Last week something significant happened that wasn’t noticed by many. Can I please tell you about it so it will matter to someone else?
I am not sure if other people end up sort of adopting people who paint their houses into their families, but I do. He was the second house painter that became more than just an employee.
I had a painter in Nashville call me to bail him out from jail. I thought about it, just to hear the story how he ended up in jail after a fistfight with a homeowner about the homeowners’ wife, but I didn’t. I was working on my “boundary issues.” Plus, my husband, at the time, helped me see reason.
Dave entered our lives around four years ago, I was looking for someone to paint the interior trim of our house and a friend recommended him. Dave arrived on a beat-up ten-speed bike. As Dave put it, he had “lost the privilege of driving a car.”
Dave was a unique guy. Let me paint you a picture. Fewer teeth than some grown men, but more than others. His hair was pulled back into a braid. He always had a beret on (ooh la la how French), so I don’t know if he was bald on top or not. His typical outfit was a white tank top with suspenders, fortified with duct tape where they had worn thin. Work boots splattered with paint, and those wrap-around sunglasses you see on tv. He kind of pulled it off. I bet he was handsome when he was young.
The painting job ended up lasting three weeks. Dave was reliable and trustworthy, but a fast painter, he was not. During that time, our one-year-old Fox Red Lab, Daisy, followed him everywhere. I kept offering to put her in her kennel, but Dave insisted he enjoyed her company and loved dogs.
By the end of every day, Daisy had white paint on her nose, ears, and sometimes her tail. Every morning she was waiting for him by the door, tail wagging.
Over the weeks, we all got to know each other, and it was apparent Dave and Daisy were smitten.
Dennis is in charge of walking Daisy. We attach her leash to his chair, but some days he doesn’t feel up to it.
When the painting job was finished, Dave offered to help us out by walking Daisy sometimes. I told him Sundays were long days for Dennis. The day starts early with Church, then Dennis stays and taught Sunday School. He was often exhausted and just wanted to put his feet up, instead of walking Daisy all over town.
It worked out perfectly, and we settled into a routine, like a family. Dennis and I left for Church; we left the door open for Dave, and he picked up Daisy and brought her back usually after I was back from Church, and Dennis was doing Sunday School.
One day I stayed home from Church sick. Dave had no idea I was at home in bed; I heard Dave open the door and talk to Daisy. It was the sweetest thing. I mean, she absolutely lost her shit when he was around, jumping, licking, barking, she could not contain her joy. They had their own little language together.
I asked Dave once if he had that effect on all women, and he said, “not once, but dogs sure love me.” We had a good laugh over that.
I never thought not to trust him in my house. I know, weak boundaries. The thing is my weak boundaries have led to some fascinating friendships.
Dave, and I had got to know each other while he was painting, and then when he was hanging around picking up and dropping of Daisy.
Dave was a recovering alcoholic. He didn’t give a lot of details, but he said he had burnt a lot of bridges. Dave told me when he drank, he was a different person. I’m not sure how long he had been sober but he said he was 63 and he had a lot of black holes of memory in his years.
His passion in life was for the harmonica, or the harp as he called it, and the blues. He played here and there with different bands, and from what I gathered, he had lived a whole life in that world somewhere in California.
I love the blues, although I know nothing about it, Dave gave me a bunch of recommendations for different movies to watch about the blues and different artists. I showed him how Alexa worked, and he was blown away that he could summon up music by long-dead artists, by simply asking a box.
I asked him once if it’s true you have to have your heart broken to play the blues, he looked down, shuffled his feet, and said, “I broke my own heart.” I assumed he meant with the drinking.
Dave had found God and attended the First Methodist Church of Woodstock, now known as The Way, and said he enjoyed Pastor Anne. He said she kept things simple, where he could understand and hold on to it. I could see he truly heard The Good News there and Anne and that church gave him peace.
Dave had a lot of regrets in life, but he beat the bottle at least for a bit, and I could see the fact that Daisy loved him, and that Dennis and I trusted him to come into our house meant something to him.
Dave loved talking to Dennis. Dennis has a beautiful ability to connect with everybody unless he thinks your a jerk if he thinks your a jerk, God help you. I have seen Dennis treat severely handicapped children with the exact same enthusiasm and dignity as prominent and successful members of the community.
The thing is he meant something to us too. He wasn’t a do-gooder project, he truly helped us out by taking Daisy. Even though he often brought her back caked in mud. He would mumble something about how he didn’t know how she found that puddle. I knew how she found it, Dave let her do whatever she darn well pleased, including rolling in mud puddles.
Dave was a nice guy, at least to us. He made me laugh. He had a sweet grin and soulful brown eyes. The last time I saw him, he had brought me some sheets of prayers for healing from his Church. I had been sick for a while; he was concerned, and he thought they might help.
Dave didn’t come the next week or the week after that, or the week after that. We were worried and called Pastor Anne from his Church. One of the things I love about the south is that most people have a church. Places of worship give people communities, even if they have no blood family nearby.
It turns out; Dave was taken to the hospital shortly after he had dropped off the prayers for me. The details were sketchy, but the Church had appointed an advocate for him. He was still in the ICU, but we couldn’t visit because of Covid-19.
We were trying to get a message to Dave, and we heard they were trying to move him to a step-down unit where we might be able to visit when Pastor Anne called.
Dave had died.
The Church did not know of any family, but they were going to take care of the arrangements.
Goodbye, Dave, I am glad our paths crossed. I know your life had a lot of pain in it. I’m happy there is no more struggle for you.
I am sorry I did not get to say goodbye, and I hope you knew we were looking for you.
No matter what else happened in your life, God loved you, and so did we, especially Daisy.
*For the first Sundays after Dave stopped coming, Daisy, laid by the front door waiting for him, like she did every Sunday. How she knows it’s Sunday, especially with no church right now, is a mystery. My daughter Amanda told me I needed to talk to Daisy about what happened to Dave. Now I believe in a lot of mystical things in life, but I did not think to tell Daisy.
So, I told Daisy that her friend Dave wouldn’t be coming by to walk her anymore. I laughed as I remembered how much he spoiled her. I cried, but for myself, because I don’t think dogs understand our words, just feelings, and commands.
Darn it if she didn’t quit waiting by the door on Sundays, and she has been lethargic. You can ask Dennis; he is not nearly as nutty as I am, he will confirm.
I think I am going to have to send Daisy to grief camp at Amanda’s house. Amanda is roommates with four young men who will play with her non-stop like her old pal Dave did every Sunday.
Go make weird friends my Dibbuns, they are the best kind!
Love Auntie Lee-Lee