06:28:27 pm on
Thursday 18 Jul 2024

He Smiled
AJ Robinson

His name was Gayron. I can’t say that I had the honour and pleasure of knowing him for a long time and we weren’t that close, biologically or socially. He was the husband of my sister-in-law, Marie.

A well-respected man.

Yet, Gayron was, to me, family. When I knew him, he was a well-established family man: married, teenage daughter; worked in an electrical factory and a pillar of the Arcadia Kingdom Hall. To look at him, to talk to him, you would have thought he was a typical John Q Public: quiet, soft-spoken and not prone to smiling much, even when he had just cause; an archetypical American male.

That was because I hadn’t known him in the carefree days of his youth. Jo Ann, my wife, had known Gayron since moving to Arcadia; that’s when he and Marie met. He was a cowboy at a local cattle ranch, spending most every day, all day, in a saddle; a modern day cowpoke.

He was also sort of akin to Gene Autry, the Singing Cowboy of the 1940s and 1950s, in that he played the guitar and road a horse, but I’m sure if he sang, much. He did inspire Jo Ann to learn to play an instrument. She has always been grateful to him for what he taught her.

Gayron and Marie met, fell in love and married. They soon had a little girl, Kimberlea. They had no idea how their lives would change.

You see, Kim, from a young age, displayed quite the musical aptitude; it was something the family figured she got from her grandpa Ralph, father of Jo Ann and Marie, spiced with a little touch from her dear old dad.

Grandpa Ralph had been a prodigy and it seemed Kim took after him. She dearly loved playing the piano and years later would teach my daughter Alexa. They made sure Kim got lessons and that girl could tickle the ivories like nobody’s business.

As Kimberlea grew into a beautiful young woman, she eventually found love with a fine young man named David. The family came together for a lovely wedding. Alexa, then a toddler, was the flower girl, but dear old Gayron did not officiate at the service.

He could have officiated, as an elder of the Kingdom Hall, but he was a rather stoic fellow, his smiles were barely upturns to the corners of his mouth, he knew he couldn’t get through the ceremony without shedding a tear or two. To be honest, I wouldn’t be able to do the same for Alexa, my daughter.

There came troubles.

No, Gayron sat with Marie down front and tried to be his usual firm self. As I said, he tried. Over time, there came troubles: the factory closed and he had to find other work, but he was always a good provider and, eventually, he and Marie moved to Port Charlotte to be closer to his new job and family.

It was there they intended to spend the twilight of their lives. That did not happen. It turned out that in his youth a number of toxic chemicals surrounded his work life. The chemicals caused him to suffer a rare form of Parkinson’s disease.

His muscles slowly began to shut down. At first, walking was difficult; then he needed a wheelchair and talking and eating were hard, and finally he became bedridden. Yet, Gayron was never one to let anything stand in the way of his family duties and love.

He saw to it Marie taken care of, as she deserved. Concerned that he might not make it to their anniversary, Kim arranged for a huge party a few months early and Gayron danced with Marie a final time. Just to show you how strong an old cowboy he still was, he not only lived to see that anniversary, he made it to the next one.

He continued to visit with family and friends, as much as possible. He even managed to give the blessing the last time we got together to share a meal. Yet, the disease progressed.

There finally came the time when he needed hospice care and we could do nothing but wait, hope and ensure that he was as comfortable as possible. When the word came, his time was at hand, Marie and Kim were at his side. In fact, Kim had been traveling with David and had to fly home on short notice to insure they were all together at the end.

It was then that he opened his eyes and smiled at his loving daughter a final time. Somehow, that seems so very appropriate. The man not prone to smiling much, at the end of his ride, had more than sufficient cause for one last smile. This reminded of a line from the musical Les Misérables: “Remember the truth that once was spoken. To love another person is to see the face of God.”

Reason to smile.

If, someday, the last sight I see before death closes my weary eyes is the face of my daughter, Alexa, I’ll also have reason to smile.

Combining the gimlet-eye of Philip Roth with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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