The World is a Little Darker
The world got a little darker today.
There are so many shitheads in the world. Why couldn’t it have been one of them?
That was my first thought after I’d heard that Dad’s best friend had passed away. I don’t always see things in black and white terms, but on this subject, I do. There are really Good People out there and there are Shitheads. Then a lot of us that sort of fall in between. Marty was on of the Goodies. One of those gentle souls that wouldn’t have thought twice about doing lending you fifty cents for your parking meter or helping you shovel manure in subzero windchills. He just did it. And then he probably made a joke about it, and gave you that wry smile and a wink.
Marty is the first friend of my dad’s that I remember. If I came home from school or a hard day beating the streets on my three-speed bicycle and saw Marty’s big cream colored truck with the tool chests parked by Dad’s shop, it was a good day. I’d find them standing on the driveway drinking beer out of a can, shooting the shit. He was one of the friends of dad’s that actually acknowledged me. He’d tease me, he’d ask me questions, I’d grin toothily and bring more beers (I learned this valuable skill at a young age). He always made me laugh and he never seemed annoyed by this kid just hanging around.
He got into a motorcycle accident once. I was probably eight or so. I remember my dad’s lips being in a tight, thin line like they were when we were in real trouble. My mom did that thing that parents do when they have something bad to tell you—“Sarah, sit down.” He jacked up his shoulder pretty bad, there were some pins involved. I wanted to know if I could make him a card, and my mom said she thought he’d like that. So I drew him a hamburger—and he pretended to eat it.
He and my dad were good buddies. When my parents built their house, the one they’d been plotting and planning for since I was in middle school, he was there in the cold, helping. It was one of the times I remember my dad being the happiest—he was out in the cold, every single day, building this house from the ground up, and Marty was there. Drinking cheap, canned beer, or maybe the celebratory whiskey, coveralls and work boots. And, like always, he made my dad shake his head and grin ear to ear. We don’t see that grin, that happy-go-lucky lightness of heart all the time, but when it surfaces, it’s enough to make everything in the world brighter.
The thing about Good People is that they’re good to everyone, not just their favorites. And not just when they are happy, but when they aren’t. When my dad got sick, he was really, really, horribly sick. For a while, when he was going through treatments, he was a ghost of himself. Aside from the sheer physical massacre his body was undergoing, his spirit was dwindling. You could see it—his face more and more drawn, his eyes darker and sadder. Mom would call Marty. “Please come see him. Just stop by.” And he would. He’d assure him that he’d check the water softener or some other task he didn’t think my mom should be doing. He’d unload some good gossip or some other lighthearted banter, trying to bring that light back to Dad’s eye.
But he also looked out for my mom. He checked on her. He talked to her, worried with her, lamented Dad’s illness with her. He supported her, and her battle too. Good People do that, you know. Their circle is broad and encompassing and once you are in it, by blood or marriage or grace of God, you’re in.
You never know how much someone means to your life until they are no longer in it. I weep for Marty like I’d weep for my family; he was part of us. I think of all the ways he blessed us, and I can only hope to pay that forward, to do the same for some other family as best I can.
There is a loyalty, a gentleness of spirit and an integrity that is unique to just a few people, these Good People. I can only hope and strive to be as good of a person as Marty.