Maya Angelou said, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
I get that now.
You see, Sal was wealthy. Not in a banker kind of way, but in a president kind of way. He had obtained the kind of wealth that only lives in my dreams. Sal traveled to pyramids and exotic lands with Helen, his wife of 48 years; he built houses for every season, collected antique tractors, fishing reels, old fans. He flew planes, drove boats, set crab traps, and enjoyed white wine with lots of ice cubes. And, he shared all of this with his family, his friends, his wife and his little pup, Quinn. His collections were always growing, not for the sake of wealth and accumulation, but for the sake of preserving the reel's story or the tractor's might. Preserving and protecting, and he knew he had the means to do it. So, he did. And when an email would pop into our inbox from time to time from Sal, the one line, ALL CAPS message told of his newest discovery, and he would include a quick picture. It always made us smile.
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.
Whether it is exploring this amazing world or being content on my own piece of real estate near Athens, Georgia, I'm spinning stories and fashioning tales from a Southern perspective. As an editor and writer, I get to meet incredible people and share their stories. As a photographer, I get to cement these moments in time. As a wife and mother, I'm always excited to see what's around the next corner, For it's anything but ordinary.