Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Letters From Ed

The last letter I received from my friend, Ed Squibb
            A great man has left us.  Last week Edward R. Squibb III peacefully departed his home and moved on, leaving friends and family behind as he started a new journey certain to be chock-full of fresh adventures. 

            The ‘Ed’ I knew was a character.  A breath of fresh air.  A man who walked into a room and took center stage without ever acting a part.  Every single encounter I ever had with Ed Squibb left me smiling.  Sometimes even laughing out loud.  I’ve rarely encountered a wit as sharp or an intellect so stimulating.

            I met Mr. Squibb years ago when he stopped by my parents’ real estate office to shoot the breeze…or whatever it was he and my folks liked to shoot.  I was intrigued by this man who was dressed in shorts in what was – for all intents and purposes – the dead of winter.  Naturally, I had to mention his attire and ask what it was all about.  I wouldn’t have been ‘me’ if I’d sat there quietly listening to the conversation when there was a burning question just waiting for a reasonable answer. 

            “You never know when a game of tennis will present itself!” the gentleman said by way of explanation.

            I fell back on my first line of defense.

            “But it’s winter.  You can’t play tennis in the snow!”

            He jumped up, orchestrated a perfect ‘serve’ and as the imaginary racket swung through the move, he brought his other hand down (the one that had just tossed up the imaginary tennis ball) and pointed it straight at me.

            “Here’s a novel idea.  Indoor courts!”

            I laughed in chagrin.  Oh, yeah… indoor courts.

            Over the course of our friendship I had the pleasure of watching Ed play tennis a time or two – usually against opponents almost half his age.  He played to win and rarely lost, and yet – he was always gracious.  A true sportsman, was Mr. Squibb. 

            I also had the honor of representing Ed in several business transactions.  He was a stickler for detail and he knew his ‘stuff’ but he always granted me the respect of asking for my opinion.  To my delight, he even took my advice a time or two.

            There are a handful of people who have been instrumental in supporting my writing career and Ed is up near the top of that list.  Shortly after I began writing “Observations from The F.A.R.M.” Ed paid me a special visit – one that was longer than his usual mercurial pop-ins.  He sauntered through the doorway and plopped down in a chair, slapping an Irregular down on the desktop in front of me.

            “Thank you.”

            That was it.  Just ‘thank you’.  I had an inkling that he was being complimentary.  However, I didn’t dare make an assumption – lest I make the proverbial ass out of my umption.

            “‘Thank you’…for what?”

            “THAT.” he said, “That is exactly what people need.  YOU are exactly what we need.  Don’t stop.”  Ed jumped up.  The man was rarely still and never stayed seated for more than a couple of minutes before getting up and moving around the room.   I was immensely flattered by his words and wanted to hear more.

            “It is?  I am?”

            “Yes.”  He wound up and threw a perfect pitch and a fantasy ball flew across the lobby and into the map room – where it no doubt struck out the batter at plate.  Then Ed reseated himself and grabbed the newspaper, opening it to my column.  “But this thing is a mess.  I took the liberty of marking it up for you.  Your content is great but your format is horrendous.”

            As I write this I’m laughing once again, picturing that scene from years ago.  There I was – all primed for a round of accolades – and my friend was commencing to tear my writing to shreds!  I never had to worry about getting a swelled head with Ed.  That man was a drink of cool water on a hot day and HE was exactly what this fledgling writer needed.  Ed was what – no…Ed was WHO – a lot of people needed.  He wasn’t stingy with himself.  As he made the daily rounds in his neighborhood and through the town, he brought sunshine and a unique rapport into each personal interaction.  Sometimes I was just a spectator and I’d watch him as he chatted to folks in the post office or the store.  When that man left the premises, those who remained were on an “Ed High”…giddy, chuckling…they went back to their routines with uplifted spirits.  He had a rare gift.  Of that, I have no doubt.

            As I think back on my friendship with Ed, certain images and scenes come to mind.  The day he offered me a tour of his home after discovering that I’d left some maps I promised to lend him between the doors of his next-door-neighbor’s house instead of his.  (He well knew any maps were worthless in my hands!) 

