Sunday, January 29, 2012

What did…? Oh, I see what you’re saying ...

(From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR)

Mr. Huey would get his words all confused sometimes, to the delight of us all. He never knew it.

Instead of “charismatic,” he’d say “ceramic.” As in, “Maybe you ought to go join one of those ceramic congregations.”

Once on the phone my little sister told him she loved him, and he said, “The feeling is neutral.”

Okey doke.

My little sis also has a little dog, a Shih Tzu named Bijou. Mr. Huey came close but never called her by that name; it was always “Gee Gee” or “Ju Ju” or something like that. That dog loved Mr. Huey and I’m sure the feeling was neutral.

Also I don’t think he ever tried to say “Shih Tzu” – I’m sure I would remember! -- and for that, we can all be grateful.

One of his favorite football players was “Bert Favre,” or, as Bert’s mom calls him, “Brett Favre.” Loved him some Bert Favre, Mr. Huey did.

Oh, he was full of verbal fumbles. The Human Malaprop. No one ever corrected him; my little sister would just quietly go to the kitchen drawer, pull out a pencil and scrap paper, and write it down. A moment with Mr. Huey was like being in a panel cartoon.

But there was no mistaking the important things he said. Mr. Huey did what he said – or at least what he meant to say. If he said he loved you, he meant it, and all that came with that.

Mr. Huey was a beautiful human being.

We lost a lot of good people this past year, Mr. Huey among them. I’ve written about several, about these guys who always made me feel as if I mattered.

Mr. Joe Joe Michael was like that. He passed away last month, but not before spreading the love and encouragement for 88 years in his hometown of Homer and wherever else he traveled, which was extensive.

When my dad became pastor of First Baptist Church of Homer in 1977, Mr. Joe Joe, a Catholic at Homer’s St. Margaret’s and a magnificent businessman, was one of the first people from outside the congregation to go see daddy in his office, welcome him to town and offer himself for whatever help he could be. Mr. Joe Joe told my dad that if First Baptist was strong, it helped to make Homer strong, and he wanted my dad to know he’d always have a friend in him.

“No one was ever more of a gentleman to me than Joe Joe Michael,” my dad said.

I wasn’t from Homer. But Mr. Joe Joe always made me feel like I was, like I was “part of,” like I’d grown up as his friend, cruised the Sonic and Homer Square after Friday night football game and fished Claiborne from the diaper days on up. He was smiling every time I saw him.

Mr. Huey worked with his hands building houses, a carpenter extraordinaire. But he and Joe Joe and others like them are even better at building homes, and at building others up, working with their hearts. I didn’t know when I met Mr. Huey a long, long time ago that he’d one day be my little sister’s daddy-in-law, a second father to her.

He loved pocket knives, all sorts of knives. Had bunches. His son, my brother-in-law, gave me one at Christmas after his daddy died in June. I look at it and am reminded of a warm-hearted gentleman who loved truth and life and family.

The feeling will always be neutral.