A black and white cocker spaniel named Harry out for his evening walk causes me to look away from my task. On another September evening, a hot air balloon drifting over Lima captures my attention. Two separate events that share a common denominator got me thinking about the people that connected me to the dog and balloon. More about them later.
Every now and then I'll remember certain people I've know and how they are no longer part of my world. They are people who have passed on to what I think of as the great unknown and folks who still get out of bed in the morning to take on the day.
You may know the kinds of people I am speaking about. Folks who, for lack of a better description, are constants in our lives, on a regular and not-so-regular basis. We know they will be there; they are the order amongst the chaos in our lives.
While there has never been a lot of chaos during the 30-plus years I have lived in my neighborhood on West High Street, there have been neighbors who were part of the fabric. Folks whose presence was valued. For some, man's best friend was an important thread in that fabric.
Harry and his master, Les Ensign, lived a few blocks from me, but they often walked by my house. Morning or evening, I was glad to see them. Sometimes it was only a wave, but always, thrown in for good measure was Les's smile.
When we did speak it often involved my crossing the intersection to pet Harry and shake Les's hand. Other times I would stop my vehicle and with a touch of orneriness in my voice say, "Excuse me, sir, but we have a nice neighborhood and we don't tolerate riffraff. Please move on."
"OK. Come on Harry."
I looked out my front door one morning last spring to see Les and Harry standing near a fire hydrant. I wanted to shout something like, "Hey mister, make sure you take it with you!" I didn't and should have. Les died unexpectedly a few days later.
I see others walking Harry, but I miss Les.
Tom and Marty Lentz were neighbors who frequently walked their dogs along Glenwood Avenue as did Les and Harry. Although I didn't hassle the Lentzes as I did Les, we often greeted each other. On other occasions, Tom and Marty left the canines at home.
Before construction of the St. Rita's Medical Center Patient Tower, I used to have a straight shot down High Street to the city center and beyond. It was then I would see the Lentzes, alone or together, trekking down the street. Daypacks on their backs I would pass them as they headed back to the west side after completing their errands; presumably to the post office, library or other stops. Oftentimes, there was a toot of the horn and a wordless greeting via the universal sign of recognition - the wave of a hand.
Feeling good about where you are in the moment isn't always about which dogs (and their masters) are walking the streets. Sometimes it's about who's minding the store.
When I go to Macy's in the Lima Mall, things are not as they used to be. I miss the dapper gentleman, boutonnière in lapel, who, in addition to spending time in his office enjoyed walking the aisles of the store.
For my friend Walt Kinsey, tidying stacks of shirts and greeting customers with that trademark smile and "Can I help you?" was also Walt's way of tending to business, minding the store if you will.
Even if I were not on a mission to buy Jockey briefs, I stopped in and went floor to floor looking for the man. "Have you seen Walt?" "Would you like me to page him?"
I no longer ride the escalators looking for Walt.
One of the last times I saw him was at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church where I attended a funeral. I found Walt in the kitchen washing dishes. I wonder if he did that at Macy's.
Seeing Walt at St. Charles brings me back to the hot air balloon I mentioned earlier. First the sound and then the sight of it made me think of my late friend and balloon pilot, David Schaublin. It was David's funeral I attended.
I crewed for and flew with David for a number of years. Whenever I heard his balloon fly over my house early on a Sunday morning when I was still in bed, I knew the world was copasetic. I had the same feeling that evening.
David and Les have gone on to that great unknown and the Lentzes moved away. But Walt Kinsey is still around. He's one of those constants in our lives.
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