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  • It’s the holidays and packages are being delivered left and right. Tied up nicely and handed over with a smile and a “Have a good day!” I watch this, and, for some reason, my mind tunes into the light rock station that it always does…it starts playing that song by Simon Garfunkel written so long ago:

    Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
    A time of innocence

    I met Ron Smith towards the end of mine. I was twelve when I first heard his heavy steps walking up my mother’s steps. By the time, he reached the top of those stairs, I sensed something was about to end.

    Ron Smith’s life came to an end this holiday season and besides Simon and Garfunkel…all I can hear are those steps… strong, steady and with more than a hint of anger.

    In his passing, many people who knew him will recall many a good time. Not I. I was his stepdaughter and truth is, for most of the time I knew Ron, I thought he was, to borrow his phrase, a goddamn sonovabitch. Don’t worry, there’s a happy ending in here somewhere, but I can hear him now:

    It ain’t so goddamn cut and dry

    I met Ron Smith when I still a kid. Truth is, back then, Ron didn’t like kids much especially mouthy ones like me. I can recall, me mouthing off to my mom and Ron steppin’ in, gettin’ in my face and growlin’, “Bullshit.” I can also remember me doing the same thing back…getting’ right in his face and growlin’ “Bullshit” back. That was, in hindsight, a pretty bad idea. No, he didn’t hit me or anything like that, but he took his words and his rage and rearranged my view of things, and when he was done with me, I shook for hours. Truth is, from that day forward, I learned that there was a time to keep my goddamn trap shut.

    However, I am a little hardheaded, so that lesson actually took a while to drive really home. In another particularly charged adolescent moment with my mom, Ron stepped in again. This time, I didn’t talk back. I listened while he screamed at me stuff like I was so goddamn ugly that if I was a dog and he was a fire hydrant, he wouldn’t piss on me if I were on fire. Again, when he was done, I shook for hours. Truth is, from that day forward, I also learned that I am small and insignificant.

    Don’t worry, things got better. I shut my goddamn trap; I got small and when I was seventeen, I slipped down my mother’s stairs with every intention of never coming back. From what I understand, Ron Smith did the same when he was around that age…
    However, it’s a funny thing when intentions have loose strings…they snag you and pull you back. Just like Ron who ran to the jungles of Vietnam and to the mesas of New Mexico, I ran, and just like Ron, I found myself in my thirties in the one place I never wanted to return. Home.

    When I returned home, things had changed. My mom and Ron were in the midst of a divorce... a bad and messy divorce. I returned with every intention of slaying this monster called Ron Smith. I was going to take him down.

    However, some things don’t change. Soon my mom and I were right back to where we were when I was twelve...fighting. This happens when a mother doesn’t protect her kids from strangers with heavy steps that are strong, steady and with more than hint of anger….anger is contagious. Single moms who read this, please remember this.

    In one particularly rage filled thirty something tirade against my mother, out of habit, I stopped half expecting for Ron to jump in to protect his lady. He didn’t. The argument was getting out of control and still there was no Ron Smith to end it. I raced down my mother’s stairs, and in a blind rage, I found myself at the shop where Ron worked.

    When I walked into the shop, I must have been a sight, because Andy who was behind the counter saw me, blinked.

    “What are you doin’?” he asked.

    “I’m here,” I growled, ”to talk to Ron Smith.”

    “He’s upstairs,” Andy said kinda confused. I walked up those stairs with steps that were strong, steady and with way more than a hint of anger. By the time, I reached the top of those stairs, I sensed something was about to end.

    Ron was working on the computer; he looked up ,saw me and looked away. Him and me never really had much to say to each other after those rage filled encounters in my teens…we somehow had an understanding that we just didn’t like each other and it was best for us not to speak . That was fine by us.

    “Ron, “ I said…with every intention of telling him what a goddamn sonovabitch he was, “I want to talk to you.”

    “Bout what?” he growled.

    And then something fell out of my mouth that I never intended to say.

    "I’m here to listen to your side of the story."

    He pushed his chair back from his desk and looked at me squarely in the face and gestured me a chair.

    “Have a seat.”

    I sat down and did what he had taught me so well…I kept my goddamn trap shut and I got small and for the next three hours, he took his words and he put down his rage and rearranged my view of things. When he was done, we walked down those stairs together. At the bottom of the stair, he looked me squarely in the face and said,

    “Now, this doesn’t mean that you and I will be keepin’ in touch or nothin’”

    I nodded.

    “But thank you.,” he continued, “I really ‘preciate you comin around today.”

    I nodded again. Then, I went back to my house, and one more time, I shook for hours. Truth is, from that day forward, I learned to forgive Ron Smith.

    Ron Smith died this holiday season. From what I understand, he was traveling to Quartzsite Arizona with his trailer full of stuff and a dream to find more, to borrow his own phrase, rare beauties. On his way, he had a blowout somewhere in Mesa, Arizona and the blowout caused some of his stuff to scatter along the 202 Loop. I can see him now…running out into that freeway….a ragin’ and a mutterin’ …sonuvabitch this…lollygaggin’ that. And somewhere in the midst of that rage…hit by Corvette…dead on impact.

    Life is strange…one day you’re a child with a monster on your stairs; the next thing the monster is merely a man; then the next thing, the man is no more. These lessons sure aren’t delivered like holiday packages tied up so nicely with string. I think this while that light rock station in my mind plays

    Long ago, it must be,
    preserve your memories; they're all that's left you
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