But it was a daily way station. A respite to find a friend and get
away from the daily grind and enter a different world of idle
chatter or discuss alleged earth-changing events between friends.
The customer area, if you can call it that, was about the size of a
restroom, but that didn't stop a half-dozen or more coffee drinkers
from packing into the small area every morning.
There were shifts by many of us. Some came earlier, some later
and some still later in the day. Once in a while things would get
out of hand numbers-wise and when someone opened the door to come
in, someone else volunteered to leave. The alternative was to get
crushed in a room filled beyond capacity.
The bathroom wasn't much and often the toilet didn't work very
well. The roof leaked badly and buckets around the shop area welled
up quickly during a good rain. But still we all came sometime during
the day, if not twice.
I guess the station was an old-time barbershop with all the bull
and bragging and complaining that one would find in a domain
inhabited by old, cranky men.
Dick had his own nook behind the eternally paper-strewn little
countertop. He refereed the fights and the debates and always had
his own spin when humor was being thrown around the room. Probably
per square foot there is no building in the world that has fielded
as many bad jokes as that little station has over the years.
Dick loved to be first with news, good or bad, and sometimes he
would call and tell me to stop by for a "scoop." Never over the
phone: The information had to be told in person.
Sometimes it was a great story. Other times it was something
about his research that proved his opinion on an issue was correct
and another county board official's was not.
I never saw anyone take a job as seriously as Dick did about
being the county board chairman. He loved that job as much as he did
Every time I drive by that little station, I remember the time he
fixed my old van by putting a manual circuit breaker on the battery
post to prevent a drawdown overnight. He chastised me for having
such a clunker, and I remarked a person can't find a vehicle worth a
darn for $150 anymore.
We both laughed. It was one of our last laughs together in that
little station, although neither of us knew it at the time. I wish I
did. I wish I could have said some things to my friend that day that
I knew he would understand and absorb. I wish I could have told him
what a good friend he had been to me.
I remember once during one of our more heated arguments that I
decided not to go visit Dick for a while. I made it three days and
couldn't stand it anymore. Dick decided the argument wasn't worth a
friendship and asked where I had been.
I told him I got really busy. He replied that he missed telling
me I was such a dumbbell (words changed for audience). I recall he
then shocked me by almost apologizing for our disagreeing so
vehemently. "You're a good friend," he said. I replied in kind that
he was a good friend to me as well.
[to top of second column]
I had mixed emotions about seeing my friend at his benefit. For
certain I wanted to see him. Just as assuredly I feared he would not
remember me, and although he acted like he did after I mentioned my
name, I'm sure he didn't. I have lost a dear friend, and my only
consolation is that not everyone has and I am so glad for them.
There were many people there at the benefit who have known and
been friends with Dick far longer than I. Some of those friends Dick
knew. Others, it looked like he knew them but couldn't place a name.
With others, it was hard to tell if Dick knew who they were even after
they gave their name. That is how it was with me.
Dick looked thinner for certain, and it seems he has aged a great
deal in just the past half-year. But he looked well and happy, and
many jokingly remarked how clean he looked.
Dick was a tradesman. And even when in a suit and tie, a
workingman carries the toil of his trade on his hands and under his
fingernails. It was obvious to everyone that Dick is being taken
care of lovingly and well.
He smiled a great deal when the Knights' New Year's Eve troupe
performed. Dick loved being a part of that, and imitating Elton John
was his favorite skit. Some said when the Elton John skit came on
they could see Dick singing the words.
I'm glad. That group was a joy in his life and I pray he carries
those memories today.
I'm not sure anyone can say how much of the night Dick took in
and how much he didn't. That is probably only known to him and God.
But it appeared he was enjoying the day and it was good to see his
family also enjoying the moment.
Dick's daughters seemed to have a good night. After all, they
were born and raised here, and they spent a great deal of the
evening being hugged and giving hugs to old acquaintances.
They have it tough right now taking care of their father,
especially when they have their own immediate families to care for.
Sometimes we forget that the caregivers have a tough time as well
as the infirmed.
Hopefully the night gave them a respite from their worries for
Dick and gave them the feeling that they are not alone.
Because they are not; they never will be.
Dick's daughter Diana emailed me to let me know Dick did know who I
was. I have never been more delighted in being incorrect.
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