Goldy and I go back. Way back. My mom began writing her column in the Cumberland Times-News back in about 1979 — and Goldy was already there. He was her editor for decades, though he admitted to me that they only ever actually met once. Theirs was a friendship of emails and phone calls, but none the less close for that. She depended on him. She loved him as a friend and cherished him as a colleague.
When Mom was no longer able to write her bi-weekly column, Goldy offered it to me. I had been a pinch-hitter for Mom on occasion, so he wasn’t jumping into entirely unknown waters, but he was taking a chance. He never tried to influence my choice of topic or override my creative instincts in all the years he was my editor. His responses to my submissions took the form of emails that were mini-articles in their own right — his thoughts on my topic du jour, on things that were on his mind, on the state of the world in general — and I have kept them, every one.
No one was more comforting to Mom and me when Daddy died, and no one could have been more understanding when Mom passed away last August. He had lost so many of his own family, he knew from experience how to wend one’s way down the path of grieving and healing. I didn’t foresee that I would be using his road map again so soon.
It’s been a hard year for our family, mortality-wise, and I don’t mind telling you I’m tired of losing people I love. But Goldy’s passing has really blindsided me; I don’t think any of us who knew him saw it coming. He talked to me a great deal about death, but I don’t think foresaw his own. One of the last messages I received from him was about the Salvation Army Doll Show he and I were supposed to cover for the paper. The pandemic had forced its postponement, but he was reassuring me that we’d get to it someday.
Goldy’s meandering emails were gems of self-expression. He wrote in ways he never spoke aloud. I don’t think he’d mind if I shared some of his ruminations with all of you. Here follow, in no particular order, snippets of Goldy’s wisdom, humor and sweetness of soul:
(At the end of a long response to my angst about clearing out Mom’s house and my attempts to hold my tears for the nighttime) “I identified with this in even more ways than I mentioned. And I would add this: It’s all right not to cry by yourself.”
(On my missing a deadline while finally taking a 20-year-overdue honeymoon) “I will forgive you the delay, but only on the condition that you had the time of your life.”
(One of his many anecdotes of doing Civil War reenactment) “Gary and I came upon a gang of Boy Scouts sitting around in the parking lot at Little Round Top, eating those little bags of potato chips. Capt. Gary said, “Sarge? You ever seen rations like this?” I said, “Nossir, I ain’t.” I was hovering over a fat little fellow sitting on a rock (they don’t make Boy Scouts like they used to) and looked down at him and said in my best first sergeant’s voice, “Son, I ain’t never seen the like of such things. Tell me. You got to borl (boil) them in coffee to get the weevils out of them and make ‘em fit to chew on?” He looked up at me in terror like I was about to hit him with an axe. The Scoutmaster was standing there laughing his ass off.”
(In response to my column about bed sheets) “A friend who may still be married said he noticed that when he touched his wife while she was asleep, she rolled away from him. The dog — a good-sized German short-haired pointer — sleeps on the floor on her side of the bed. He said when he can’t get to sleep and is bored, he keeps touching her until finally she rolls off the bed entirely and lands on the dog. “If I can’t sleep,” he said, “nobody else is, either.”
(One of the personal, encouraging little notes he sent so often) “I liked this as much as anything else you’ve ever written. It reflects the type of person you are, and that is why I have developed as much affection for you as I have. Felt the same way about your mom.”
(Explaining his nickname) “I’m Goldy because Jimmy Day kept confusing Jim Goldsworthy with Gene Goodrich (a woman who worked downstairs once referred to “That Goldrich fellow upstairs”) and I became Goldy and he became Goody.”
(After a column on dogs I have loved) “Your closing lines about how rescued dogs are sometimes the most loving and affectionate reminded me that the same thing can be said about people.”
(After a column on losing family to Alzheimer’s) “I will never let any of my loved ones go, because they will never let go of me. You do the same. Keep hold of all of them.”
“Goldy’s Rule 238: Many people believe they have a talent for writing, and many others believe they have a talent for singing. Most of them are wrong ... although it’s surprising how often they earn a good living doing one or the other.”
My biggest grief, besides losing Goldy, is the fear that he died alone, in that “God-d@#$ed big ol’ barn” of a house, as his dad called it. He had been alone so much of his life. But his heart enfolded all of us who were privileged to be his friends, and he always signed his emails to me and to my mom: LOL (Lots of Love) AuY (Goldy). When she died, he sent me a copy of a sermon he had preached at his church. In losing him, I find solace in what he said in that sermon: “I know that He (Jesus) was with all my other loved ones who have gone on to find their unfailing treasure in heaven — just as I know He will one day be there for me when my hour comes.” Whether I believe it or not isn’t important; what matters is that Goldy did.
Farewell my dear friend. “Pray for me, as I do for thee, that we may merrily meet in heaven.” And say hi to Mom and Dad for me. I know you’ll have lots to talk about. LOL to You-n-Mom. Ellen.
Ellen McDaniel-Weissler is a LaVale freelance writer. Her column appears in the Times-News on alternate weekends.