I had a column planned for today, but it felt extraneous and trite and I just couldn’t get my arms around it. It wasn’t the right time.
My very best friend, a friend who I’ve been fortunate to have had as my sole gang member since fifth grade, lost her father this week. It was unexpected and devastating.
I feel the need to write about this man because he’s been in my life almost as long as my own father has. I won’t write a column each time a parent of a friend passes away, but this man was singular in his distinction and I would say, he was, without cliché, truly and precisely one-of-a-kind.
He was an average-size man whose shadow and light were bigger than life. He had a cordial dominance that commanded respect, admiration and awe. He was a giant. He was an icon. He was a hero.
My friend Denise and I were as thick as thieves, and as hapless in our assorted pranks as two brats in a small town could be. We got into just a thimble full of trouble occasionally, and although I was always called out as the bold, bad-idea procurer, it was usually her.
Even so, when we did get caught at our foibles, her father would pretend to admonish, followed by a manly giggle and a head shake. He was a good sport, to say the least, as we were responsible for several fender benders, a badly dented mailbox, being thrown out of the Wyoming Theater, and leaving a naughty book in his car.
He never made me feel any less than a family member. He treated me like the princess I am! He would even sing my signature song each time he saw me. (It’s called “Maria”, by the way.)
And, several years ago, this man saved me.
Within one month, I was diagnosed with cancer, my husband lost his job, and our very young cousin had passed away from lung cancer. To say we were in a very dark place is, quite frankly, not even scratching the surface.
We were circling the drain, physically, emotionally and financially.
During this tsunami of sadness, Don Fetsko came to our home and handed me a roll of bills. He’d wrapped them in tinfoil to emulate Lifesavers so I couldn’t immediately determine its contents and run after him to return it! He did this several more times, masquerading the gifts in clever ways so we could not do give-backs. I pray he knew just how mighty a gesture this was to us at that particularly gray time in our lives.
“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.”
Mr. Fetsko was the indelible blueprint for the true measure of a man. He gave when no one was looking. He helped those who were in dire need without being asked. The greatest gift of his legacy is his progeny: two generations of family whom he’s inspired to be givers and not takers. He’s handed down his good, and it will reverberate forever.
When someone shines their light on you in life, after they’re gone, you put that light in your pocket and walk with it every, single day.
I was lucky enough to be in his light.
Sleep well, Mr. Fetsko. Sleep well.
Sorry I hid that Judy Blume book in your station wagon. You’re daughter made me do it.