A Character in our Story

I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not to write this several times as I feared that, possibly, I would be infringing on a family’s privacy, but I hope, instead, this serves as a “thank you” to a man who always, week after week….for more than a decade…never failed to say “Hello” as we walked by.

Since Thatcher came home from the hospital at one week old, we’ve been taking walks. The route is sometimes shorter…sometimes longer…and the mode of transportation has changed drastically over the years….but, Atlantic Ave. in Rockport has always remained a part of it. At first the walks began in the red Bumbleride Indie single stroller and soon there after the red push-handle radio flyer sports coupe.  With Finn’s arrival almost exactly two years later….we upgraded to the necessary Bumbleride Indie double wide. …this time in bamboo green.

All too soon, however, the strollers were gone and bikes with training wheels, bikes with no training wheels, scooters, rollerblades, and skateboards became the boys’ preferred methods of getting downtown.  Moby, Marlin, and Minnow (the fury children) …depending on the year…often accompanied us to keep an eye on their boys and possibly score some smoked fish at Roy Moore’s. All the while, however, we went down Smith Road, took a left on Old Garden, merged onto Atlantic Ave, and came out at the corner of South Street….and, most importantly, to “Arnold’s Garage.”  

Arnold (I’m not sure when my children learned his first name) was a fixture near and around that corner….often, later, in his woven vintage lawn chair.  For as long as I can remember, he greeted us with a smile.  The boys knew to look for him along that stretch of town and their greetings grew with their age.  An exuberant wave, a shy smile, a “hi”, a “Hello. How are you?”……to a “Mom, that nice man wasn’t in his chair last week.”  It was Thatcher, now sometimes able to venture downtown with his friends, who pointed out to me that Arnold was not there. Several trips to and from sailing lessons had passed with no “hellos.” And, indeed, sadly…when I walked by Arnold’s garage later that week…the photo below is what I found.

Over the years I learned more about how talented and celebrated this man was…but my boys…well, they only knew that he was an artist, and that he was a sharp dresser, and that he was kind to them.  Arnold, in turn, probably only knew of us that the boys loved Hula Moon shaved ice, they often wore more than they ate, and that none of our dogs have ever walked well on leashes.  I regret never having a full-fledged conversation as I’m certain I would have learned a lot.

It is special to me how a person one really doesn’t know can become a character in their story and a chapter in their book based on simple smiles and kind greetings.  The boys will not soon forget his kindness and I am certain they will think of his “hellos” often, and with fondness, in the years to come.

Thoughts and prayers to his family and friends.  And a heartfelt “thank you” for allowing us to feel the glow of his kindness over the years.  Clearly a remarkable man in large ways….and in small.

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