Closer Than A Brother

I was looking at the TV news today, getting agitated with yet another political non-story, and my darling wife was getting increasingly exasperated with me.

“Tell me some good news!” she cried impatiently.

“Doc is the only good news I’ve heard today!” I growled. Then a magical thing happened. I recalled the countless ways this man has mentored, influenced and blessed my life for decades. When we met in 1980 he was the 46-year-old father of two precocious little girls. The young ladies have since grown into beautiful families of their own and Doc is like, really old. But then, he hasn’t changed much either.

He’s still five feet-eight, 160 pounds, and still capable of driving 600 miles overnight. He’s still a diehard Chevy man, shade tree mechanic, and dedicated Rail Fan. No one I’ve ever met listens louder, schmoozes better or makes a packet of Oreo cookies last longer. From the day we met, Doc has been a lover of trucks, trains, classic cars and Carol. Not necessarily in that order.

If he ever dies, which is highly unlikely, Doc will be remembered by everyone as an unassuming mentor, unconditional friend, untainted neighbor and uncontested Collector of Stuff. A man of unassailable character, he is the poster child for devotion to marriage. He has never lied, never cheated, and never gambled–except when driving that old van on Interstate 94.

Doc has prayed for me a thousand times, since we met 37 years ago, and yelled at me only once. We were kicking tires at a neighborhood car dealership. Suddenly I heard him yell, “GET AWAY FROM THERE!”

Oh my gosh, I thought, am I in danger? Were bad guys descending upon us? Was I about to fall in a pothole? It was none of these things. What it was, actually, was me looking over a Ford. Only his daughters, I suspect, knew Doc could holler like that!

I once owned a Lincoln and he grudgingly allowed me to park it in his driveway. I was, after all, his bestest friend. Then I sold that car to his son-in-law, who had to park it in the street. Doc still loves young David unconditionally, and still won’t let him park that car in the driveway.

Nobody recalls Doc’s real name. Not even his children. Their children call him Grandpa, but everyone else knows him only as Doc. Like Dino or Bono, or Moses and Elijah, it’s easier to just go with one name. No one I’ve ever known, however, can more thoroughly analyze a business, short-circuit the devil, or stack more stuff in a storage container.

Quiet but not shy, and sensitive but not weak, my best friend is a genius, mostly self-educated. Woodworker, mechanic, clockmaker, and photographer, he’s also a million-mile truck driver, dedicated to the road less traveled.

Doc doesn’t talk much, allowing friends like me to pour out a torrent of complaints, excuses, profanities, and grievances. When we need to be corrected, deflated, admonished, or encouraged, he does it with little more by than a gesture, a wink, a hug, or a prayer. I can’t even count the number of people–myself included–who have thanked him for his insight only to realize later he hadn’t spoken a dozen words.

Doc and his lovely bride Carol will be celebrating 48 years of marriage in April. There will be a toast but no alcohol. There will be a party but not a lot of candles. That much heat would bring out the fire department!


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