Ed Newman . . .
I miss the old guy. He died over 30 years ago. And 30 years was our age difference. He was 30 years older. (If he were alive today, then he would be 377 years old.)
Ed and I worked together. We got along and liked each other, but as men we would never say so directly. Men express their affection for each other indirectly through teasing and insults. It would not have been cool for Ed to have said, “Hey Gary, I like you. I think the world of you.” But this is what he meant when he said, “Johnston, will you fetch it if I throw a stick?” or
“Johnston, please stay. I want to be alone.” or
“Johnston, I’m jealous of all the people who don’t know you.”
I was never offended by Ed’s insults, and he was never offended by mine. Subconsciously, we knew that we were saying how much we liked each other.
Ed was self-taught. He spoke several languages. He was well-read and had a sharp wit. Thus, his insults were far superior to mine and always made me laugh.
Ed was married and had no children. I was like a son to him when a tumor removed from his spine caused him to lose the use of his legs.
Cancer caused Ed to retire early. He felt ashamed going out in public in a wheelchair, so he stayed home in bed. I would visit him and bring him library books and whatever else he wanted.
When he was not insulting me, Ed was telling me his opinions on various topics. One topic he dwelled on was marriage. I was not married and thought his opinions negative.
“Johnston,” he said, “don’t get married until you’re tired of having sex and no good for anything else. And if you get married, then be prepared for the endless chores. A wife hates it when she sees her husband sitting there reading a book or the newspaper. There are always chores he could be doing. Wives are always dreaming up chores. It never ends.
“Before the universe, there was a void; there was nothing; there was zippo. If a wife had been present in that void, then she would have had a million chores needing to be done.”
I changed my mind about his negative views on marriage after I got married. His views were not negative at all.
Between visits, Ed would call me. He would do most of the talking. I listened.
Ed ended our telephone conversations abruptly. Often, I would be midsentence when he would say, “Johnston, I’m fed up talking to you!”
I never got upset with him hanging up on me. I always laughed. The calls were close to ending anyway, and I knew that it was his way of saying that he liked me.
I told a friend about Ed’s way of ending telephone conversations and how it made me laugh. I never expected her to do it to me, but she did. I did not laugh. It was not the same. She was not Ed.