“Expanding the circle of affection.”
My Godfather and namesake, the wonderful actor, Bradford Dillman (who I lovingly refer to as The Old Wrangler) and my father, Pete Bancroft, are now 86 years old. These two men have been close friends for 68 years. They have also been enormously important to me in my life. I would not be half the man (I think I am) without either one of them having guided me during my almost 60 years with them.
As they, and their friends get older (and in some cases pass on), I felt it was important to get these two old friends together one weekend recently and ask them to share some stories with us “youngsters”. I wrote the following piece about this gathering.
(some cloying sentimentality)
For The Old Wrangler
with love from
The Greenwich Grappler
The old friends gather around the wheelchair
Frail, blue armed wounds on weak yearning bodies
Still finding strength
in each other’s smiles, the juice
that keeps them alive, coming back for more
The key to the power they seek.
the stories, the lovely oft told tales-
each waiting for the delicious punch line
heard and shared
a thousand times
over countless cocktails.
Deaths and divorces
Grievances and loss
68 years of devotion
in some cases
89 years old
in some cases
A generation taught tactless to show
emotion out right, per se,
but share this currency of humor.
The tales that never let truth
get in the way of that humor.
The deep camaraderie of
known experience, even for those
not there, originally. The old ones
have brought us young ones into their circle.
Their stories of life lived, of life
Old loves lost
grief, sorrow and
Remembrance of things past.
The far off stare through rheumy eyes
A soft kiss, moments of joy
Unimagined in youth, now
for a gentlemen never tells
but always carries
that treasure vault in his heart
Juliet, Juliet. Wherefore art that young man’s Juliet?
“To-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.”
“Tell the one about the tie!”
The newcomer to the circle implores.
The groups smiles, for joy still reigns
from that same story having just been told moments before.
A different take, but no matter, no matter,
the smiles remain, the currency holds it’s value.
These men and women share in their shaking feeble age
The still vibrant mobility, grace, and
the rebelliousness of their youth.
No longer able to cavort the way they used to,
(“not as good as once I was, but good always once as ever I was.”)
they tell their stories, they share the memories and
are glad of that youthful (naughty) exuberance
(with only a few exceptions)
The fog of regret plays guiltily, briefly, over
a drooped eyelid – for shame, no matter,
“I was a schmuck…” Ah well, if only
“Tell us about the stunts, Marine.”
about that time in 1960…”
And we youngsters (even at 60 ourselves) still stay
enthralled, open mouthed and eager for more
having heard before, many times,
the same adults telling the same tales,
and eating them up more hungrily than ever
as night approaches.
These stories are the currency to beg off the dying of the light
If humor be the fruit of love, stay bright!