Gentle Giant

I am supposed to go to a fundraiser tonight, but I just don’t have it in me to carry on “small talk” right now. I am not really very good at small talk. When I was the newly married wife of a business owner, I tried to work on that skill. I would challenge myself to talk to 3 people I didn’t know at an event, or see if I could shake hands with ten new people at a meeting. I got better at it, but it is still a challenge. One that takes energy and work.

Today I just don’t have it in me to do that. I lost a family member/ friend this morning. And one of my favorite things about this person was that we could really talk. Not just superficial chatter, but real conversations.

I don’t know if he hated small talk like I do, I just know that when he and I talked it was an honest exchange. It included feelings and thought and laughter. It was meaningful and fun.

Eddie and I had a lot in common. We both married into this family. We both loved music and although I don’t sing in public often, Eddie played guitar and sang every chance he got. He sang funny songs and serious songs and everything in between. We both have our Bohemian ways about us. We just “got” each other.

A few days before Christmas this past year, the family met out for a late lunch together. As we waited for our table, Eddie wandered over to the bar and sat down to order whatever their featured drink of the day was. I remember looking at his back as he sat at the bar, wondering what he was thinking as he sat there alone.

Eddie was a big guy, tall and strong. He had a shaggy beard and a long pony tail. He looked like the kind of guy who could win a fight and protect his family. And he was, but he was one of the sweetest, kindest, and most patient guys I know.

When it came time for our lunch that day, I sat by Eddie. I didn’t know what to say, knowing the road that was ahead of him. At one point, part of the group was ready to leave and Eddie was still sipping on that drink he had gotten at the bar. When pressed to go he said, “I just had brain surgery, I’ll leave when I am ready!”

I was aghast! I looked at him and was speechless.  He looked at me and began that infectious laugh. He said that he was going to use that excuse for as long as he could get away with it!  I, too, began to laugh knowing that he was going to be alright. That he had what it would take to get through this with his humor intact. After all, he was a big, strong guy and he was a good guy- the best kind of guy. He would be OK.

When he came by the house a couple of months later, he had cut his hair off that very day. He knew what was coming, so he took matters into his own hands. He looked different, maybe more handsome in ways, but not like himself. I was used to the long hair.

He was more quiet and seemed to be watching and listening to everyone else as we talked and joked that day.

I never think things will go badly. I always wait for that miracle that most of the time never happens. I refuse to see the bad. I always plan for the best.

Every year at Christmas, Eddie would come up with the oddest gifts. I think he would go to a gas station to do his shopping. He would get us weird knitted hats or strange, light up felt neckties. One year he slipped me a small box. I knew this was not a convenience store find. Inside was a beautiful, silver ankle bracelet. At the time I wore a toe ring on each foot and my husband gave me a hard time about being a hippie every chance he got. I think Eddie wanted to add to the “hippie” look.

I wore the ankle bracelet every day for over a year until one day I looked down and it was gone. It must have broken and gotten lost. I was sad. Today I am devastated.

It isn’t often in life that you meet someone that you have a connection with, who is willing to have good conversations with you and add to your foot jewelry. Rarely do you meet someone so talented, larger than life and yet sweet and humble. He was truly a gentle giant in every way.

I am blessed to have some really good guys in my life. I am beyond sad that I lost one of those good guys today.

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Marietta is a graduate of the University of Montevallo with a BFA in musical theater. She has been performing for over 50 years on the stage and continues to perform, direct and teach. Marietta is married to Tim, has a son named Jon, and a cat named Penny.