More sad news yesterday. A family friend passed away. Garf, as he was known, was quite a character, and hadn’t been in great health for some time now, so it wasn’t a tremendous surprise, but still sad.
There will be no service for Garf, although family and friends may gather to share stories about him, which is probably the best way to memorialize him. I’m sure I’ve only heard some of the stories there are about him, like when he would take his glass eye out and drop it in someone’s beer, just to see their reaction. Garf was a hard man, and didn’t care much for women in general. He had many names for them, most of them not very nice, but he always called me, “kid” (I’ve known him since I was basically a kid… his twin nephews and I played in a band together when I was in high school). I guess it was a term of endearment, I believe, and he hugged me every time he saw me, so for some reason, he liked me.
I have one eerie story about Garf that I will share here, although I don’t think i would share it at a gathering. To be honest it still freaks me out a bit. Shortly after we were married, in the summer of 1995, my husband and I were at our friends’ house (Garfs’ nephews), late at night, having a few beers by the fire pit. The mood was melancholy, and I don’t remember how the conversation started, but somehow, we got to talking about Garf being a fire-fighter, and even the chief of police for one of the departments in the town in which I grew up. I mentioned to him that my brother died in a fire when he was a child, and instantly his mood became very somber. He choked up and he asked me when my brother died, and a few other circumstances about the fire and about where my house was. I’ll never forget the look on his face when, choking back tears, he said, “I was there.”
“Boy, I will tell you what,” he said. “A fire fighter never forgets a death, especially of a little child. Every one of us fighting that fire was torn up over that. Never the same after.”
My brother was just 3 years old in 1968 when he managed to get a hold of a gas can from the garage, and began pouring it into his toy riding car. Mom was running toward him as the fumes ignited. She used her bare hands to try to put the fire out. She was burned over 60% of her body and spent months in the hospital. David died. Mom wasn’t able to attend his funeral because she was in the hospital.
David died before I was born, but my mom shared memories of him with us from the time I can remember. I had a tremendous sense of loss and, although I had never met him, I always wished for an older brother.
I didn’t know what to say to Garf after we had the the realization that he fought the fire which claimed my brother and scarred my mother for life. I never told my mom about the incident. I saw a more tender side of Garf that night; a side that probably most people never saw. I am saddened by his death, and will always be grateful for his service to the local community and to my family. May he Rest In Peace.