Eight months after I put Arthur's story on the Web, an amazing thing happened. The door to the past swung open a little. Almost simultaneously, I received word from three former D section neighbors who had seen this site. They all read my story about Arthur and they had some news for me.
They told me Arthur's last name.
I also learned that Arthur's mother is doing fine, and she has two sons who both live nearby. A flurry of name searches, e-mails and letters followed. I thought Arthur's mom should know about this site, but I hesitated at first because I was concerned about her feelings. One of the women who contacted me said she lived nearby and offered to go to Arthur's mom's home and tell her about the site. She took along a copy of my story about him. I've been told of her reaction to the news, but I'll not describe it here, as it's a very personal thing. I will say that I'm very, very glad that I decided to put ...and God Bless Arthur on the Web.
I wrote to Arthur's mom, and among other things, apologized for not knocking on her door all those years ago. Today, I received a touching letter from her, and now I know why I was reluctant to go to her back then. When Arthur died, I was only 5 or 6 years old. He lived to be 5 years,
5 months. I don't know why I kept those old memories of my friendship with Arthur, but they are undeniably there, tucked away in my mind. I can still picture the things we did together... Places we played... How well we got along... What a great kid he was.
You know, when Arthur and I were friends, things were so different. JFK had yet to be elected president. Manned space travel was still a dream. We used dial telephones. Candy bars were a nickel. Back then, we could never have conceived of something as amazing as the Internet. Yet today, because of it, I'm embarking on this journey.
When things calm down a little, I may get to meet up again with Arthur's family. His mother wrote me that she gets along very well, thanks to the love and help of her two devoted sons. I'm not at all surprised to hear that, if they're anything like the brother who came before them.
The Rest of the Story
"Stand By Me" MUSIC CONTROLS
Not long after I contacted Arthur's family, his mother invited us to visit. It was with great anticipation that my wife and I drove to Long Island to see them. Arthur's mom and his two brothers and their wives were there. When I stepped into the very same house I had played in so long ago, my heart was racing. I realized I had come full-circle. Even though we had just met in person, they welcomed us with open arms. Arthur's mom was so good to us, so loving. There were so many stories to tell, it seemed as though we couldn't talk fast enough. It was much more than recalling past times and what might have been. We were comfortable enough to joke around with each other, talk about the changing world, complain about traffic on the parkway.
Arthur's brothers took me for a walk around the corner, over the same route I had taken between our homes when I was a boy. We pointed out houses and traded stories about other neighbors and friends we had known. We walked the paths through the park on the other side of Duckpond Drive, where generations of kids in the D section have played. It was a walk I'll never forget.
Standing in Arthur's house, I was asked, "Do you remember being in here?" Oh yes, the memories were very clear. His mom had portraits of all three sons at age five, displayed in her living room. I kept glancing over to Arthur's picture, which was in the center, facing us. It was as if he was looking at us. I couldn't help but think that somehow he was there with us. He was undeniably in all our hearts.
My wife Bonnie was so thrilled and felt like she'd been blessed to meet Arthur's family. She felt instantly at home with everyone. She told me it seemed as though we had been brought together to celebrate his life, which to us may have seemed too short, but to him, was complete and full as could be.
It was an extraordinary day. Such a long time since the early spring of 1958, when one evening I asked God to "Bless my friend Arthur."
I took this picture of Arthur's portrait during our visit with his family. It's as I remember him when we were playmates.