Mr. Richardson was a summer fixture for me as a child, more constant than sunscreen (which we didn’t have). I never knew him as a fall, winter, or spring guy. For all I knew, he returned each summer to Pocasset like a loon. Like we did.
With his classic flat-top crew-cut (his hair was always white) and his buck teeth, Mr. Richardson (we never called him “George” in those days) delivered our boat motor each summer and drove the silver ski boat for hours and hours every afternoon, teaching us all to ski with his characteristic favorite advice. You know what he always said. Nothing. And it worked. We all learned to ski under his silent, patient tutelage.
But the most fun to be had with Mr. Richardson was in the evenings. Rushing through dinner, we let the screen door slam behind us when the red truck appeared outside our cabin. Before Mr. Richardson could lift our garbage can off the nail in the tree, we were in the back of his truck, ready to do the garbage run with him, collecting from every cabin and riding all the way to the dump down the road where we hoped to see something exciting, like a rat. Summer just didn’t get any better than that..
Karen and I grew to be best summer friends and I spent a lot more time around Mr. Richardson. So I was lucky enough to discover that behind his thick glasses were twinkling blue eyes. And I got to go horned pout fishing with him in the evenings, sitting in Jennings Stream at dusk with Janet, Karen, and our green drop lines, then pulling the barbed fish up, left and right, while Mr. Richardson patiently took each and every one off our hooks with a gloved and practiced hand. I felt privileged to be in that boat. Mr. Richardson, as usual, rarely said a word.
To see Mr. Richardson was to see a man whose work was never done, but who was never in a hurry. He slowly and purposefully went about doing, well, everything there was to do. When I try to hear his voice, mostly all I hear is a meaningful silence. Followed, sometimes, by a slow, “ayuh.”
It seems that my summer innocence ended around the same time Mr. Richardson became George. It just hasn’t been the same around the beach for many years now without George quietly going about his ways. And even though I know that time marches on and change is inevitable, still, I miss those days. I miss those colorful beach chairs that George built and maintained. I miss that silver ski boat and the long line of skiers waiting to be towed—on skis, not tubes. I miss the red truck and those horned pout and grabbing leaves on the narrow road, which I also miss, and I even miss the dump. I have missed Mr. Richardson for many years now. And now I will miss George too.
Today is George's funeral in Wayne, Maine in the church where we were married 23 years ago. It is the same church where our son, Noah, was baptized 15 years ago and then memorialized a year later. It is an altar we know well. So even though we are 3000 miles away from George's service today, still, we are there in spirit. Rest in Peace, Mr. George Richardson, Lord knows you’ve earned it.