The phone rings. I put down my red chair-order book, lean forward in my chair, lift the receiver.
“John Dee died last night.”
What do you say when a 92 year old man dies? I mumble that I am sorry. But what am I sorry about? We hang up and I go back to my order book, mechanically thumbing the pages till I find the right entry. Lexington Green. I always double-check the paint color before I paint a chair.
I lean back in my chair and look out the window, the side window of our house. My truck is parked in the driveway next to my wife’s car. I think back six years ago, to the time when John Dee Holman got into my truck for the first time:
“Four on the floor and a fifth under the seat!,” he said, noticing my gear shift. I was learning he had a saying for everything. A month before, John Dee and his wife had moved to a house three miles from me. I had seen him sing the blues for years, but had only just met them the month before. We drove to the auto parts store, talking about the condition of the road and the tunes on the radio.
“The spark from this plug kills old Arthur,” John Dee told the teller as he handed me a new spark plug. “It’ll make you jump, but it sure does fix the arthritis.”
On the way back to John Dee’s house, he told me how to cure constipation and catch snakes. We listened to 8-Track Flashback on the radio while he put the spark plug in my generator. It still wouldn’t start. I went home, happy.
As I sat looking out the window remembering this story and others, remembering the times he sat in my shop playing his guitar, his daughter-in-law frying fish outside, people dancing, talking and eating, I realized why I was so sad. John Dee and Joan had welcomed me into a group of people and a culture that was far different than my own. Welcomed me with open arms. We had eaten food together, danced together and laughed together. My friends and his friends had become friends. Thank you John Dee.