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PAPAW’S ALREADY THERE

By BOB BRIDGE


Chris Couch and his sister Carrie
Chris Couch and his sister Carrie

Chris Couch, my longtime pal and neighbor, peered westward toward the setting sun, squirmed in his chair, then stared squarely in my direction.


"Me need tell you something," he said in his commanding, matter-of-fact fashion.


"So, tell me," I replied from my seat in the Jeep.


"Me miss Papaw," he bemoaned in a tone soaked with sadness.


"So do I, Chris." I whispered.


Chris's grandfather was my dear friend and longtime co-worker Lynden Roberts. Most mornings Lynden would drive the few blocks from his residence on Linwood Drive to Eastwood to help load Chris, secured tightly in his wheelchair, onto the bus that transported him to his job at the Stone Belt LARC Center.


"Me miss Papaw," Chris reiterated.


How could he not?


Folks like Lynden are few and far between. He was loyal, dependable and passionate about books, sports, people and life in general.


Chris dropped his chin, fiddled with the controls on his chair, then peered upward again.


"Papaw miss wedding," he lamented, the sadness resonating.


I nodded.


Chris, like his grandfather, is a sensitive guy. And protective, too. Uncle Chris watches over his three nieces like a mother grizzly guarding her cubs.


Of course he's had oodles of practice. Chris grew up with his sweet sister, Carrie, riding atop his lap as the electronic chair zoomed to and fro, steamrolling a neighbor's toes from time to time.


"Ouch! Watch where you're going, Buttercup!"


Even those of us keenly familiar with his lingo occasionally experience difficulty discerning what Chris is trying to communicate.


The solution?


Call Carrie, the definitive Chris decoder.


Frankly, I think she reads his mind. You know, synergistic sibling brain waves.


Carrie was scheduled to exchange vows with Zach Johnson, a genuinely good guy. Chris was convinced Lynden should be there for Carrie's special day.


I tried to explain to him his grandfather will be there — in spirit.


"You know how you feel close to Papaw on sunny days?" I said. "It will be kinda like that. You won't see him, but you'll know he's there."


That's the way it is with my father and yours truly.


I flashed back to a night probably 15 years ago. Lynden had summoned me to his home to watch a ballgame on television. Carrie, curled up like a kitten, was slumbering silently in a comfy, over-sized chair.


I beheld the breath-taking image of innocence and pristine beauty, as precious a picture as ever perceived. When I turned to Lynden to share this observation, I realized he, too, was focused on Carrie. A tender tear oozed from the corner of his eye.


"That's our baby," he said, unashamed of the tear. "Isn't she beautiful?"


No doubt about it. Was then; is now.


Scott Schurz, our former boss, labeled Lynden the "Bard of Bedford" and petitioned him to pen poems on special occasions. That B in Bob B. Bridge in no way signifies bard. Bill Shakespeare I am not.


The best I can do is recite a lyric from a Lonestar song:


"I'm already there, take a look around. I'm the sunshine in your hair, I'm the shadow on the ground. I'm the whisper in the wind, and I'll be there 'til the end. Can you feel the love we share? I'm already there."


Lynden will be there, Chris.


Sure enough, he was.


Since the wedding Carrie and Zach have blessed Chris with two handsome nephews, Leo and Quinn. Chris dutifully watches over them, just as Lynden watches over him.


That’s the family plan. It’s a good one, and it’s eternal.


Contact Columnist Bob Bridge at (812) 276-9646 or bbbbbridge@gmail.com.


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