The phone rang around 9:30PM, which isn’t completely unusual, but not really a common occurrence. For some reason, there was no number on the caller ID but on the other end of the phone was my mother. “Hey, what’s up?” I asked, since we talked the day before and don’t usually talk every day anymore.
“Well, things are pretty shitty.” I knew there were some things on my mom’s mind over the past few months, but my parents had some longtime friends visiting so I wasn’t really expecting that answer. “Harold was murdered today. I don’t know much more, but he was home and there may have been a break in – he was shot. I don’t know the details but Marcia found him”
I still have a pit in my stomach. Harold and Marcia lived across the street from me when I was growing up. They had 2 children who were around the same age as me and my sister. The older child – the daughter, was two years younger than me and two years older than my sister. The younger brother was a year younger than my sister. Needless to say, we spent a lot of time at their house when we were growing up. Car pools to Hebrew school, playing after school, or even before we were old enough to go to school. Marcia used to tease me and her daughter because she once found us (we couldn’t have been older than 6 and 4) in the bathroom together.....
They were always “Marcia and Harold” to me. Not “Mr. and Mrs. [O]” (I’m leaving out the last name for now. And while I had many friends whose parents were “cool” and I got to know pretty well, Harold was the first and probably the one who I liked the most. He was kind, funny, smart. At one time, he owned a Carvel ice cream store in the neighborhood, and I remember eating dinner at their house many times and being excited for whatever dessert he brought home from the store for us.
In the early 80s, he and my dad went into business together – a fur delivery business in Manhattan (furs were still “en vogue” at the time). While my dad left after a few years, I remember seeing Harold driving the delivery van around the city now and again when I started to work in Manhattan.
I moved into Manhattan in the early 90s, and my parents moved out of our hometown in the mid 90s. Harold and Marcia moved to Texas a few years ago, and I probably haven’t seen them in close to 10 years. Hell, I probably haven’t thought about them for a few years – maybe when I found out that their daughter or son got married or got a new job. My parents didn’t really keep in touch with them as much as they used to, but it was more because of distance than anything else. I did know that they moved into a new community and were pretty happy (I think their daughter moved down there a few years earlier).
But when I got that call last night, I was, needless to say, floored. And am still in disbelief. Here was someone – someone who didn’t have a mean bone in his body, someone who was always a “straight up” kind of guy, someone who I never heard anyone ever say anything remotely negative about – gone. And for what?
Obviously, I’ve known people who have passed away “before their time”. Whether it was a car accident, a disease or something else. But not this. And how do you make sense of it? Why? How do you process something like this? How can Marcia go back into that house after finding him?
My wife didn’t realize why I was so bothered by this – after all, we have heard of other friends or acquaintances of my parents passing away, even suddenly sometimes. But this was different to me. Even though I wasn’t always close with the family or the children, they were a staple of my childhood.
And this man was the last man that I could think of (if I had to make a list) that deserved this. Which is sad and aggravating all at once.
Good bye, Harold. Even though we haven’t spoken in years, you had a big impact on me. May you rest in peace.