Lawson

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Blogger ayzprincess said...

tito... i totally agree about finding friends online and even the part about finding smart people who can mentor us or just someone to look up to..

im sorry about arlene tito..


3:48 AM  
Blogger rolly said...

ayz So far, the internet has been kind to me. It has given me quite a number of online friends here and abroad that are now close to me.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Panaderos said...

I've read about your posts on Arlene when I was still lurking around your blog. You are indeed a very lucky man for finding such very nice, artistic, and sincere friends online. People like her enrich our lives.

9:58 PM  
Blogger RJ said...

nakakalungkot naman, ngayon ko pa lang narerealize ang magic ng reproduction, i cant imagine na mawawala ito agad dahil lang sa drunk driving.

swerte ka dahil you found a friend to treasure sa net. bibihira iyon.

10:01 PM  
Blogger rolly said...

Panaderos Very much! I have learned a lot of things from her.

RJ I have been blessed with many friends and she was the best.

12:00 AM  
Blogger ipanema said...

it's indeed a blessing when we find good people we can connect with especially on the net. seldom this happens.

lovely poem!

happy weekend! :)

12:59 PM  
Anonymous BlogusVox said...

Tinama-an ako doon sa final two stanza. Same feeling you get when you found out someone took the only picture you got of a departed loved one.

You're lucky to know such persons Ka Rolly.

1:25 PM  
Blogger BatJay said...

ang galing ng tula ni arlene, bossing. ramdam ko yung feeling ng loss niya. ramdam ko rin feeling ng loss mo sa pagkawala niya. kakawala rin lang ng kapatid ko at talagang mahirap mawalan ng mahal sa buhay.

1:57 PM  
Blogger rolly said...

ipanema Yes, how many times had that happened? And it did to me.

blogusvox Indeed!

batjay Bosing, lalo na pag nakita mo yung ipinadalang libro ng mga sulat niya. Ang gagaling.

Oo nga, the pain of losing someone is still too close for you.

3:14 PM  
Blogger watson said...

I cannot imagine her loss over her daughter that time...

9:53 PM  
Blogger rolly said...

Watson I cannot imagine bearing the loss of a child. It must be the most painful experience of all.

4:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Pa,

Na miss ko tuloy si Arlene. We are lucky to have her in our life. Thanks to Bob for sharing his works with us. Hope to meet him soon.

11:08 AM  
Blogger bayi said...

I read this post very much earlier, rolly, but did not post a comment because I could sense your loss and did not know what to say. Sometimes this happens to me.

We have to cultivate the bonds we have the best we can while we are here, so that the one remaining will have wonderful memories to treasure when one leaves before the other.

Both my wife and my thoughts are with you these days, especially now with the loss of your beloved sister. May the Lord be with her. And with you and your family too in a time like this.

6:47 AM  
Blogger rolly said...

Bayi Thank you very much for your thoughtfulness. You are such a treasured friend.

9:45 PM  

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Twenty years of teaching must sure amount to something. A new friend in cyberspace suggested I ought to have a journal by now. I agree.

Taken by my friend Arlene Lawson in her room at Century Park Sheraton in May, 2000.
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Location: Bambang, Pasig City, Philippines

Jack of all trade, master of none. First a disclaimer. My students have discovered this blog and they might think that what I write is gospel truth. Worse is they might find an argument that they think they can use, for some reason or another, against their teachers. So, to set the record straight, it is NOT. As a matter of fact, I write and open it to feedback to get another view in the hope that somebody would tell me if I am wrong and reenforce my thinking if it is right. Not that I will accept anything thrown my way, though. Just so I can think about it some more and decide whether my original stance is right or definitely off tangent. So there. I hope that clarifies everything. Now, on to blogging.

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