How Does One Say Goodbye?

In the 1960’s I worked in San Francisco and made some very interesting and diverse friendships.  One of those friends was Marvin A. Bolei.  Marvin was a unique character among a group of unique individuals working at KPIX-TV, a CBS affiliated Westinghouse owned station. 

 

Marv made a striking figure at six foot three, black hair somewhat swept back, Fu Manchu mustache and black, black eyes.  Marv was a complex man with a heritage of French and Mexican, at least that is what he told you when he was willing to talk to you, he was a man of few words and yet all of the guys and gals that worked with him seemed to genuinely like him.  Part of what made Marv appealing to the “troops” was the way he poked at our straight-laced management.  A small example, the company required a white dress shirt and tie with your suit.  Marv would wear the dress white shirt but he bought the short sleeve version and in the office he walked around with his jacket off.  Occasionally Howard a corporate type who had been transferred from the east coast to SF ask him; why don’t you wear a long sleeve shirt and Marv would say because he was comfortable the way he was, period! 

Marv was perfect for SF in the sixties, he was on the leading edge of music, connoisseur of recreational drugs and a true free spirit.

 

By the late nineties his life style had taken its toll on his body and maybe to a degree on his mind.

 I had transferred or moved on depending on the business opportunities to NYC, Chicago, Denver, Schenectady New York, Manhattan and finally Detroit Michigan.  I lost contact with Marv on day to day basis but I was close enough that when I asked him to be best man at my wedding in Chicago he agreed and showed up in his inimitable style with a Lucky Lager Beer shirt, brown buckskinned jacket with fringe, granny glasses, cowboy boots, Levis and a black cowboy hat that made him look bad, real bad.  My further father-in-law was conservative to put it mildly, he owned his own insurance agency on the north shore of Chicago and we had to get the tux fitting for Marv at a very upscale shop in Glenview, my future wife’s home town.  My father-in-law to be, had to walk in with Marv In his full regalia and he was clearly embarrassed but a typical

Mid-western gentlemen he said nothing, paid for the tux and we left.  When my friends ask Marv why he came all the way to Chicago just for a wedding he said he wanted to visit a grocery store in Chicago that he understood was owned by the Mafia, an old wives tale but we took him there and he was happy.  I visited SF several times on business and occasionally but only occasionally Marv would meet me for a drink.  Marv was as ever mysterious about what he was doing but ever a friend and someone you could really talk to.

 

 Over the years I had less and less contact with him and then one day I got a letter from a man we had worked with and who was a good friend of Marv letting me know he passed away and had left a note that all of his friends should share. 

 

This letter was Marv’s answer to the question I posed at the outset of this piece, how do you say goodbye?  This is the exact letter [it was hand written] and it in my opinion fits Marv’s personality and it is neither courageous nor cowardly.  It is not full of regret or self-recriminations but rather a calm statement of fact in which he predicts his death within a month of the actual time.  I hope you see what I see, a man, a real man capable of dealing with the facts of life and death without bitterness and communicating them without rancor.  Maybe I see too much in this “final” letter but I have carried this letter every since I received in 1999. A reminder of how a friend, a man dealt with his loved ones and most of all himself as he said goodbye.

 

6-3-99

 

Dear Folks,

 

I’m in a “rest home” after a small series of adventures that included passing out and flipping out and where care, and personal consumption of substances can be regulated and monitored.  Just as well.  My downhill slide is getting serious and I don’t give my chances of surviving past this month much hope.  Interesting, the things the body tells you – especially when [1] it’s in trouble and [2] you re paying attention.

This is a nice place out toward the Valley of the Moon where we had our big picnic when you where here time before last.

 

Maria and the kids are all handling this well and nobody is kidding around.  Makes for tranquility.

 

So my friends take this as a loving goodbye to you and yours.  Will all meet in that great gittin-up morning in the sky.

Love Marvin

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