was 12:44 a.m. when the phone rang. With one look at the clock, my mind instantly
spun the wheel of who it could be at this hour. It settled on Alex. I knew
the news couldn't be good.
She had called me last Monday. That
was just last week. Really, it seems that no time has passed at all. She
had called to say that her Daddy was dying. The cancer that he once had in
his lungs had returned and was in his brain. She had stopped by the hospital
for a regular visit when she caught the doctor delivering the news. There
was nothing they could do.
Her call at 12:44 was to say that her Daddy had died.
Mr. Clarence was quite the man. I was
already quite fond of his daughter when I met him for the first time.
Alex & I had been in a staff meeting or something along those lines in
the newspaper office one night. Her dad dropped by to give her a ride home.
I walked her down to the parking lot where he was. For some reason, I want
to say it was dark out... but that could be my mind setting the mood of the
story as much it was a factual detail.
At the time, Alex was a girl I very much wanted to date. And so, I especially
wanted to impress her dad. Yet, I somehow left that brief encounter -- we
exchanged just a few words -- feeling as though I'd failed in my attempts.
Of course, it could be that I was just a bit intimidated. Her daddy was taller
than I... and he had some sort of long gun in the front seat of his truck.
One steps lightly around a father with a gun.
A little more than a year later, Alex's grandfather died. Before his illness
and death, Alex and I found it damn near impossible to get along for much
more than five minutes. Yet, I'd been where she was and I offered whatever
support she would take. Quite possibly, that's where our friendship became
After her grandfather's funeral, their church
sponsored a lunch. I can be a picky eater, so I don't remember if I liked
any of the main dishes. But I can tell you that I loved what they had for
dessert -- banana pudding. And Mr. Clarence liked it, too. So much so that
we engaged in a contest to see who can eat the most bowls of banana pudding.
Among normal men, I could win such a competition hands down. But, like I
said, Mr. Clarence was quite the man. He won with six or eight bowls.
Those are my two Mr. Clarence stories. Right now, I wish I had more.
I only thought I felt helpless when
Alex called last week. Tonight, I had absolutely nothing to say. I'm a man
of many words -- often, too many. But there was no way to fill the hole that
has opened in her world.
I will always remember one thing she said to me... "I'm glad that he's not
suffering anymore, but now I don't have a Daddy." At that moment, I needed
arms that would reach 200 miles so that I could hold her. Mine aren't quite
that long. I'm supposed to be at work in just a few hours, but I'd be lying
if I said that I hadn't thought about calling in sick and driving south.
From my paper journal, written last
"[I] want to do something. Namely, drive down to Oakdale and hold Alex...
to comfort her... to take away just some of her pain. [...] I still love
Alex. I've decided that a relationship with Alex wouldn't work... but I still
care for her deeply. I always will. And she's hurting right now... and I'm
hurting for her."