There are a few people I will really miss in South Bend. Steve is one. He’s Dale’s son, up at Dale’s Auto, on 933 north. Dale’s not running things anymore, but we all remember him well. I made Steve a pillow today, to say “good-bye.” It’s not the first time I’ve felt this special kinship with him or given him a gift: I wrote the poem below two years ago in a strangely poignant moment when I had just returned from a trip abroad and I suddenly realized that my time was ticking down, here in South Bend and… well, in general. What is it about mechanics that, when they are nice to you, honest and reasonably priced, you just love them so much?!
It was a hot summer’s day. I was waiting for a while at Dale’s Auto for my car to be fixed.* Honey Girl was with me. Having a big friendly dog makes it easy to meet people. Before I knew it I was deep in conversation, like with an old friend, with Harold–a guy I had just met! (I understand that he can be found on most days up at Dale’s, now that he’s retired from the GM plant.) The pillow you see above is number 1, “A Souvenir for Steve,” in the brand-new “Hometown Heroes” line of Honey Girl Books and Gifts. They have real jeans pockets for people who know what work is.
The low thrumming of a window AC
Out here at Dale’s
Takes me back.
Aluminum siding hot to the hand
Muddy little footprints
Bicker, splash, play
Little boys on their way
I didn’t know then, but we were
All so young and lovely.
Harold was afraid of girls
He told me with a sidelong smile
Probably took a lotta nerve
To come and tell me
About his dog and its $600 end,
And Marmalade a ginger cat, a “friendly” cat,
Rheumy eyes but good strong hands
Me ‘n the wife, she gets the couch
I got my chair.
65 years and a month
That was a pal from GM, dead, so…
Assembly line, ya know,
Gotta know how to handle it.
What’s for dinner tonight?
Where’ll we go fishin’ come spring?
It’s not so bad
If you know how to handle it.
The second hometown hero I’m honoring this week is Harvey down at the ReStore on South Main Street. I volunteered there some hours this spring. I thank Harvey for giving me work to do. For seeing that I really meant it. “A working person’s got to work,” he said.**
To receive a job to do gives you dignity and purpose–it’s so simple, yet so deep.
“In honor of Harvey”
*a 2007 Chevy Aveo, if you want to know. Just sold it for $450!
**Little did he know that he was echoing a similar thought as the Renaissance French philosopher Michel de Montaigne, who said: “Nous sommes nés pour agir … Agissons donc et autant que nous le pouvons” or “We are born to be active … let’s thus be active, as much as we can.” Michel de Montaigne, Essais (1580).