Monday, March 10, 2008

The Real Obituary

Today marks exactly two years since Henry Balthis died.

Henry was a no nonsense kinda guy, retired from the Ironworkers Local 17. He only stood about 5”2 on a good day, but he was mean and he had fiery hair. His friends called him Red. When Red walked in the front door of a bar, his enemies snuck out the back.

Not only was Henry known for his boxing skills, he was also rumored to be quite the pistol whipper. Henry wasn’t afraid of anything. Once he chased a man who owned a leopard. The leopard ran too.

In his elder years, he had two passions: cats and fatherless children. He lived in a warehouse with his six cats: Bigfoot, Crybaby, Mister, Watermelon, Number Five, and Number Six (yes, he named two cats after numbers). When he wasn’t busy overfeeding his cats, he enjoyed visits from two of his many grandchildren, James and Jennifer.

Henry never asked for help. When he had heart attacks, he drove himself to the hospital. He did however ask James to bring him the occasional Whopper with cheese. Jennifer got off a little easier. Her chore, which was really an honor, was spending countless afternoons with Henry watching Animal Cops.

Henry owned at least eight vacuum cleaners. Even though his personal hygiene skills were at times questionable, the floor in his warehouse was always swept.

Henry Balthis did a good job dying.

He was surrounded by family members who cried and told stories from many many Christmases ago. One granddaughter even spoke of Henry’s warm, tender grandfather hugs. Jennifer and James smiled at each other from across the room. They had Henry stories from the previous Christmas and the one before that. They had Henry stories from the previous week. And they both knew that though Henry liked to give hugs, he was really bad at it.

A Henry hug was like being burped.


Amy said...

Jen, this is lovely. The line "Henry Balthis did a good job dying" is great. Lucky you, to have had him in your life.

Jennifer Sullivan said...

Thanks, Amy. You're too sweet to me.

Ryan said...
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