I think I'll call him Ivan for the purposes of this story. Yes, Ivan seems a fitting enough name. He's a tall, silver-haired man. A six foot three veteran of Vietnam, who says that life has proved more difficult than war. I take his word for it, and this coworker of my husband should know. Not only was he once a very large target, crouching in a jungle, probably pondering the inconvenience of being huge when hunkering was at a premium, he lost a wife to cancer. He saw a son of his go to jail.
Ivan also had chandeliers recently installed in his large home by, "Three men and a boy."
"I think that's an expression," my husband said uncertainly as he related Ivan's words about installation, as well as the cost. The next thing we need to have done here is to begin replacing light fixtures. Ours are hideous and look as if they belong in Western Bordello run by a Madam with a Puritanical streak. Try to conjure that image in your mind, now multiply the ugliness by two and you'll be about there on these rustic, yet garish monstrosities.
"It's either that or a labor law violation," I remarked as I search my memory banks for any expressions involving a quartet. Visions of high wire trapeze acts were dancing around in my mind, I firmly squashed them and got back to the matter at hand, "Ivan had three chandeliers installed at once?"
I don't know Ivan all that well, I've met him twice, or perhaps thrice. On one of those occasions I made the mistake of saying, "Have we met before?" and evidently introduced the concept, rather late in this gentleman's life, that someone could forget such an impressive figure of a man. One of my failings is that I don't recall faces well, but I hadn't forgotten anything important about him, I assure you.
Ivan lives in a massive house on a golf course in another suburb. He loves his vast home, far too large a place for just Ivan and his remaining son, but he adores it. Ivan has a tree room, a room in which he plunks down his fully decorated Christmas tree once the seasons passes, and from which he retrieves the same fully decorated tree when the season rolls around again. Just blow off some dust, and you're good to go.
I like Ivan. He's a tad eccentric, and a little bit strange. Just my kind of fellow. He purchased that mammoth house with seven bedrooms many years ago. Ivan has three children, he met a woman with three children. Plans were made to form a living Brady Bunch scenario, but not long after Ivan made his purchase things went rather spectacularly wrong in the relationship. I don't know the specifics, but that's how Ivan phrased it when telling my husband that although he left the relationship behind, he was always glad of the house. Something happened, he was hurt, and he carried on. Maybe he finally felt hidden in there, I don't know. Less exposed, more secure, less cramped. I do like a man that will tell you he has a Tree Room, and imply that a circus act has installed his lighting, all without further explanation.
Ivan's not like me. He's not a man prone to elaboration. He'll tell you that being Large in a war zone is not an easy thing, but that's all he'll tell you about that. It's up to you to fill in the details in whatever way you choose. Things went spectacularly wrong, he found that the lady in question was not who he thought, and that's all he'll tell you on the other thing. His son made a mistake, and Ivan hired a lawyer, but there was still a substantial price to be paid. You do what you can, he said. That's where the story ended. Ivan cuts rather close to the bone in just a few choice words.
Yet he once said something that contained such a huge truth within his spare words, that it is worth sharing. He has three children, one son with MS who lives with him still, another son who erred in some corporate setting, and was packed off to jail for eighteen months for it. A daughter with whom he has a strained relationship, but they're trying. The reason he'll give for that caught me, and held me.
"Every life, every family has someone within it that is the glue. The person who holds it all together, and makes it right, makes it work," he said. "When my wife died, I found out that person wasn't me."
And all that followed makes sense, but he likes his life, he loves his children. He's got good advice to give, such as, "Don't let your cat outside here, or the Coyotes will get him. Happened to my girlfriend, all we ever found was the paws."
Funny, and gruesome, eccentric and wise. Some people are good with words in the most casual of ways.
Every time I think of Ivan, even when it comes to chandeliers, I end up thinking about my life and who in it is the glue.
How I might manage if I had to. How grateful I am that I have not had to find out precisely how that might look, or feel and may I never.
He makes me think of the good in my life, hold it closer, value it even more dearly.
All as I admire a man who learned to live his life without the glue.