love you, precious…

so i have known this guy for years. i encountered him when i was about 7 years old…or at least, that is my first memory of him. he was an older man…not from texas, but somewhere up north. he had this soothing, sonorous voice…and just hearing it made me think of campfires, plush leather chairs, and hot apple cider…or warm, worn quilts and the type of people who are always willing to drop everything for a good cup of coffee.

he was really a fun sort of fellow…always quick with a story…always something witty, but in an understated way. he would talk to my mother and i sometimes for an hour at a time. he mostly talked to us when we were in the car…and oftentimes, he would accompany us and share his stories on the way to my piano lessons. he would make my mom and i laugh out loud. more accurately, he would have us both in total hysterics…but he was the sort of fellow who would crack a joke, but not a smile. he would sing songs, but they were frequently silly…little diddies that either didn’t make any sense, or were about things like biscuits and ketchup, or were the type of profound that hit you in the face when you weren’t looking. in fact, there were so many things he said that were straight-forward and simple, but would wash back over you like a tide and leave you with a warm fuzzy in your tummy.

i loved this man. he was a part of my childhood. so many good times were had by the sound of his introspective purr. self-effacing humor of the best kind…the kind that makes you come to appreciate and even love our foibles…our folly. this man used to speak a great deal on the differences between the north and the south….how he was a sweetheart, a darlin’, or precious once he crossed the mason-dixon line. his marvel at unabashed rustics was charming.a love of this man was something my mother and i shared as i was growing up. she still reminisces about some of the more clever stories he would tell. (i, too, giggle a little when i think of the frustrated chicken-author whose compositional toils involved a typewriter and the hunt-and-peck method.)

in any case, i met this man for the first time tonight. i almost had to remind myself that i had never met him before. it was like the first time i met my uncle, my mother’s brother. i was eleven. and when i first met him, he immediately hugged me, patted my backside, and laughed…it was like i had known him all along.

and tonight, too, i felt like i had known this man all along.because i have. in terms of warm feelings, conjured recollections, inspired reflection, and the smiles put on my face, i have known this guy fairly well. and the beautiful thing is that i know i am not the only one who feels blessed to have had this man in their life…as part of their family. tonight, i watched this man sign over 150 books. he stood (not sat, though a chair and table were provided for him) and greeted a mass of people with all the warmth and cheer of a next-door neighbor. he visited with each and every one until eleven in the evening, knowing full well that he would have to rise in only a few hours at 3:30 to catch his early-morning flight. a picture? no problem. what’s your name? what do you do? jenni rebecca? were you named after the song?

i was struck and amazed by how incredible this one human being must be to have such a following. in the almost 2 1/2 hours that he stood signing books and taking pictures, not one soul stepped out of line. it didn’t matter that he seemed to be taking a few minutes for each of his 150 fans. people were patient. to be anything else would be a rejection of his outlook on life. he was owed much more respect than that.

it was silly. as i approached this familiar stranger, this uncle from the radio waves, my heart started beating. why was i so nervous? why was i almost about to cry? why? well, because it meant something to me…rather, it meant so much to me. i wanted the moment to last. i wanted to remember the instant in which i shook the hand of this man who i had known for so long, but had never seen. i was making up for 20 years in the spanse of a few minutes. and when he finally addressed me, i turned into the shy 7 year-old who first heard his show on the radio so long ago.to jenni rebecca and karen-love you, precious.garrison keillor

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~ by ladamesansregrets on February 21, 2007.

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