Friday, September 28, 2007

Special Friend At Funeral

A long while back Dad and I went grocery shopping together. We did everything together of course but grocery shopping was kind of a special thing I guess.

For one thing it was regular and periodic. We always went to the same store and we generally saw the same people. I always began at the produce area next to the door we entered and then we moved up and down each aisle to the other end. They added the self-check lanes after we stopped going. So sometimes we even knew the checker, especially in the beginning.

The first store we patronized was one that had been in business many years and was mom's favorite. When she was alive she would tell me to be sure and get meat that was about to expire because it was the cheapest. I always thought that was funny but she was very serious about it. She always thought I was a little less than frugal. But that store finally closed. The family that owned it just finally became tired of it and sold to a bigger company. Soon afterwards it closed for good. And really it was pretty much time because the place had really gone downhill in about every possible category.

Then we switched to a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market that was just across the street from the old store. It was new then and even a new concept for Wal-mart. It was and is the right size store for me. It is large enough to have most everything but not so large as to be overwhelming. I tried to go when there were not too many people there. Back then dad was doing pretty well with people but already too many people made him a little nervous.

One day I noticed this fellow who was sweeping the parking lot. I thought I might know him and finally came up with a name. I walked over to him and asked him if he was who I thought he was. And he was. His name is Danny and he was a classmate most of grade school through high school. Back then we called him "slow" and most everyone kind of helped him along. There weren't any special education classes then, at least in our little town. His cousin and I were really close friends and his cousin helped him the most.

When I returned to Moore in 1998 and 1999 I located a teacher who had been so important to me during high school. Her name was Mrs. Raine. She was always Mrs. to me regardless how old I got. She told me to call her Bennie but I really never did. It just seemed wrong. Mrs. Raine taught me The Old Man And The Sea by Hemingway among many other things. I still treasure that time. She always introduced me as her student and I was ever proud to be one of her "little darlings" as she fondly called us. A group of us got together before she died and raised enough money to endow a scholarship in her name. She even attended and spoke at the first ceremony. She died shortly after that. I think she was 95.

But I mentioned to Mrs. Raine one day that I had seen this fellow, Danny, at Wal-Mart. She told me several stories about him and how the teachers there at Moore had helped him individually so he could graduate. She told me about his cousin helping him so much. I hadn't known any of it really.

But Danny was working for Wal-Mart. Apparently Wal-Mart has a special program for people like Danny. He did a great job. His parking lot was absolutely clean. And if anything was spilled inside the store he was right there to clean it up.

Danny would smile so big when he would see us and he would come over and shake our hands. And then he and dad would talk a few seconds about various things. Danny knew that dad had Alzheimer's but it made no difference to him at all. Sometimes I would walk off a little ways and watch them visit with each other. Dad knew Danny was slow but it seemed to make no difference to him. Finally, Danny would excuse himself to get back to work.

I knew when his birthday occurred somehow. So we would buy a card for him and usually Dad would have me put a $20 in the card. I would change our shopping day if necessary so we could see him on his birthday. Dad would give the card to him. He would open the card and read it and then handle the $20. He always seemed so happy and grateful. But not any happier than Dad.

I was so surprised on the day of the funeral to look up from my greeting duties to find Danny in line waiting to shake my hand. He had on his normal Wal-mart clothes. He's my age but he looks much older. He ignored my hand and came right over and put both his arms around me and hugged me and told me he surely missed seeing us. We haven't been there in several years. I was surprised he even remembered.

After the service he found me again and said he couldn't stay any longer because he had to get back to work. He explained his manager had granted him time off to attend dad's funeral. He told me he would try to see me again sometime.

Danny is a very special friend.


arutherford said...

Oh Terry what a beautiful story. It touched my heart deeply. I have a mentally retarded brother who works at Goodwill. He has a mentality of about a 2-3 yr. old but the sweetest spirit. He too, is so proud of his job and what he can contribute. He's very strong so they count on him for a lot of heavy lifting. He lives in Denton, TX, not too very far from you.

Thank you for sharing this precious story. I only hope people are as nice to my brother, Charles, as you and your Dad were to Danny.

God bless you.

Chris said...

May we all be blessed with Danny's, Flinty's and folks like your dad in our lives. The world would be so much richer indeed.

I am glad you are too busy to blog every day. Idle hands are the devil's workshop my mom used to say:) Blog when you can and enjoy your life even more. We will be here for you. Have an amazing day today.

Lori1955 said...

I had to get up and get a kleenex before I could comment. What a sweet man to come to honor your dad. I just warms my heart and of course had me in tears.

~Betsy said...

This is a wonderful story. I hope you will continue to visit Danny from time to time. You must have felt very touched to look up and realize he had learned of your dad's passing and made the effort to express his condolences.

God Bless the Danny's of this world.

steflovesnonna said...

I love the Old Man and the Sea. Its one of my favorites. Hemingway and Steinbeck are my loves. I have read more Steinbeck, almost every book actually but I enjoyed the old man and the sea a lot. Anyways I am glad you got to see an good friend. You deserve to have great friends.

SKYGIRL said...

What a sweet, sweet, story Terry! I could just see them, chatting away in the isle. It mattered not to them, because perhaps they were are similiar wave-lengths, but it is so nice to know, it does not touch the Soul.

I think we all know this, but sometimes it is easy to forget. What a doll to show up at Dad's Memorial, and opt for the {{{BIG-HUG}}} instead of the traditional handshake.

It does say allot about your Dad to make that extra special effort, for Danny's Birthdays.

rilera said...

Flinty, thanks for writing about Danny and your dad. It was wonderful to read about him and I'm glad that he was able to make it to your dad's funeral. What a special man.

nancy said...

what a touching story. thanks for sharing it. this summer mark worked as a parking attendant at the hospital and there was an employee similar to danny that took a liking to mark. i was very glad when he told me that he was kind to him as well.

i too hope you will stay in touch with danny. what a wonderful tribute to your dad.