Larry the Cable Guy

by Todd Nigro
About a week after our six-year-old Ellie died, I was outside with Kristen and a friend. Our dog Maverick was barking at a man up the street in a neighbor’s yard. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. We don’t have a fence for Maverick and he slowly wandered up our driveway. He kept barking obnoxiously and moving closer to the man. I had no choice but to try to get Maverick and stop him. As we got close to the man, he began talking to Maverick and me.

He said how much he liked daschunds and how he had owned several in the past. I kept getting closer and Maverick eventually walked behind me and would let out a random bark now and then. The man introduced himself “Hi, I’m Larry”. He was digging a trench for the cable. He worked outside all day long and he looked like it. In the past, I would have judged his appearance. But, I seemed to have a different view. I saw a man who wanted to share and needed to talk.

I made a point to just listen. He talked more and more. He told a story about a dog that bit his brother. He respected dogs and was careful with them. He pulled up his shirtsleeve and showed me a scar where a dog had bitten him. Then, he said, “What if I was a little kid and that dog came after me? I could have been killed!” Of course, Larry had no idea what happened with our little Ellie. But, it seemed like it was time to share her story.

I figured that he had heard about Ellie’s death. It seemed that everyone had. But, he didn’t know I was her father. I asked him “Did you hear about the death of the little girl last week?” He said he had. He looked at me with eyes of shock and sorrow as I said, “she was my daughter.” He dropped to his knees as the wind seemed to be knocked out of him. It struck him so hard, but not in a bad way. We connected in that moment in a way that is hard to describe. His face was full of compassion.

From there, he recovered and we kept talking. He told me about how he was a football player and he tried to play in college. It didn’t work out and he came back home as a failure. He didn’t finish school. He got married and had kids, but was separated and living with his mother. He shared his life story honestly and openly. He described a lot of pain and suffering that he had been through. I just listened to him.

Larry finally said, “You know what, I’m not a cable guy, I’m an artist. I wrote poetry and I do mandala art.” He described it to me because I’d never heard of it. I told him I’d like to see it someday. His eyes sparkled and he said, “I have some of it in my truck!” While we walked to the truck, he recited a poem he had written for his deceased father.

O Lord, don’t let me get that low,
because suicide is not the way to go.
I’ve seen it first hand, and it’s not for any man.

What you leave behind is hard to define.
It eats at your heart and pulls you apart.
In the days I somber, and through the nights I ponder.

And, as time slides by, I’ve begun to realize,
you were not just my pops, you were my pal.
From my heart, I’ve begun to fall apart.

My life has changed, with you gone.
The inner pain is hard to explain.
In my times of need, I don’t know what to believe.

You were my rock to lean on.
But now, there’s nothing left but a stone.
And me standing beside it – all alone.

Six feet under, gosh, sometimes I wonder.
Do you feel the rain? Do you feel the pain?
What you have left is hard to explain.
But I know it’s full of mortal pain.

The poem was beautiful and I had tears in my eyes as we stood beside his truck. He opened the door and pulled out his art. He showed it to me and I examined it closely and told him it was beautiful. He was so excited and had a huge smile on his face.

I told him “I’d like you to meet my family and my daughter Ellie when you’re through up here”. He said he would like that. I told him to come on down to our house. We still had a house full of family and friends. I announced to everyone that my friend Larry would be coming down in a few minutes and to welcome him.

When Larry showed up, he was welcomed with hugs and handshakes. We went up into the office and I wanted to show him the secret videos that Ellie had made last summer. Her personality just sparkles and we all laughed and cried as we watched the five-minute video. He saw how wonderful Ellie was. Larry was so caring and empathetic to Kristen and gave her a nice hug.

After writing Larry a nice pink sticky note, I put it inside a DVD copy of her memorial service that I gave him. The note showed Larry know how much I wanted him to be my friend and to see him again. He left stunned. He could barely walk up the hill. He sat in the truck for some time before he finally drove away.

I’d made an amazing friend and it felt good. He was someone that the old me would not have noticed, and certainly would not have befriended. My new eyes showed me a wonderful opportunity. Larry has a heart of gold. He understands how life works. We have stayed in touch and shared many interesting conversations. I thank God for bringing this amazing man into my life.
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