The first time I met Everett he was standing in my living room, painting the walls sage green. His paint can was resting on top of my new Oriental rug.
I didn’t stop for introductions or admonitions. I headed straight for the phone and called my husband.
“I don’t know who this guy is that you got to paint,” I screamed into the phone, “but you’ve got to get him out of here NOW!”
“What the problem?” my husband calmly inquired.
“The problem,” I shouted back, “is that he has his paint can on the rug, the BRAND NEW Oriental rug, to be exact. You know, the one we haven’t even paid for yet. There is no drop cloth, no plastic covering – nothing protecting the rug from the damn can of paint! He’s got to go.”
“Relax,” my husband replied. “I’m telling you, he’s really okay. He’s just used to working outside – that’s all. Put him on the phone and I’ll talk to him. Just give him a chance.”
I did both. I put him on the phone and I gave him a chance. And, I must admit, my life has never been quite the same since.
That was the first and last negative complaint I ever had about Everett. Over the next few years, he became a welcome addition around our house. Whenever we needed something fixed, replaced, moved, planted, painted or re-arranged, we called Everett.
He arrived promptly, with a smile on his face and a bounce in his step. He listened to me complain about my kids constantly kicking in the kitchen door screen and cheerfully replaced it. He pulled drinking glasses that were firmly wedged in the sink drain clear so that we could use the sink again. He fixed the garbage disposal I packed too tightly and the dishwasher panel I kicked off after having an argument with my ex-husband – an argument that he overheard, but was diplomatic enough to pretend he didn’t.
My children learned that he could be relied on to put chains back on bicycles, fix ball pumps that wouldn’t work and take down bikes from garage ceiling hooks that the week before they had convinced him to hang so they would have more room for their garage hockey games. He gave my children rides in his truck to their friend’s homes when I was sick with the flu and told them they had an open invitation to come swimming in his above-ground pool with his granddaughters anytime they wanted.
Over the years, in between the fixings, the transportings, the movings and the replacings, we forged a bond.
We learned he helped elderly people keep up their homes whether they could pay him or not. We learned that when one of his siblings needed help, he was there financially and emotionally. We learned that he cared enough about his wife, Barb, to invest in rental property to ensure that she had adequate income in case something were to happen to him.
Quite suddenly, Everett was hospitalized with acute head pain and vomiting and later diagnosed as suffering form Viral Meningitis. A week later he had a stroke and was pronounced brain dead. With his family’s consent, a life support system was taken away after two hours.
Everett died minutes later. He was fifty-eight.
I still think about him when I’m drinking my morning coffee. I can still hear his knock on the door. He’d be dressed in a pale blue jacket that matched his eyes. He’d decline my always-offered cup of coffee and good naturedly ask for my list of things that needed to be repaired, moved and/or carted away. And then I’d sit back and sip my coffee and continue to read the paper while he drove off in his pick-up truck to the hardware store for a needed bolt, screw or molly.
Everett died twenty-one years ago this month. I still miss all the wonderful, things he did for me and my family. All the simple ways he made my life less tedious and burdensome. But most of all, I miss him.
And the world has been a little less bright and a little less wholesome because it lost an honest man who loved his family, enjoyed his work and gave to those he touched the nicest gift of all – friendship.