My, how I haven’t changed

In the 80’s dad started an interest in dune buggies. The local Lutheran pastor, Malcolm Brook, was one of the town welders that started building these fantastic beasts and dad, always interested in cars, was along for the ride. One of the other local dads that was in on this was Alva Sutton, the president of our local bank, Sutton Bank. It was through this association that I solidified a latent friendship with Alva’s don, Todd. Before dune buggies Todd and I knew each other, but being a few years apart in age and him living at the far east end of Attica (in the last home of buckeye Village), I just didn’t do a lot with him. Usually, when I did see him or something with him it was when I went to his neighborhood on our motorcycle…and it was a fast trip because I didn’t want the local law enforcement to see me on the street without a license.

As I mentioned, Todd was a few years younger than me and he was what I called a lucky kid. Not because of his dad but because of his talent. He seemed to be able to do just about anything; he played piano by ear, was a math whiz (ok, maybe he did get that from his dad) and was great at outdoor activities like skiing. (Todd, a friend of his and I went to Peak and Peak in New York to go skiing and I ended up hitching a ride down the slope in a toboggan with the ski patrol – twisted my knee and enjoyed the lodge for the remainder of the trip.) It seemed as though Todd could do anything…and do it well. He was a lot of fun to be around but like everything else, as we grew older we grew apart. Today I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. Fact is, the last I heard of him was when his mother passed away. I was unable to attend the funeral but attending weddings and funerals is another topic…

Growing older has its pros and cons. Remembering people has always been my con. I was going through my phone the other day reviewing my contacts, just seeing if there are any I could remove. I have this habit of entering contacts in my phone with their last name being the place from which I know them. I have “Karen ARP Marketing,” “Dee ARP ARSD,” “Jen SPB Activities,” “Allen Yuengling Bar,” well, you get the idea. I had contacts that I had no idea who they were, even with the identifying last name. It was not that I never knew them because the names always sounded familiar, but to identify them in my mind…I just couldn’t place a face with the name. I would look at “Mitch Funeral Home” or “Monte Priest” or “Kim Honda” and think, “Who is this?”

In October 2016 my mom passed away. As is part of any funeral, the family is required to stand for hours on end as family, friends, associates and thousands of other people offer their condolences. I had forgotten how many lives mom touched, but we must have stood there for close to eight straight hours. Well, dad and my brothers were good about standing there, I had to take a couple of breaks.

Several friends from my childhood stopped in to offer their sympathy. Jimmy Nagel who was our neighbor was there. Now he lives near Columbus Ohio with a family of his own. He walked up to me and I had no idea who he was. Once he told me I stupidly responded, “Yeah…you do look a little like him.” as if he were some type of cloned alien.

Another buddy, Glenn wasn’t there but his brother who is Monte’s age was. Wow! He looked a lot like his dad…and that’s Glenn’s younger brother. I can only imagine how old Glenn looks. I look in the mirror each day and it seems as though I never change but all these people in this never ending line seem to have aged tremendously.

From the time I was fourteen until I was twenty-four I worked at dad’s store, or at least in it. Our popcorn business was located in the back room so even when I wasn’t working out front I was in the back. The point is, I was there a lot.

Dad’s store had regulars like any other drug store soda fountain/restaurant. In the morning. the early crowd, farmers, roll through the door within seconds of dad’s arrival. No matter what time he gets there they are waiting in their trucks and follow him in. The farmers (especially the retired ones) have their coffee, swap a few stories (usually repeats) and then leave. This happens every day of the year and god forbid someone doesn’t show up without forewarning, then there is a whole new topic of conversation.

Jim Kuhn was a regular at our store. He and his wife would come in about thirty-seven times each day. Jim delivered one of the big Ohio newspapers (can’t remember which one) but he was nocturnal (and I’ve lived this so I am well aware of being nocturnal). Jim was like the dad that no one would claim; he always had a lot of “dad jokes” but nearly all of them were dirty. One of his most repeated lines was, “He was like a fly on a toilet seat, pissed off!” The way he spoke, walked and acted I’m sure he was hit in the head a few too many times by flying newspapers but when you’re a high school male working at a drug store soda fountain he was good comic relief.

I got to know so many people from working in the store; I’d see locals nearly everyday and out-of-towners less frequently but still regularly. Cosmo Carbetta was one of those out-of-towners. Cosmo was the photo guy; he stopped by at least once a week, more after holidays, to pick up and drop off customer film and photos. For those of you new on the scene, like born after 1995,  before you most cameras used film which, after exposed, took at least a week to be developed. Cells were in your body, phones were tied to a wall and cameras were money boxes where you paid to buy film and paid more to have it developed and printed.

Cosmo worked for a photo processing company out of Mansfield Ohio. He would pick up exposed film and drop off the prints.  In a nutshell, it took at least a week and about ten dollars to have a stack of blurry pictures of your thumb. Each time Cosmo came in he’d have a cup of coffee and talk with anyone within eat shot. He would hit on all the girls and tell stories of his homeland Italy. I just liked learning dirty words from him, you merda faccia. (My personal favorite.)

It was people like Jim and Cosmo that I got to know well. However, I had no idea the day of mom’s funeral was to be a quiz for which I had not studied. In fact, no amount of studying in the world would have been enough for this day.

“Do you remember me?”

“I bet you don’t remember me!”

“Do you know who I am?”

If I got a nickel every time I heard one of these questions I would have had to buy cargo pants just to walk to the car. People I had known so well from the “store days” were complete strangers to me on this day. Although Jim and Cosmo didn’t show up the rest of the world did. Some people that seemed old to me when I was younger made me wonder how they were still standing! I don’t mean that in a bad way, I only question how life sneaks up on us. I’m just happy I’ve never changed.