Tuesday, January 22, 2013

And the dark goes down to day nothing gold can stay

He pulled up in a old brown beater of a truck with a lawn mower hanging out the back and flashed a big smile with a gold tooth in front. He asked if we would be needin some yard work done and I said sure. That was the beginning of a golden friendship with my pal Clarence.

His house is down the street it looks like Sanford and son because if he saw something that could be fixed or was pretty he always took it home and tried to find a home for it with someone. I have an Italian Chandelier from the 20s and a 1968 bicycle, and a dirt bike he brought Conor that were  "findings " from some of his odd jobs. He always could see the good stuff, the bones...

The people on that end of our block are old families who have always lived there or kids that grow up  leave and come back.  I don't even know how old he was maybe 70?  But he knew everybody and everybodys business.  And he could do anything!  Need your roof fixed, masonry, garage cleaned, yard work get hold of Mr. Clarence. You could always find him somewhere doing something for somebody patching it , fixing it, making it better.

He always had a yard full of misfits and woebegones as well. The men in the neighborhood who were alcoholics or drug addicts trying to get clean. I'd drive by his house going to and fro and there would always be two or three of them setting on his steps waiting for him to come home (along with the stray cats in the neighborhood that he used to feed he'd laugh and say he could hear them calling him from the dusty yard..) he'd always try to find something for those broken men to do with him.  I don't know what he would say to them or how he did it but I know they worked hard and I saw some get clean, stay clean, and mend fences with family that I thought were broken forever. Three years later one of them stood in my yard talking to my husband Larry and I didnt recognize him he looked so healthy and he was in business with his boys.

 Now don't get me wrong Mr. Clarence was no pushover,  one night a troublemaker in the neighborhood approached me in my yard up to no good and Larry ran him off. I told Mr. Clarence about it the next day and a couple of days later he came by my house and said "Don't you worry Miss lady nobodies gonna bother you now."  He would say to the dopers and thugs before he ran them off "You know those are good people down there you just leave them alone." He was the buffer, the guardian, the peacekeeper, our black knight.

Sometimes he'd  be doing the yard or just  driving by and then sit on the porch steps with us and talk for a while about what things were like when he was young and growing up on our street, how things changed though the time and he watched it all. He was a comic and a storyteller and Dr. Phil all rolled into one. An hour after hanging out with him and his gold just rubbed off on you and you felt good about life.

He was on a job last week and started to feel bad so they called an ambulance and he walked out to the truck and they worked on him a bit and as is so like him he didn't want to be a bother and offered to drive himself to the hospital, and then died. His big golden heart just wore out.

No more to see my friend hail me from the side of the street or roll by and tease me about how pretty I am with my red hair or pat Conors hand and tell him he's so proud, or Hey Larry lets smoke a ciger soon...And I can't seem to not cry as I drive by his house....

I think now of him and even through my sadnessI smile because I see him. There he'd be in the sunshine grinning that gold toothed grin around his grizzled beard and looking like a African pirate with his bandanna tied around his head, cigar clenched in his teeth and saying "  Miss lady you gonna need some work?" and I knew it was spring time.

The buzz of a mower, the smell of fresh cut grass that will be Mr. Clarence telling me its spring....
Heres one to take you home Mr. Clarence ....


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