"Having the time of my life."
He was famous for his wit as well as his ways. Dubbed the Mayor of Venice by his loyal neighbors, his reign and stewardship stretched over the forested community that once housed the vacation cabins of Seattle's earliest rich and famous. Making their way up the Fairydell from the Mosquito Fleet landing, past the Billy Taft tree and finally to high ground, this was his backyard, playground and sanctuary. He knew by name every species, flora and fauna, inviting many of the latter to dine on his deck. It was not uncommon to shoe a dozen raccoons on the way to his door, the quaint and cozy cabin he named Summerie.
I first met my neighbor in 1984. I was doing a remodel up the road and he wandered by, said hello and left with a smile. My first impression was thinking what a nice man he was, rare even for these peaceful parts. I ended up buying one of those cabins a year later and we became friends. I remember him coming over for Saturday morning coffee in his bathrobe and slippers. I fixed their frozen water pipes one Thanksgiving as he toiled in his kitchen building another of his legendary holiday meals. I didn't think it anything big, but he felt it was a show of character and chivalry and the game was on. For the next 25 years we tried to out-do each other in random acts of kindness. We recognized in each other a special bond and connection that, even while unfolding, was unique. We appreciated our time together, every time, and all the time. I retrieved their mail when they visited family in Oregon or traveled to France or Montana, also keeping an eye on the cabin. When I worked overseas, he became property manager of my meager estate, a nine iron chip shot from his. We were pals. If I needed to borrow his pickup he would fill it up first with gas.
Looking back I truly believe that he knew some of the secrets many of us chase. He was a kind, gentle, educated, sensitive and caring neighbor, friend, father and husband. I am confident that he never said a harsh word about anybody. He had his opinions, he knew what he liked and he lived a simple, quite life in the country surrounded by the things that he loved. I have always maintained that if a person knows how to live fully, the end will come peacefully. I can safely say that he had no regrets.
And I think it is for those reasons that I feel at ease with his passing Saturday night. He had a charming humor and he loved to laugh aloud and play the snob responding with a highbrow, "what did you expect?" whenever a guest would extend a compliment on one of his fabulous dinners.
I miss Frankie. But I am not sad, rather thankful that we had so many good times together. He taught me a lot, leading by example, following his heart and spirit. I think we both knew that someday it would have to end, thereby appreciating our time together as a chance to celebrate whatever we happened to be doing.
Frankie and I laughed a lot.
He was 84. I had had the chance to visit with the family and hospice doctor earlier in the day and made a clumsy speech at bedside in an attempt at saying good-by and expressing my thanks. His wonderful wife Patricia told me yesterday some of the details of his final moments. It was 1:11 Saturday night. Pat told me he woke briefly, gurgled and gasped for air. She was camped on the couch next to the hospital bed and got up to investigate. Bending to his ear she asked how he was doing. Never one to miss an opportunity for the dramatic, he smiled and said, in closing,
"I am having the time of my life."
God Bless You Frank Peabody.
Pic: In between radiation and chemo treatments, Frankie would get a little frisky, here showing off with my maul as if he had just split all that firewood. OK, now I'm sad. Gonna miss you my friend, rest in peace.