Company at the Company

pats 0619My work schedule, such as it is, was even more fluid than usual yesterday, so I can’t tell you what time it was that I finally rolled into the shop, other than that it was — fortuitously — about 30 seconds before Scott and Jenny Parsons came through the door.

When out-of-town visitors are looking for me, they come to the shop. I’ve been the happy recipient of a number of surprise drop-ins over the years: my aunt and uncle, Lynn’s old boss from Wisconsin, former co-workers like Leah Johnson, and old, old friends such as Julie Sweetkind, who appeared one day out of nowhere, in town for a high-school reunion. Lena (Roper) Roeder, whom I probably hadn’t seen since her sunrise wedding, stopped by on her way to a new life of semi-retirement in Paonia after selling her vet practice in Colorado Springs.

Sometimes, like Friday, people who used to live here stop by because they are shopping and I get to catch up. Kadie Graham and her husband, now in North Carolina, returned to town for a wedding and stopped to get souvenir shirts. I was talking to her while idly eyeing the other people in the store until it dawned on me that the rangy person between her and her husband was son Magnus. He’s 12 now, and I had to apologize to him because I couldn’t stop staring: as they sing in Fiddler on the Roof, When did he get to be so tall? (Kadie told me she can’t stop staring at him either as he rises above his dad.) And “baby” Remy is seven now, with long locks of glowing copper hair.

Every once in awhile I miss some of these folks, because as I tell people who want to know if I will be at my shop, I’m always there until someone is looking for me. The most mysterious of these drive-by guests refused to leave their names, and their description haunts me: she had long black hair and his was white. I still have no idea who this could have been, and sure wish they had left their names. Or stopped back by.

Over the years, my most “reliable” drop-ins have been Scott and Jenny. They live in Grand Junction and find reason enough to get over this way about once a summer, often on their motorcycle, although Scott said it’s getting to be too much to wrestle with the 1,100-pound weight when it starts to go off-center. (And we recently lost a classmate, Keith Brennise, to a motorcycle accident.)

Had I not wandered into work when I did (and we have to wonder how I can call it “work” when I spend so much time socializing with my drop-in guests), I would have missed them on this trip, which was being taken in honor of their 35th wedding anniversary.

Thirty-five years! How can this have happened?

So I guess it was a few more than 35 years ago that I met Scott, a fellow student in the second grade at Lake Elementary (which is now preschool, kindergarten, and the site of Tia’s new office). I was brand-new to town, and he became my first champion. I would walk home, and the older Crane brothers would ride past me on their bikes and spit on me. Scott one day stopped, put me on the back of his bike and rode me home, sparing me from the merciless dive-bombing Cranes.

[This sort of stuff stays with you, and while I have tried to move beyond it, I to this day regard Steve Crane with suspicion. I haven’t seen him in a few years, but he married one of the Dixons whose parents lived two doors down the street, so I used to go past him a lot, still mentally cringing.]

In high school Scott and I used to write these shared pieces called “Knowledge” where we would take turns building on the nonsense the other was spewing. (I’m sure I still have this doggerel somewhere.) He grew very tall and played basketball, and I stayed short and muddled through speech and debate and technical theatre; we graduated and I went to the University of Colorado while he stayed closer to home at Western Then State, which is where he met Jenny.

Jenny’s name might not be famous, but it’s still known across Colorado’s Western Slope: she’s the daughter of Gene Taylor, originator of a small string of sporting good stores. (Only the one in Gunnison survives, run by Jenny’s brother Marshall.)

Back in the ’80s Scott and Jenny took the somewhat-radical step of moving in together without the sanctity of marriage, and Scott liked to describe Jenny as his POSSLQ, which is how the U.S. Census identified this sort of arrangement: Persons of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters.

Somewhere in there they moved to Grand Junction, where Scott got a job with Jenny’s dad that eventually turned into management of their large photography department. Then he moved to a photography company on Main Street, and when photography went away, he went to work as a warehouse manager for Halliburton.

In those early days I used to visit them, rather than the other way around. As the sports editor, I went once a year to what was then called the sub-district tournament toward the end of basketball season, always held over two days in Grand Junction. The Times job did not come with lavish per diems —

[I recall one boss who generously allocated me $2.50 for lunch, to which our office manager said, “Is he serious?” and gave me instead $3, which allowed me to eat at McDonald’s.]

–so I would call Scott and Jenny and ask if I could stay at their house.

The visit I remember most took place when daughter Kelby was probably about four, and a very-pregnant Jenny needed to run a bunch of errands. I didn’t have to be at a game for several hours, so Kelby and I stayed home and played Barbies, allowing Jenny to take care of her tasks unimpeded.

Then, just before everyone was getting ready for dinner, Jenny started having contractions. This was as close as I’m ever likely to get to birth — I timed her contractions while Scott ran around collecting stuff for the hospital. In the middle of this, a mother (I think it was Scott’s, but don’t recall for sure) had already planned to bring dinner over.

As contractions contracted to about two minutes apart, Scott and Jenny scampered off to the hospital while Grandma scooped up Kelby, but not before she said to me, “This dinner is not going to go to waste. You sit here and eat it!” Then everyone was gone, and there I sat in their empty house, eating a gourmet meal before heading to my game and then back to Gunnison, where it took another day or two before I heard that son Cooper had arrived in a healthy state.

And now Kelby is married with two little girls of her own. Scott and Jenny said yesterday she still mentions me from time to time — perhaps I should drop by sometime to play Barbies with her daughters. And little baby Cooper is 30 and married.

Where did all the time go?

I guess I didn’t really stop to count that it’s been so long, but I’m glad that Scott and Jenny get this way every so often, and that they stop in to say “hi,” and especially that I showed up to work when I did yesterday.

I wish for them a very happy anniversary, and for all of you I leave this wish: if you stop by Pat’s Screen Printing to say “hey” and I’m not there, please leave your name so I’ll know who you are.

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