[I have been looking for a photo of Bryant and me taken on one of my birthdays–but I haven’t found it yet. Also, the note below was not ripped when I received it from Bryant. If I wasn’t home, he was going to leave it at the door. There were some phone numbers I didn’t want to post so what you see is a bad job of cutting & pasting.)
By June Morrall
A few months ago Bryant Wollman came to visit me. It was an unusual visit because I hadn’t talked to Bryant in many years, decades, actually.
He was wearing what appeared to me to be an authentic Scottish kilt outfit, the knee socks, the whole thing. He looked terrific.
Why the kilt? Bryant was a popular tour guide at the historic Filoli mansion and gardens on Canada Road in Woodside.
Coincidentally, my friend, Mardi, who lives in the Deep South, and was staying with her daughter in San Carlos, went to see the magnificent Filoli estate the same week Bryant visited me. During our chit-chat, Filoli came up as well as Mardi’s guide, an impressive man who looked exactly like Bryant.
It was Bryant.
Bryant always went “all out,” the Scottish kilt an excellent example. He was enthusiastic, truly, and as curious as a child. He was very smart—but he could be wonderfully silly. It’s fun to look at my “mind’s screen” and forever see the growth of a tiny smile on Bryant’s face turn into contagious laughter.
I never saw Bryant sad or melancholy.
What I may not have fully understood was his extremely poor eyesight. Clear vision is the main way we navigate through life. If you don’t have it, you develop other senses. When Bryant was in his 50s, laser technology made it possible to surgically correct his vision and he was just delighted with the results.
His corrected, now “better-than-perfect” eyesight was one of the things we talked about the last time I saw him in March.
We talked easily on that late afternoon. I should have asked what prompted him to visit me but I didn’t. It was as if he came over all the time. We talked about how the Coastside had changed, grown so big and some of the friends we had in common. The closest we came to addressing the future was when we talked about where we might move to and Bryant said:
“Where is there to go?”
This is the same question I’ve asked myself many times. I know other long time Coastsiders who have wondered the same thing and come up with same answer as Bryant. There is no where to go. The Coastside is the best place to be–maybe in the entire world.
Bryant said: “Where is there to go?” That was the clue I didn’t pick up on. I should have asked him what he meant. Well, no matter, now we know.
He praised all of his friends. He ticked off their names, told me what they were doing now and how proud he was of all of them. How I wish I had praised him. I didn’t. I was holding my breath, because, obviously, I sensed something but didn’t catch on.
Bryant Wollman was indeed “the model patient,” as Michaele Benedict called him. And that’s what he was doing. He knew his days were limited. Instead of telling us, his friends, he came for a last visit to tell us how much we meant to him.
I wish I had told Bryant Wollman how much joy he brought into my life.
Oh, but this piece is called “On Promises.” I didn’t tell you the meaning of that. On that last afternoon I saw Bryant, he was wearing the Scottish kilt costume because he had just come from his volunteer gig at the Filoli Estate in Woodside.
He was so colorful, I wanted an image at once. The photo was okay but Bryant made me promise not to post it.
“Do you promise?” he said, not once but several times and even when I promised-promised-promised,, I could tell he didn’t completely believe me. In the end I convinced him, however, and got my photo, which I will not, as promised, post in this story.