I get that now.
And that day, on Little Palm Island, I smiled. He made me feel really good about me. Knowing that I was way out of my league on that island and even out of my league in the presence of a man who had traveled the world and had made more money that I would make in a thousand lifetimes, I belonged. In my shorts, smelling of crab pots. I was rich. He didn't see my bank account or my list of accomplishments. We were family. We were rich.
I remember vaguely the stories Sal shared. The names he dropped - Jackie Kennedy, Andrew Wyeth, Jimmy Buffett - that didn't faze him. I remember how he and Helen welcomed Len and I into their home year after year, taking us to No Name Pub and playing trivia at Boondocks and, to my amazement, winning the first round of our first game. Sal knew that Marilyn Monroe was on the first cover of Playboy; we asked how he knew, but he just shrugged his shoulders and grinned. When we got back to his place, he couldn't wait to show Len the red collared shirt he bought in Key West for a bargain $.79. What a deal!
Sal and Helen told us how lucky Len and I were to have found each other late in the game. They knew how important it was to find your soul mate, for with Sal and Helen, you could not say one name without the other. Where one went, the other followed. They were the ultimate soul mates. And if I ever needed anything, "you call me," he said. And I knew he meant it. There's not many people that will give you their heart without proof of life. Most people like Sal don't have time for people like me.
For the last four years, as I finally realized my own family had disappeared, I found a new source of wisdom and comfort in Sal and Helen. Accepting me into a larger-than-life Sicilian family that many times made me wince from their oddities. I loved it. I love them, and that's why today, there's a void in my heart.
I've never driven a Bentley, given Ted Kennedy permission to tie up at my dock, helped Jackie Kennedy with her horse, exported cars or tanks across the sea, looked at Hemingway's fishing reel resting on my shelf, encouraged Jimmy Buffet to take a shot at this singing thing, but I have felt the same kind of compassion they felt when they walked with Sal Lentine. I was lucky enough to have him in my life, if only for a few short years. I am no longer poor.
Len and I like to think his heavenly chariot looks something like this: a golf cart with a hood of an antique Cadillac a half block long, with wings, sporting huge tractor tires, powered by an old Evenrude outboard motor, with a license plate that reads "Lentine" with Sal at the wheel, a fishing rod in one hand and a glass of white wine in the other.
That makes me feel really good.