“Books are living things and their task lies in their vows of silence. You touch them as they quiver
with a divine pleasure. You read them and they fall asleep to happy dreams for the next 10 years.
If you do them the favor of understanding them, of taking in their portions of grief and wisdom,
then they settle down in contented residence in your heart.”
Pat Conroy, My Reading Life
Last week a man named Porter Thompson passed away from this life and into the next. He was a person who I worked with for over a dozen years within the last 20 or so of my life. In a tiny size office, with just a handful of people, and Porter’s personality, it would be nearly impossible that the two of us would not also become friends over all those years.
Although he was not born into the South, “he got here as fast as he could” and generated as much charm and character as any southerner’s slightly eccentric elder relative ever could. He was a wonderful writer and an even better storyteller. Many times, I never new what was real and which details had taken a spin through the “Porterizer”, but that was, for me, the appeal – and the fun – of just about any conversation (unless we were on deadline!). And for him, I am positive it was all the fun.
Porter moved on too early from this world, and Hilton Head Island, which he adored. Around here it’s just a little less lighthearted without someone like Porter around. I feel grateful that we were able to visit a couple of times since I moved back to the Lowcountry, the last time having a good, long conversation about writing and this blog, in particular. I don’t know if he ever did visit southbyse.com, but I like to think so.
Porter’s office was a lot like his home, with bookshelves overflowing with volumes and variety – no wall was spared. It was a little cluttered but never a mess, the familiar and cozy smell of books permeating the air, like your favorite book store. One of the finest places one can be, if you ask me. I like to think that is where Porter is hold up now, his wife Barre at his side, in a comfortable chair reading a good book or having a laugh about some wind-bag authored, preposterous letter-to-the-editor in the local newspaper. Maybe his friend Tim Doughtie drops by and they ceaselessly crack jokes at each other’s expense, pausing only for one of Porter’s favorite treats, a root beer float.
Porter, my friend, you’ve sailed away toward a better place where the sun shines for you always, there’s a salty breeze at your back, a good read on the side table and it always falls open to your exact spot. Have as many root beer floats as you want – and enjoy every damn sip!