Thursday, December 17, 2009

C. Bruce Hunter: R.I.P.

Bruce died on November 13. I didn't hear about it until today; that fact alone shows that we weren't all that tight.

But, damn, now he's dead.

When Bruce didn't show up for Thanksgiving dinner at the Drake's, we all wondered if he was okay and hoped nothing bad had happened to him; clearly, something had.

Each year, Bruce would come to the same set of our big parties--New Year's Eve, the Fourth of July, the pig-pickin', Thanksgiving--and we would chat a little. Never much; as best I can tell, he was socially awkward, and the two of us were definitely awkward around each other. Still, we'd exchange the odd joke--Bruce was always ready with a bad joke or ten--and talk about food, a shared love, or writing, another shared passion. At New Year's Eve, we'd play a game or three of pool. He wrote a large family history and books about Masons and probably a lot of stuff I never saw. He gave me signed copies of his books. He always brought a little something to share.

Mostly, though, he came, sat quietly alone, listened, was unfailingly polite, and was an odd but constant fixture in our strange little crowd.

When he left, we always shook hands, as we also did to mark the start of each of the past twenty or so new years.

I always had the sense that Bruce felt apart from everyone, almost invisible, and I probably contributed to that sense by not spending much time with him.

He wasn't invisible, though. He was quiet and odd, but he was visible: we knew him, we worried about him, and he's gone now. He was a man of the generation who almost certainly would have been deeply uncomfortable in the face of honest emotion from another man; a handshake was as far as anyone needed to go. So I'll say now what I never said to him and probably should have made clear.

However odd you felt, Bruce, however apart and alone you thought you were, you were a strange part of our stranger little group, and when you were with us, you belonged.


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