Scary at first, his Cambridge University accent, hard acquired after a childhood rife with poverty, could prove off-putting. Then he would say something outrageous like, "One found that very amusing. We laughed so hard the tears of mirth ran down our leg," and after doing a double-take to confirm that I'd heard what I thought I'd heard, we'd howl. He introduced us to the phrase "tickety-boo" for use when things were just lovely. The first time I saw the town of Mold I commented that it was much larger than I'd imagined it. He replied, "Yes, but even in one's moments of most diminished sobriety, one would never mistake it for midtown Manhattan."
He was the friend of my high school history teacher, Rosemary, and I'd known him almost twenty years before we became friends. She passed away two months after my wedding, and when he came to town to collect his things which he'd left on various visits, we mourned her death together and sealed a friendship that will last forever. Himself and I named our second son after him, which delighted Uncle Jim. My friends are carefully chosen and fiercely and permanently loved. To take a third major hit in six months has been difficult. I haven't seen him face to face since 2007, what with college tuitions and airfare costing what they do, but the bond has never faltered. His face, intentionally stern and unsmiling, sits atop the piano and keeps me company.
Jim's funeral will be on Saint David's Day, which is Wales' equivalent of Ireland's Saint Patrick's Day. He'll miss the field of daffodils which should be in full bloom in his garden by then. But not a thousandth as much as we'll miss him. Sleep well, my dear, dear friend. And save me a good seat.