Monday, December 20, 2010

It's Toddy-time Daddo!

Returning from my morning walk, I would often see him sitting alone on the little porch of his apartment. He would sometimes wave and smile as I passed. One brisk day in September, dark rain clouds were gathering, so I called out to him that I thought it might rain today. He cupped his hand to his ear to let me know he could no longer make out words from that distance, so I moved closer to his chair and repeated myself. His happy smile and sparkling eyes told me that he was grateful that I had taken a moment to speak with him. Thereafter, I often stopped to chat with him.
Christmas at Jane's
This elderly man with his gnarled hands and silver gray hair sitting on his porch watching the world go by, was often my only contact with another person. I had recently moved back to my hometown after living in a large city in another state for more than twenty-five years. The new business I brought with me was operated from my home, so my workdays began before dawn and ended only when I became exhausted.  Socializing was not on my list of priorities. After more than ten years of making many sacrifices and working two jobs, I was newly divorced and grieving over the loss of the life I had worked so hard to achieve.  I poured my shattered heart and broken spirit into my work. It was my sanctuary.
I had no way of knowing that the man with whom I sometimes stopped to visit had owned many successful businesses including the 7-up Bottling Company in his younger days. Those facts were only revealed to me over the course of many visits as he recounted his favorite memories of his long life. He loved to tell me about his children and grandchildren who called him "Daddo". He would often tell me about his elegant mother whom he adored. He was born in 1909 in a house only blocks from his apartment. During the course of the next five years, I became an honorary member of his family. We spent many holidays and birthdays together.

When he was feeling up to the journey we would have a lunch date. I would often walk over with a glass of wine to sit with him on the porch and listen to him share his memories as twilight descended. He enjoyed telling me of the cocktail hours at the Country Club and the Hurstleigh Club in days gone by.  

Guy S. Carr driving with his father. circa 1924
When the sun was shining and the air was sweet with spring flowers, I would sometimes take him for a ride in the countryside. As I followed his lead turning down this road or that, he would share his memories as we drove along. "See those stone steps leading to nothing but a yard? There used to be a grand hotel there called the 'Austin Springs'. My parents stayed there on their honeymoon in 1904. It burned to the ground a long time ago." As we were driving across a small bridge one day, he told me "We used to ford this stream in a surrey when my Mother and a servant would take us for a picnic and we would spend the whole day beside the lake." On another trip he told me "This is the same path the wagon trail followed. I remember playing in the ruts it left when my brothers and I were little boys. The pony express came through here too." He remembered the first car that anyone in our town owned. He shared his memories of the lumber yard his family owned and of caring for their mules that delivered ice and coal to homes. As we drove through some of the older parts of our town, he pointed to what is now a garage. "That was a stable. When people didn't have cars, there was a stable near the house where they kept their horse."
A few times he called me to come to help him. Older people often fall because their sense of balance and legs don't work the way they once did. When he fell, his delicate skin would tear so easily. I would bandage his wounds, which sometimes required an emergency room visit. Through these events, he became more determined than ever that no one should know how fragile he had become. He always asked me not to tell anyone. That's why he would often wear a long sleeved shirt in July. He desperately wanted to maintain his independence and remain in his home.

In the hours before his death, I was there with his daughter at his bedside. Our last goodbyes were like all the others. He shared his wisdom and gave his love unconditionally. A relationship that began with what I thought was a good deed on my part, rewarded me with a dear friend whom I will never forget and a borrowed family that I respect and admire so much. My dear friend taught me many life lessons and about running a business. He shared his firsthand account of the history of our area like no other could for he had lived here for a century. I was truly blessed to have his friendship.


Irene Helms Designs said...

Beautiful and touching story. Classic example of the many rewards reaped from giving of one's self to help another!

pdonna said...

Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it! I've been glued to your blog for an hour now. Love the fashions. I am 51 and find my style changing as well and my evolving look is much the same as you have displayed here. Looking through getting ideas. But this story touched my heart! Just wanted to let you know. Donna

Dabney said...

Yes, I agree with pdonna above, this is a beautiful story and it really touches the heart. I have just today found your blog and must say I love your style. I, also, have been glued to your blog for quite a while today reading and just absorbing your sense of style. I also "liked" your Facebook page and am looking forward to seeing your posts and reading your blog into the future.

Dianna said...

Susan, I just discovered your blog last week, and am reading every one until I reach the beginning.
This is such a sweet post - how wonderful that you friended this older gentleman. I'm sure the stories (and history!) he shared with you have meant so much to you.
As for your fashion tips, I'm afraid I am overwhelmed after seeing so many of your stylish photos - I don't know where to begin changing my wardrobe!
I think I'm in need of a personal stylist..!

Unknown said...

I just found your blog and this story brought tears to my eyes!