            The morning when, out of the blue, he handed me a check to donate to a community effort he knew I was supporting. 

            The afternoon he invited me to lunch and made me a delicious sandwich after I delivered some papers which needed his signature.  

            The day we realized – to our amazement – that Ed served on a ship in the Navy sixty years earlier under one of our close family friends.   (We were able to reconnect the eighty-something Ed with the ninety-something Lawrence and the two men became devoted pen-pals.  Ed generously shared the content of each letter with us and to our delight we had a deck-side seat to the re-blossoming of a friendship between the two WWII veterans.)

             I remember the morning I gave him a squeeze after his beloved Amy passed away – and the day I hugged him when he smilingly – almost shyly – told me about finding Ann.  In all the years I knew him those two occasions are the only times I ever touched Mr. Squibb – but he touched me in intangible ways very time we met.

            Yes, Ed was my cheerleader.  He gave me compliments – nothing over-the-top and always thoughtfully tempered by constructive criticism.  And he did something few people do these days: he wrote to me.  He wrote honest-to-goodness ‘fan’ letters about my little newspaper column and my novel ‘Grumble Bluff’.  He wrote thank you notes for silly things, making my simplest gestures seem like matters of great import.  He wrote suggestions in the margins of my newspaper columns. 

            He even ‘wrote’ me my very own, honest-to-goodness ‘cheer’.   Always eager to engage in discussions of diction, vocabulary, syntax and style, Ed took a liking to the pentameter of all my ‘names’ put together.  Once he learned them, he said “You sound like a cheer!” and from that point forward – every time I ran into him – he would do exactly that. 

            Ed would cheer.

            As he would throw his arms up to the left, then to the right, then double-time left-right-left, he’d chant “KAren!  LouISE!  BESsey-ATwood-PEASE! Hooray!” And damn if he didn’t make me laugh every time. 
Ed read The Irregular every week (and the NYT every day.)

            I’m truly going to miss that man.  Sometimes months passed between conversations or letters but I knew he was around.  That gave me a sort of comfort.  I’d pass him as he pedaled his bike to Anni’s Market to get his morning newspaper…and I’d smile.  I’d see him jauntily skip down the post office steps dressed in his khaki shorts…and I’d smile.  Even now, through my tears, I’m smiling. 

            There are people who pass through our lives who seem to sprinkle stardust as they go along.  That was Ed Squibb.  Those of us who were the beneficiaries of his optimism, his wit and humor and his generous spirit have been forever enriched.  Ed has moved on but he left us all with vibrant intangibles…memories filled with laughter and warmth.

            Those will surely sustain us until we meet again, and I look forward to that reunion.

            Thank you, my friend, for sharing your stardust with me.     
And thank you, Ed, for your letters...
Love, KLBAP (Hooray!)



  1. The true Ed wit comes through in this piece Karen! Thank you! I have so many things that I'd love to share about Ed. Do you remember his left & right labels on his sneakers? How about his pink flamingo wars with his neighbors? Every day an Anni's employee would draw some type of smiley face on his newspaper. Ed cut each one out and taped them to a sheet of paper. When the paper was full he would return the smiley faces to us with some comical remarks! This is a man who was generous and giving but wanted no credit for anything he did. Whenever I ran into Ed he always asked if I had any programs that needed assistance. I remember how strongly he and Amy felt about area children learning to swim. The couple sponsored a swim program through the Kingfield Rec. Dept. I couldn't find enough volunteers to chaperone the program so Ed and Amy chaperoned the program twice a week for one whole summer. Ed loved his British Comedy. Often he would try to convince me to watch one show or another on PBS. I could go on and on about this man! Anyone who didn't know Ed really missed out on some of what I call "Ed Wit" because the man had a sense of humor that couldn't be topped! Any day that I had a visit from Ed was a good day. He truly was a man among men!

  2. Thanks, Tracy. I agree, wholeheartedly.