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George Groves Roberts, a proud graduate of the Citadel, and one of the first Mustang P51 pilots in WWII (19 years old), is my friend, found in my writer's critique group. He had his 84th birthday in August.
Stooped with age, not really able to be independent anymore, but fiercely proud, he is partially blind, deaf, arthritic, forgetful to the point he forgets to eat. He would rather have a nicotine pill than a sandwich. He is alarmingly thin and rarely leaves his apartment in a senior citizen high rise on St. Andrews Bay.
When we speak, he never fails to tell me that he misses his Rosie, a small shaggy dog I found for him. He couldn't take her with him when he moved. His daughter took her to visit him. Rosie passed away last year, an old dog.
Pete was quite a story teller and remains so, recalling his WWII days, a special woman he visited often who worked in an Alabama brothel, his alcoholism (he never flew sober), his job as a civil engineer, losing everything and the virtues of AA and being sober for over 40 years. Through his sponsorship at AA he has touched and saved many lives. He was also a poet and age, until recently, did not steal away his intellect or his wit.
He has turned into a delicate little bird. Always a wisp of a man, he is now a bird who walks with a cane or uses a wheelchair.
Once meticulously, militarily neat, with hair neatly comb ed, he is reduced now to shabbiness and clothes that hang and sway on his fragile frame.
Another writer friend, Chuck Adams, looks on. Nearly as old and nearly as thin, Chuck is also fiercely independent and still trying to get published. He seems pensive as if he sees his future. They are friends, drawn together by the writers in the critique group.
Our critique group is virtually non-existent now. There is sickness, age, relocations and deaths of our members.
Pete was one of the ones who never let up on me until my book was finished and would often call me when he disagreed with grammar or a divergent back story. We celebrated when my book was accepted for publication, and popped up at every one of my local booksignings.
So now we celebrate Pete, who tried so hard to read his card with hands afflicted with tremors. Not so long ago, he was teaching himself Latin.
Pete has often declared to me, "Getting old ain't for sissies."
I think we all were surprised at his appearance. I was, though I speak to him often.
He picked at his cake, but nevertheless, he enjoyed being with friends and family and feeling loved that day.
Also by May Lattanzio
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