from a series of posts by Colin on Best Slowly. Each posting is a walk, a sansaku, about 500 words long
Tom was the lead-off speaker at Wendell’s wake, and probably only a handful of us knew what an all-star he was. He looks like Clark Kent, and it’s a perfect disguise.
One time, after we learned Tom had won two Emmy awards for his journalism, Wendell asked him, “Why didn’t you tell us?” Tom actually said, “They give them to everyone.”
Wendell turned to me and said in his inimitable way, “I don’t have an Emmy. Do you have one, Colin?”
Tom told the story of Wendell’s life as only a highly skilled reporter knows how. “He was a child of the depression and was born into a struggling family on the wrong side of the tracks.”
“He was always a good athlete, and since Wendell never exaggerated, you had to know everything he said was true.”
“And then he crossed the tracks and met Mary Ellen on a blind date. When she opened the door, all she could think was, ‘What a big nose, don’t stare.’ All he could think was, ‘Wow,’ he wanted to stare.”
He took his time with the story, as a good story deserves. He knew how to add that touch of color. “When the kids hated school he took a leave from teaching and they spent two years in Europe. Wendell said he could rewrite the book, Europe on Ten Dollars a Day, and do it on five. “He could throw nickels around like man-hole covers.”
“If you played golf with Wendell, you had to play happy to play well. He didn’t suffer golf fools lightly.” I liked how Tom didn’t avoid the character flaws that made the man real and even better because of them.
“When the cascade of ailments began, we would try to cheer him up.” Tom stops after saying this, his voice cracks. “He always let you know how he felt about you. I never left after a visit where he didn’t thank me and tell me how much I meant to him. And then he was free.”
Tom had been at the French Open when it happened. Clark Kent knows how to fly and gets around.
Michael was the last speaker to tee off, and used a golf metaphor. “I’m reminded of another of Wendell’s one-liners. If everyone was in with his putt or had made a good drive, he said, ‘Only you can screw it up now.’ That’s how I’m feeling.”
Michael made the putt and hit a perfect drive. But Mitchell surprised me by singing three last and timeless songs. Not only Wendell but all the ancestors gathered around.
When Mitchell started to play the song, he said, “The intro isn’t this long. I’m emotional. It’s the song I played when my parents walked into a club I was playing. It’s always been a favorite.”
The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, they’re only made of clay. But our love is here to stay.
The other two songs were every bit as meaningful, and I can see I’ll be writing about this tomorrow. You know the saying, “When you’re in a hurry, go slow, take the long way.” There’s still Julie and Mary Ellen.
The last song was one Wendell had talked about, right before he died. “It was a final musical moment,” Mitchell said. “And since I just learned it, I might find myself in the wrong melody.” No way. It was timeless.
He wanted his father to know, no matter what, Things I should have said and done, I didn’t take the time. But you were always on my mind. You were always on my mind.