Tomorrow my good friend and loyal Scattershot reader, Don, turns 80. How in the heck is that possible?
I met Don a lifetime ago, when I was a first year teacher in town and he was the hippie-ish new principal of an alternative school, having just moved from California with his wife Nancy and their three kids. It quickly became apparent to me that Don was—and is—a character. He makes me laugh. He is goofy. He is funny. He is so not what anyone in the world thinks of as “elderly.”
Don always addresses me in emails as “Madame Darling” because I once remarked how strange it is to me to hear someone call a spouse or a child “darling”; no one in my life ever once called me “darling” —until Don took up the cause.
He always names his cars: Vanna White, for example, or my favorite, Jesus Chrysler.
Years ago, he bought an enormous doll at an antique show and named her Audrey Rose. Audrey Rose would appear posed with his other children in family photographs, and I can’t even begin to describe the silliness surrounding Audrey Rose over the years. After the kids grew up and left home, he confessed to selling Audrey Rose at a garage sale. Many of us have still not forgiven the callousness of that action. She was family!
With his degrees in history and his voracious reading, Don is fiercely and passionately opinionated and will go on delightful and often surprising but well-informed rants. Sometimes, what you think he might think is not what he thinks at all. You never can tell with Don.
When I was going through a rough time in life years ago and would return from criticism-filled visits to my hometown, I would call Don and Nancy and say, “Can I come over and have you be nice to me?”
“Yes!” they would say, and then they would be ridiculously complimentary about everything I did:
“Oh, you pour that tea so beautifully!”
“My, what lovely socks you have on!”
“You made a great selection from that plate of cookies. Perfect!”
I would laugh, and I always wound up feeling better.
Don drops by books he knows I’ll enjoy. He actually reads books that I suggest to him. He travels widely and always has quirky stories about people and places he sees. He has the loudest, most infectious laugh I've ever heard.
Last but not least, he stands with me in my insistence that the accordion is an unfairly maligned instrument. In fact, in the ultimate show of solidarity, Don even bought a pretty little accordion a number of years ago and actually learned to play it. What a guy!
But a normal kind of guy? No. A normal kind of guy might ask for something like Broncos tickets or a case of beer for his birthday. Don, however, saw pictures of the dolls I made for Christmas presents for my granddaughter and her two cousins, and he insisted that he wants one, too, for his birthday.
Well, I can’t disappoint one of my oldest and most cherished friends in the world. Here is a picture of Don's doll. And I can't help but wonder if it's meant to replace dear Audrey Rose.
Like I said, he’s not exactly normal—and I'm glad of it. Happy birthday to Don!