John Grindrod: Drawing a Friendship Line from Present to Past
When it comes to acts of kindness, there are indeed many ways to have a positive impact on others.
My friend of decades, Harry Johnson, and I exchange texts almost daily to stay connected to bridge the gap between our current lifestyles. Harry got tired of driving those big trucks in 2001 and retired at 57, which I think could be considered the teenage part of the retirement years. As for me, at 71, I still work full time and work on my journal side.
During baseball season, our texts always escalate, as we share a love for America’s greatest game. Now, whenever there’s a story that needs more depth, Harry will just text, “Call me.”
You should know that Harry has always been an ardent supporter of the young men who arrive in Lima every summer to call themselves Locos, as he rarely misses a game at home.
When I called Harry he told me the following story. He said he was heading to his car after the previous night’s game and a few yards away one of the players was walking with a woman. Harry said he stopped them and told the player he really appreciated the fact that he came to Lima that summer to play and he really appreciated the energy and skill that he had brought to the diamond. Harry said his words struck a chord with the woman, who was the player’s mother. She thanked Harry and was so moved that she started to cry.
As Harry finished his story, my mind instantly flashed back nearly 25 years to another time in my life, a time I rarely allow myself to return to, a very painful time, and Harry was very much part of my flashback. The reason why I rarely think about this period of my life, I think, can be categorized under this adage that has helped so many of us overcome adverse circumstances that we need to overcome. This adage is: “What doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger”.
It was a long time before I knew that whatever role I may have played in our failed 20 year marriage would do nothing to diminish the bond between my beautiful daughters, Shannon and Katie, and me. and also a moment before I could ever I imagined that a certain Lady Jane would one day come into my life and bring me such joy.
Back when the divorce proceedings were going on, on the advice of my lawyer when I told him that I fully intended to keep the house and pay my future ex half of its appraised value, I I stayed there with her and with Katie, while Shannon was at the University of Columbus. It was a very difficult time trying to be a good father to my daughter while avoiding her mother until she closed on a house she was buying and moved out.
Finally, the day came when she would move in with a young girl who wanted none of the circumstance but felt, rightly, that a young girl’s place was with mom. It was the day before Thanksgiving, usually a time of great joy for the teacher that I was at that time, the last day before a four-day weekend, highlighted by the Thanksgiving holiday that my sister Joanie would organize the next day. In the pre-dawn calm at my usual 4:45 a.m. departure time, I silently closed the door and pressed the garage door opener to make my way to St. Marys Memorial.
After school, driving home, I knew walking through the door of an empty house would be emotional, and I was right. After I arrived, I walked from room to room, reminiscing about family events in far happier times and reminiscing about different snapshots of my daughters growing up over the years and wondering, “Why?”
Just as I was starting a pity party of potentially epic proportions, I heard a loud knock on the front door one night when I hadn’t invited anyone to share my grief. When I opened it, there was Harry Johnson, with a Bud Light 12-pack in his hand, the same Harry who for several years turned up on Christmas mornings in full Santa Claus gear to make even more of a special day, the same Harry who had already started working on donating what is now over 22 gallons of blood, the same Harry who years later would arrest a Locos player and his mother as he went to his van.
He immediately saw the emotion on my face, grabbed the handle of the storm door, opened it and said, “Grinder? You and I are going to have cocktails and get the world as straight as possible.
There at that kitchen table, where once for so many evenings all four seats were taken, that night there were only two, and we sat for a while putting this world back too right as possible.
And, I’ll tell you in closing, I was always very grateful on that particular lonely evening that two seats were taken rather than one on the evening when I was, so much, a friend in need.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, freelance writer and editor, and author of two books. Join it at [email protected]