Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Tall Man

It was just another hot humid day around 1935 when the tall thin man was on his knees turning soil in the flowerbed. He raised his gloved hand to his head and wiped his brow with his wrist. Out of the corner of his eye he saw something move in the bushes. Curious, he leaned his head forward and looked closer. Expecting to see a bunny or stray kitten, he was surprised to see a boy.

The Boy, around nine years old, was dirty with a scowl on his face. There was uncertainty, distrust, fear, self preservation and a little hope, all rolled into one muddy face. The Tall Man saw all of these emotions and spoke softly to the Boy. He reached out his hand and offered the Boy a carrot harvested from the vegetable garden nearby. "Hungry?" he asked. Without any hesitation the Boy grabbed the carrot, quickly brushed off a large clump of dirt and ate. The Boy looked up and asked "got any more?"

The two began to chat. They sat in the garden for a bit, and then moved to the lawn. Then they went inside, sat at the table and snacked while the Boy unraveled his story.  Tall Man heard about how the Boy's out-of-work father deserted the family in the early 1930s, and that his Mom was in jail for reasons unknown. This left 5 already neglected children home alone. The older kids knew how to take care of themselves, but the Boy was the youngest of the clan and ran the streets wild. At some point officials corralled the children and awarded them to the local orphanage. The Boy had already heard “Oliver Twist” type horror stories about the place and planned on not sticking around. Sure enough, he split the first chance he got. Right over the fence. To him the street life was safer than the alternative.

The timeline and details were sketchy but eventually the Boy’s story ended where he was found, standing in the Tall Man’s bushes. The Tall Man had a nice home and seemed to have survived most of the Great Depression’s devastating effects. He wasn't wealthy, but had enough to help others. He was a compassionate, giving man and quickly gained the Boy's confidence. Soon, the Tall Man became his temporary legal guardian and a good friend.

During the time the Boy lived with the Tall Man, he learned there was more to life than stubbornly scheming and scrapping to get his way. He had to become a part of the family and learn to cooperate with others. He had to participate by helping out and doing chores, a discipline he grew to like because it made him feel useful. However, there was one chore he wasn’t really fond of. That was babysitting the ‘bratty’ niece. She was 6 years younger than him but knew her power. She insisted they play house, have tea parties and dress the dolls. To a twelve year old boy, that was just about as agonizing as it gets.  Arrrgggg. It was a tough assignment, but fortunately, she only visited occasionally.

For over four years, the Tall Man parented the Boy before he aged out of the guardianship and was released. Again, the Boy faced being on his own. However, Tall Man had trained him well. For the next twenty five years the Boy continued to grow in character and led a rather normal life sprinkled with the usual struggles. He joined the Navy and fought in World War II. Then he became a bricklayer, married, had children, and was divorced. The Boy, who was now my Dad, was very devoted to his family. Since childhood, he promised himself that he would never leave his children or let them go hungry. He would not be like his father.

One day while feeling a little nostalgic, Dad decided to visit his home town and drop in to see Tall Man.  He grew excited, maybe even a little nervous, in anticipation of reconnecting with the man that changed his life. As he walked up to the porch, Tall Man swung open the door, greeted Dad with a great big smile and welcomed him home.

And what a homecoming it was that Thanksgiving Day in 1967. Tall Man’s whole family was there and much to Dad’s surprise, even the Niece. He hadn’t thought of that pesky bucked tooth brat in over 20 years but he quickly discovered a lot had changed. The Niece had turned out to be an attractive confident brunette. It wasn’t long before love began to bloom and they realized they both wanted to play house. After a few months of long distance dating, Dad married the Niece, making her my Step-Mom, and Tall Man became my beloved, Uncle Edward.

I Peter 5:8-11

...So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won't last forever. It won't be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.


  1. So glad to hear more of the story, Pat! Still have questions, though, about your dad's life before your Uncle Edward....

  2. Ha ha..what questions do you have? My dad didn't share a lot about living on the streets. Uncle Edward did shed some light at times, but not much. I guess those memories are buried with them. Now that you ask, I think I will contact my step mother for more information. thanks