When I was a little girl, one of my favourite parts of the week was when Eddie Martineau would drive by our house. He always had a kind word and a hug for me and my little sister. He always seemed as happy to see us as we were to see him. Mom often prepared him little goodie bags – particularly at special times of the year like Christmas – and we would proudly wait by the curb with his gift, eyes peeled for his big, noisy truck to come rumbling up the hill – barely containing our excitement to see his always-delighted reaction.
Eddie was our garbage man. We thought he was absolutely awesome.
We didn’t live at that house for very long – perhaps five years – but five years in a young child’s life can feel like an eternity. I was almost a teenager when we moved to a different part of town where Eddie’s truck didn’t make the rounds. And typical of an adolescent, I quickly forgot all about him as I entered the world of school-girl crushes, Saturday dances at the school gym and hours-long phone conversations with my girlfriends.
I am not sure how old I was when my parents told me that Eddie had died. It made me feel very sad and a little guilty: how could I have all but forgotten someone who had been so very kind to me? Whose face had lit up every time he spotted me and my sister waiting for him at the curb?
Typical of life, though, my memory of him was once again transferred to the dusty, cobwebbed shelves of my mind as I moved into adulthood, got a job, had children, got divorced and generally had little time to do much of anything but focus on the myriad daily issues and emergencies that seem to form the bulk of our busy mid-life years.
Dad died in 2005 and we went about the business of finding a final resting place for a man who had little patience for the shenanigans of organised religion or the corporate greed of the franchised funeral home. After some searching, we found him a lovely, out-of-the-way spot in a nondenominational cemetery close to trees and far from the road.
I have always loved cemeteries – there are so many stories hidden away there if you only stop long enough to read between the lines lovingly carved in stone: couples who died within weeks of one another; so many women (and a handful of men) who outlived their spouses by many long, lonely decades; children buried before they ever had time to take that first step; a whole grouping of people who died at around the same time; of some illness that was making the rounds in their day; young adults taken before they ever got the chance to be ‘grown-ups’. Whenever I visit my Dad, I love to take the time to just wander about, guessing at the stories that began or ended in that silent, sacred pace.
And one day, I found Eddie. I spotted his family name from quite a distance away and noted – with an excited beat of my heart – that his monument included one of those photographs you sometimes see on a tombstone. Having long-since forgotten what he looked like, I was curious to see whether I would still recognise him, all these decades later.
When I got closer, I was dismayed to discover that someone had desecrated the photo: either by gouging or burning or both. His image – placed there by someone who had obviously loved him dearly – had been completely destroyed.
My eyes filled with tears and I reverently knelt down and touched the wrecked photo that had been placed there so that people would never forget who he was.
“I loved you, Eddie,” was all I managed to say. “And I never forgot.”
Maybe that is enough…
Patti Moore Wilson/ © wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com