The marvelous one

By Kris Ferrazza | Apr 28, 2021

Lately, I've been thinking about how I want to be remembered.

It's tough because I know how I want to be remembered, but something tells me that's not how it will go.

As a person with an overactive imagination, it's easy for me to visualize family and friends talking about me after I'm gone. I've been involved in these conversations about other people, so I know how it unfolds.

It always starts with some touching stories, followed by a few funny memories. Eventually it evolves into what I would call "tales that should not necessarily be told." That's what keeps me awake at night.

Oh, I can just see them now. My loved ones are gathered, dabbing at their eyes with tissues, saying things like, "She was such a good person." Then, after a respectful amount of silence, they'll be off to the races. I can think of 100 stories I would not necessarily want shared in that moment. Yet there they’ll be, laughing through their tears at my bad behavior.

The obvious answer is to change my ways. I could become so well-behaved that it will erase any questionable memories. But I think it's too late for that. The die is cast. I've sealed my fate.

Over the winter, my father-in-law died after a brief illness. Marvin was 83, so it was a long and colorful life. He left behind a wife and four sons, so we have been reminiscing about him for a while now. Some stories involve family vacations, camping trips and snowmobiling while others reflect on his work ethic and parenting style. All have been highly entertaining.

What I’ll remember most about my father-in-law was his height and deep, rumbling voice. At six foot, three inches tall, Marv was a slender giant who towered over me. His voice was so low that nothing he said ever registered properly in my ears. He would look at me, and then I'd hear a low rumble of thunder in the distance.

When it was my turn to respond, I would nod in cheerful agreement. If that didn't get the appropriate response, I'd feign surprise and say, "Really?” If he rumbled at me again, I'd look to my husband for translation.

"He wants you to pass the salad dressing," he'd say.

In 30 years I never understood a word the man said. I'd often remark on how quiet and even-keeled Marv was, compared to my own father who is talkative and a bit volatile. Early on, I dubbed Marvin “the Marvelous One,” which made my husband chuckle.

"Believe me, he wasn't always like that," Tim would say. "He's definitely mellowed with age."

He’d tell me about how, as a child, he often was asked to hold the flashlight for his dad while he worked on cars in the garage. Easily distracted, young Timmy couldn't keep the beam of light where his father needed it, which led to problems. To make matters worse, Marv sometimes would ask to be handed a particular wrench.

In a room full of tools, Tim had no idea which wrench he wanted. So he would pass him every one except the one he needed. Before long, rejected wrenches would be skidding across the garage floor.

Out of patience, Marvin would send Tim to the house for a can of cold beer. In an attempt to redeem himself, little Timmy would run as fast as his legs could carry him. He would go down to the house, up the stairs, straight to the fridge, back down the stairs and all the way up the hill to the garage — legs and arms pumping all the way.

Breathless but proud, he would hand the can to his dad and Marv would crack it open, only to get sprayed from head to toe with foam.

His brothers wheeze with laughter at these memories, and can relate similar interactions with their father. All four boys are hardworking family men, and tall and thin, just like Marv.

When I got married, they all had to be measured for tuxedos. Since no one on my side of the family has much height, my father marveled at how tall they all were.

"We measured them," I said. "They're six-one, six-two, six-three and six-four." My dad referred to them as "The Oakridge Boys."

Marv lived in the same house in Bucksport his whole life. He collected classic cars, and drove his antique autos to cruise-ins and car shows all summer long. At one time all of his garage bays were full: he had a truck, a convertible and two matching Dodge Coronets from the 1950s. He let us borrow those two beautiful cars on our wedding day, which still amazes me.

He loved cribbage, puzzle books, reading the news and tinkering in his workshop. When I met my in-laws, I found it funny that he spent most of his days out in his garage and workshop, while my mother-in-law stayed in the house. She used an intercom to call him at mealtimes.

She would go to the wall-mounted speaker, press the button, and say, “Marvin, lunch.” There would be a rumbling response and before long he would appear at the table, ready to eat. Four or five hours later, she would push the button again: “Marvin, dinner…” and up he’d come.

This seemed hilarious to me, but now things have come full circle. My husband spends most of his free time out in his workshop. So now I’m the one at the back door yelling, “Tim, lunch...” and waiting for a response.

A few hours later, I’m back at the door calling, “Tim...dinner!” I’ve been tempted many times to see if Radio Shack still makes intercoms like the one my in-laws used. It seems perfectly normal now. I guess the joke was on me.

In the end, I guess we each are given one beautiful life. What we do with it is up to us. How we are remembered is out of our control. The people who love you, love you no matter what. The ones who don’t, never will.

And the beat goes on.

Kris Ferrazza is a former reporter, assistant editor, copy editor and columnist with the Courier newspapers. She lives in Waldoboro.

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