(Reworked from a guest post I wrote March, 2012 before the birth of fishducky, finally!)
I’m sure that you all have had someone in your life who has passed away, but you wish you could have had them with you forever. I don’t mean a parent, a spouse, a lover, or even a child. I mean a good friend. Larry was such a friend to me & my whole family.
We first met him when he came into my husband’s law office with a personal injury case. Larry was very tall, very muscular & very black. He cut quite an imposing (& slightly fearsome) figure, but he had the proverbial heart of gold. One of his previous jobs was as a driver for the Mafia, or maybe it was the Syndicate. I know it was for some such esteemed organization. You could trust him with your life. We gave him a key to our house, in case of emergency. He would do anything for us, at any time. Bud said that he felt that he could give him $1,000,000.00 in cash & tell him to deliver it to someone in New York & all Larry would ask was what flight he should take. There was no task that was too big or too small for him. Once he got us a live chicken on the 4th of July. (To read that story, click here.)
He was driving us to the airport down a busy street when we passed a car that was parked with the driver’s door hanging open. He broke us up with, “That guy must keep a spare door in his garage.”
Our kids loved him, too. They had a great time at his house playing pool & eating his wife’s special macaroni & cheese. He took them to exotic places where I never went—like the city dump. One day I was sick & couldn’t pick the kids up from nursery school, so I asked Larry to get them for me. When they saw him, they jumped up, yelled, “Larry!! Larry!!” & ran to hug him. He told their teacher he was there to take them home. Since he obviously bore no physical resemblance to our family (white Jews) she called me for an OK. Any of us would have gone ANYWHERE with him.
He told our kids, after we bought both sets of our parents a new car for their 50th anniversaries, “One of your white grandfathers drives a Buick. Your other white grandfather drives a Pontiac. But your BLACK grandfather drives a Cadillac!”
My favorite “Larry” story took place on the freeway. He was rear-ended (no physical damage to either of the drivers) & got out to speak to the man who ran into him. The man was Latino & whenever Larry asked him a question he replied, “Lo siento. No hablo ingles.” (“I’m sorry. I don’t speak English.”) Larry went back to his car, opened the glove compartment & took out the nightstick he carried on his job as a night watchman. He was walking back, slapping the nightstick against his palm, when the other gentleman suddenly remembered he COULD speak English, after all! He looked at Larry & said, “Hey, man, we can work this all out!”
Larry died while my children were still quite young. This was the first funeral they ever attended. There were several nurses in their white uniforms at the service. I assumed that was because he passed away while he was in the VA hospital. It wasn’t. When the casket was opened at the end of the service, many people screamed & some fainted. I had no idea that this was not unusual at some black funerals. (I don’t remember what denomination it was.) I had been sitting between my two boys & holding their hands. When the screaming started I felt two sets of fingernails digging deeply into my palms. When their grandmother (my mother) died a short time later, I had to convince my sons that this would not be happening at her funeral. They were afraid to go. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have been the case if Larry could have held their hands.
I miss you, my friend---fishducky