Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Men, Men, Men, Men, Manly Men

Many years ago I created the "Heckuva Guy Awards." I would print out certificates and give them out to guys I knew who went above and beyond in being wonderful, caring human beings while not compromising an inch of their masculinity.

I didn't give out a whole lot of them. My list of truly manly men is fairly short because I am quite discriminating in my choice for the awards.

On Saturday I had to say goodbye to one of the men on this list. He was my "second" godfather. For some reason my parents couldn't decide for sure who to make my godparents, so I ended up with two sets. We lost contact with my "first" godparents after my parents divorced. My "second" godparents were amazing people who managed to stay friends with both sides.

Dewey was one of the sweetest and kindest men who ever walked the planet. He was the man who put the gentle into gentleman. The only time that I heard of him raising a hand to one of his children was when his eldest daughter was a toddler and she made a run at the street. The thought of her ending up as a spot on the road scared him so much that she earned a spanking for it. My mother used to tell this story to demonstrate how kind he was. The spanking of his daughter just about killed him.

When he was a young man he met a young woman named Sonja from Sweden who was in the United States for a short time. He dated her during her time in Colorado. It wasn't until she was on a train going to New York to catch a ship home to Sweden that he realized that he was in love with her and couldn't let her go. He hopped a plane to New York (this was the early 50s and not something one did lightly) and met her train at Grand Central Station. It was like a scene from some Hallmark movie, though Sonja said it wasn't quite as romantic as it sounds. It was a hot and dusty day and they found out that the state of New York had a three-day waiting period for a marriage license. They ended up taking a train back to Colorado and making a beeline for a Justice of the Peace.

They scraped and saved and bought a tiny cracker-box of a starter home right next door to my parents. When their first daughter was about to arrive in this world it was my mother who drove them to the hospital. The story goes that a skunk wandered into the path of the car and Sonja started moaning that the hospital would never let them in if they all smelled like skunk. Mom managed to miss the skunk and Gina came into the world without further incident.

When I came along over a year later Mom and Dad not only brought me home, they brought me to THEM, my other family. Gina was enamored of me and called me "Boo Boo," which is toddler speak for baby.

For many years our families traded Christmas Eves -- one year at our house and one year at theirs. Part way through the evening Dewey would disappear and like magic a Swedish Santa Claus would show up and hand out our gifts. Of course I always knew it was him. Though one year their son, Tom, showed me the mask and Sonja got mad at him for ruining Santa for me. No one really understood that I never believed that Santa was real. It was just that to me it was a wonderful time of year when even the adults were playing my favorite game of let's pretend. It was more about believing in miraculous possibilities for me.

Dewey was a very hard-working kind of guy. He worked at the Borden Dairy in Denver for many years. One Christmas Gina and I both got toy Elsie the Cows from there. Elsie would moo when you turned her over. I remember the times when he was working the night shift and we would try to play as quietly as possible so as not to disturb his sleep. He was the kind of man that made even us little kids want to be nice to him, even when you'd rather be running around screaming.

He always had a smile for a friend and a story to tell. He was a cowboy somewhere in his heart and away from work you would find him in boots and hat. He had, indeed, come from old Colorado pioneer stock.

He eventually went from the dairy to working for Itsy Bitsy Machines. For a few months I worked there as a temp and would occasionally run into him in the halls of an extremely large building. He always had time to stop and talk with me.

He passed his love of horses on to Gina and her daughter. He helped his granddaughter when buying a horse. He would get her to horse shows and help her curry the horse.

At the time of his passing he and Sonja had been married for more than 60 years. All three of his kids had good relationships with him. At his funeral his daughter Lisa said that she had learned the importance of silence from him. Everyone laughed because she had once been known for being a motor-mouth. It was a long education.

The world is a little poorer now that it has lost one heckuva guy. I wish I had gotten around to giving him one of the certificates. I hope he knew that was how I thought of him.

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