By Suzi Batta
I was upstairs on the computer reading through some emails. My husband was cleaning up the yard, raking the leaves when the familiar sound rang out. It was a musical clip from "The Godfather" and it was the sound of Big Papa's horn. It was his announcement of his presence on the block and his way of saying hello.
Big Papa was the nickname my husband bestowed upon Sean when they first became friends some years ago. It was somewhat ironic because Sean was anything but big. He was actually quite scrawny. He always wore a baseball cap and oversized shirts to hide the brace he wore for his back disfigurement. I think he had scoliosis from when he was a child. He didn't talk much about it and I was always too polite to ask. We never treated him differently, we just accepted him for the person he was.
One day he wore shorts and I caught a glimpse of the toothpicks he called legs. I felt the need to feed him everytime I saw him. Most times he declined my invitation to eat with us. I did managed to send him home with leftovers and his promise to heat it up and eat it later. He always thanked me the next time he saw me, commenting on how much he enjoyed it so I knew he ate good at least some of the time.
Big Papa used to live with his girlfriend Cathy a few houses away. He did not have any kids, but referred to her two daughters as "his girls." He loved them and raised them as if they were his own. Sean liked to collect things. He had MacGyver instincts when it came to fixing things. He managed to make a living most times by fixing and reselling things. It seemed like he had a new "old" car every other week and spent quite a bit of his time repairing an old boat. My husband always saved something for Seany. Whether it was an old appliance or a broken electronic device it was put aside in the shed and earmarked for him.
Big Papa drove an old Cadillac with a big set of bulls horns straped to the radiator grill. His stereo system was so loud he could wake the neighbors three blocks away and the music from the horn was his calling card. He was a character through and through, with a big heart and a big personality which is why the name Big Papa fit him so well. He always had a beer in his hand, a smile on his face and a story to tell. Drinking and smoking were just a few of his indulgences. He enjoyed good company and conversation and had a lot of people he called friends.
When he and his girlfriend broke up a few months back Big Papa took it hard. He moved into his own apartment a few blocks away. He came round for a while, but passing by his ex-girlfriend's house was probably more than he could handle, so his visits became more and more infrequent. He got sick a few times with pneumonia and called us for help. We helped as best we could, but Big Papa fell on some hard times soon after that. He just wasn't the same and refused to slow down with the drinking or listen to our advice. He was depressed, he had lost hope and we kind of lost touch with him.
At dinner my hubsand mention that Sean had passed by that day. I told him I heard him drive by and asked if he stopped to talk. He said no, he must have come by to see Cathy and just sounded his horn again when he was leaving. My husband had lifted his head and his hand to acknowledge his friend's goodbye.
Two days later we heard that Big Papa died. The doctors said he died of complications related to pneumonia, but my husband said he drowned in his sorrows by drinking himself to death. I kind of expected it, but was shocked and sad to hear that he was gone. I didn't cry then, but I just kept saying what a shame. Now that I think about Sean, I sit and wonder how he could do such a thing. The holidays are the most joyous times for most people, but for some it can be the most lonely and depressing times. I think Big Papa really died of a broken heart.
Anyway that song keeps popping into my head. Whenever I hear it I'll think of Sean and sing my version of the lyrics just to see him smile again. "Big Papa was a rolling stone, he left is mark on our home and when he died all he left us was alone."
Rest In Peace, Seany