FRED - Page 2

With the ball point pen in one hand and the first photo in the other Fred would ask them what they thought of the picture.  Now, they would always screw up their faces and cock their head to one side then the other sizing up the image and then finally they’d say, “Um, I don’t think so.” 

Fred would say, “OK,” and quickly, with the ball point pen, he would poke the eyes out of the photo. Now I don’t know if you have ever poked the eyes out of a photo, especially one of your child, but it is a very unsettling and grotesque looking thing.  So, instantly the mother would shriek as if you had actually poked the eyes out of her child, “What are you doing?”

Fred in "See How They Run"Fred would explain to her that that was his way of marking the photos so he could keep straight which pictures she did not want. The thought of Fred disfiguring all the other images was apparently too much to take, “It never failed, they’d buy ever one of the photos.” Fred grinned his mischievous grin, “Worked every time.  I made good money at it.”

Fred was diagnosed with cancer in 2005 and he had some heart trouble too. I called him to offer him a role in another play I was going to direct and learned he had just learned the news and was about to begin treatment. “I’d love to, but I’m afraid to commit to you Dan, and ‘cause I have no idea how the treatment will effect me.”  Fred’s word was good as gold. You could count on him and I respected his decision. “You get well, my friend,” was what I told him.

I hadn’t seen Fred for several weeks, his schedule was always subject to change because of his Chemo treatments.  Sometimes he’d be fine and sometimes he’d be wiped out from it.  He was on my mind so one Friday morning recently I called him hoping to get together for breakfast.  “Well I’d love to, but we’re moving out of the area.”



“Pretty sudden ain’t it?”

“Yup, Marcia got a new job.”

Fred’s wife Marcia was a minister and had been hired by a church in town of Owasca, NY in the Finger Lakes Region.

“I’ve got Chemo on Monday at 9:00.  We could meet at 8:00.”

“See ya then.”

That Monday morning we met at the diner.  We had our normal breakfast; nothing out of the ordinary even though we both knew we wouldn’t be seeing each other for a while, since the move would relocate them about three and a half hours away.  No, that breakfast was just like any other breakfast we had, just a continuation, two friends enjoying each other’s company. 

He talked about how much he was looking forward to the move , Fred was very proud of Marcia and supportive of her career.  Fred was planning a trip with Marcia to Europe in the spring.  “I was talking with my doctor the other day and he said, ‘Look Fred you do have cancer, don’t be afraid to enjoy life.’ So I decided to use some of my retirement and go.” He considered going First Class, but thought the fares were beyond ridiculous and was figuring they’d go business class instead. He talked about how he would visit his son and spend time in Amsterdam and Paris and of course Spain.  He was pleased with this plan, excited about it.

I walked him to his car and shook his hand, said, “I’ll miss you my friend.”  Fred just glanced at the ground, all he said was, “Yep.”  There was no need for more, “yep,” meant, “I’ll miss you too,” I knew that.  “Have a good move, I’ll call ya later in the week,” I said, then turned and walked off down the street. I made a mental note to mark on my calendar to call him every couple weeks, keep in touch.

Thanksgiving day following dinner, I noticed a missed call on my cell phone, the screen read, “Fred.” I had no cell service where I was, so I couldn’t return the call. When I returned home there was a message from Marcia asking me to call. It was late so I called in the morning.

The movers packed everything Monday and Tuesday Fred and Marcia drove to central New York. They would stay in the town of Auburn, a few miles from their new home. They would stay overnight in a hotel allowing the mover’s time to move everything into the parsonage.     Marcia was concerned with Fred driving; he had also been having heart which brought on occasional faint spells. When she mentioned this Fred assured her, “I’m fine. I will get you there. It’s my job. Nothing’s going to happen to me today.”

The next morning in the hotel room, while they were preparing to leave to visit their new home, Fred had a heart attack.  The hospital was just across the street but the quickest response time possible would not have been quick enough.

Marcia told me that everyone at her new church was so warm and kind, and had embraced her. “I have a new extended family,” she said.

I attended the memorial service at the church. It is a beautiful church, beautiful in its simplicity. I was moved that, besides family and friends, so many members of the community were also present. They were there to support Marcia, their new pastor and to learn about Fred.

A table stood on the altar, it containing numerous photos as well as items from Fred’s life. I picked up a cup from the “Buffalo Saloon,  Almaria, España,” beside it a small book titled, “No Bullshit.” I smiled, “Yes, that was Fred.”

Many people spoke. Fred’s sister mentioned a conversation she had with him a couple weeks prior. He told her he hoped it would be a heart attack, not some long drawn out illness. In the end, Fred did two things, he lovingly delivered Marcia into the arms of her new extended family and then he left as he hoped he would.

In the William Saroyan play “The Time of Your Life,” there is a line that goes: “In the time of your life, live!”  Fred chose to live that way, to live all the time of his life, right to the very end; an important lesson for all of us.

Fred, photographed during breakfast at the Diner

I will miss Fred. In my heart, I will remember him well.  I am truly blessed and I am a better man that God allowed our paths to cross and mingle for a time.  God Bless you, my friend.

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