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June 21, 2005
DJ wrote some weeks ago. We've been working together for six months and we've never met.

Well, she had a point. I have never met Matt the Web Dude, whose genius makes the Farm's website a thing of beauty. Not in the flesh. DJ, who runs More or Less Church on the Farm, and Debbie, who manages the Hodgepoge section, had met once when we were planning what these features should be like. And none of these people had met Buddy, the Voice of the eMos, reading them aloud every day from his rectory study in his beautiful Mississippi accent -- a person couldn't tell from listening to him that his rectory is on Staten Island.

DJ brought her dog Emmy Lou. Debbie brought her husband and their son, David. Her brother Trapper brought their father. Buddy brought himself in his convertible. What's-Her-Name chose not to attend, but Gypsy and Noodle were there, and Rose showed up later. And they all brought food: marinated flank steak and teriyaki chicken, potato salad and cole slaw, strawberry shortcake and cheesecake, striped through the center with a dark ribbon of crushed Oreo cookies. Not so much as a napkin was required of Q and me: out of DJ's tiny car poured an avalanche of tablecloths, plates, cups, cutlery, coolers filled with drinks, trays of vegetables.

David sat in his wheelchair sometimes and lay on the chaise lounge sometimes. I remember when David was born, and I remember what a beautiful little boy he was. He is still handsome, with his father's long, sensitive face and lanky body. His life has not unfolded as it seemed in those days that it would: David has some neurological disabilities that make each day uncertain and have made his communication with other people difficult. He has seizures, sometimes several in a day, and wears a magnet implanted under the skin that, if you get to it soon enough, can help reduce the severity of a seizure or even stop one. His teacher parents are skilled with him, and so he has a nice life, within the parameters of who he is. But it has greatly determined life for the family: Debbie's days are very full of David's needs.

His grandfather came in his wheelchair, too. His needs, too, are a full-time job now: this weekend, his caregiver had two days off, so he and Trapper were a team. Cutting food into small manageable pieces for old and young, making sure drinks were close at hand but not so close they'd spill, cheerfully wiping chins: these people know how to include the frail in daily life. So does Buddy -- very soon he and Paul were deep in conversation with the old man, two men in the prime of their lives and one at the end of his.

David loved the dog. Sit! he ordered, over and over again. It didn't sound exactly as it would have if another of us had said it, but Emmy Lou understood perfectly: she sat expectantly each time, waiting for the piece of biscuit David gave her as a reward. When he tired and was moved to the chaise for a rest, Emmy Lou patiently allowed herself to be laid in David's lap. David stroked and stroked her, his thin hands sure and expert on her velvet flank.

The sweet serenity of this scene was too much for Noodle, whom Q carried toward the happy pair to see what she would do. Her claws came out farther than I'd ever seen them, her ears plastered themselves back against her head and her tail swelled up like a bottle brush. When he put her down, she began to stalk Emmy Lou, emerging from under the hosta plants just enough to enter Emmy Lou's field of vision and hiss. The faithful dog, visibly torn between her duty to David and her desire to chase the cat, trembled occasionally as she lay in David's arms. Finally enough was enough, and she was allowed to go in pursuit. Noodle ran under the wheelbarrow, and Emmy Lou trotted back to David. The thrill of the chase is thrill enough, it seems: you don't actually have to eat the cat.

I have to see the doctor tomorrow, I told Trapper as we both helped ourselves to some cheesecake. I had already had the strawberry shortcake, and I felt I should compare. Maybe he won't do a blood test until my Lipitor has had a chance to work.

Maybe you should cancel.

It was a lovely day. But Matt the Web Dude never did make it: it was Fathers' Day, and he was on the golf course with his dad. So we still don't know what he looks like.
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