(Reprinted from the March 30, 2012 issue of the Ellicottville Times)
As you probably know by now, if you have read this column before, I have some sort of addiction to the road. I don’t quite know how to explain it or how it came about. I have always been interested in hiways and will write a future piece on some of my favorite roads, such as the Lincoln Hiway. But I feel that it is important to note that there are downsides to a life of travel. I’m not referring to automobile breakdowns or less than clean Laundromats. There are things we leave behind that we’d rather not and there are things we miss. And I don’t just mean birthdays or anniversaries.
Perhaps the greatest and saddest disappointment associated with my wanderings occurred on January first. That evening I received a call, while in Charleston, South Carolina, from my good friend Linda Moss. With a shaky and breaking voice she informed me that we lost a great friend, Eddie Szpacher. Even now, months later, just the thought of Eddie being gone unnerves me.
I am sure that much has been said and written about this great man. And, yes, I mean Great. I don’t use that word often nor do I take it lightly. So now, with the luxury of this column, I will say my piece.
There are few people in our lives that so move us they appear to be bigger than life. There is some sort of dynamic that is a combination of charm, warmth, sincerity and love. For so many of us Eddie was one of those people. Certainly he was an imposing figure. With that size came a smile and laugh that could wipe out the worst and darkest load a friend might be carrying. Be it a hangover, a personal loss of some kind or just some general self pity, Eddie could blow it away with just a few words. I know this to be true because he did it for me many times.
I wonder, sometimes, where people like this come from. His siblings, Mark and Kim, pretty much come from the same mold. I had told them all on several occasions, that of the few good friends I have, three were Szpachers. There is his wife Becky and his daughters who were the recipients of his huge capacity for love and pride. Did these people help make Eddie into this very special person? Or his parents? They say the apples don’t fall far from the tree. What ever the source or cause, we were all blessed to know and love this man.
Looking back I can still vividly recall so many evenings sitting across the bar from him sharing a joke or a story. And when I traveled, it was Eddie who looked after my house and forwarded my mail to me when I would be at a place for a while. Sometimes when I am out somewhere and I hear a warm, low laugh I spin around thinking it’s him. Maybe it is. You know, I don’t care to believe that the people we love ever leave us. They are around us somewhere.
So, Eddie, I miss you. Bad. I wish there had been a little more time to tell you again how much you meant to me and to so many others. But you must know that. I think of you a lot. And now the words in front of me are starting to blur.
Until next time….