No, not at all what you think. ;-)
This morning I have been thinking about a very dear family friend - Sexton K.., otherwise known as "Sexy". We met Mr K when he and his wife ran a fabric shop in our little town. He knew as much about the latest fads and fashions as any woman and I can still hear his voice saying things like "Don't buy the green honey, Purple is IN this season" or "No honey, that colour just does NOT suit you. Your skin suites peach and orange tones".
And in between the gossip and fashion advice were the stories. Mr K was a one-man show when it came to story-telling. His wife would watch him (nodding or shaking her head, but always smiling) as he spoke. So many stories, and such stories! Wicked, delightful, heart-warming or down-to-earth, but always funny.
Like the story of how he once offered to take a dead grandma to be buried for a poor family.. on the back of a fully loaded vegetable truck. Or, even better, how he conned an entire seaside village into stealing cats - purely for the fun of catching them out. Totally wicked, utterly awful and yet so hilariously funny that I start chuckling every time I even think of the word "cat" and "bus" in the same sentence.
Over the years my family went from being friendly customers to friends. Not a difficult step with Mr K. When he and his wife moved into a retirement home complex we kept in contact. They had to sell up their house after sudden ill health stripped away their savings, their home and their shop. And yet Mr K was never anything but upbeat.
Lose your home? "The retirement place is small so it is MUCH easier to dust, honey. "
Lose your business? "I have so much more time to go fishing now."
Having your wife become seriously ill? "At long last I get to be chief cook and have fun in the kitchen."
Find out you have an aneurism that could kill you at any moment?
"Well.. that certainly makes living each day to the full important! "
At the time when he found out about the aneurism he was working as the bus driver for the retirement home. The administrator was horrified when he found out. He said to Mr K, "What would have happened if you'd been driving a full bus when you suddenly died?"
To which Mr K replied, with a twinkle and a grin, "Then I wouldn't have died alone."
By then he was in his eighties, but he looked at least a decade younger and he acted like a man in his twenties. Rebellious, joyfully alive, teasing twenties. Nothing ever seemed to phase "Sexy", except perhaps when I told him I was getting married and moving to Scotland. He did droop that day, but within a few hours he was back with a challenge. He said he'd take my fiancé on in a duel because I'd been his "girlfriend" first and he wasn't letting me go off to the other side of the world without a fight! Then he laughed and gave me a hug.
No, he never fought the duel, but he did inspect my husband-to-be from every angle.. and warned him that if he ever made me unhappy he'd have Sexy K.. to deal with! No, the cats who were "removed" were not harmed. Yes, the administrator at the retirement home did take Mr K off bus duty, but he still carried on being busy and active. We rarely visited because he was rarely home. If he wasn't fishing he'd be arranging a charity event, visiting a sick friend or off selling his gorgeous home-made jams, pickles and preserves. He also continued to tease mercilessly, but with such a love and joy that you couldn't help but forgive him. Mr K had no intention of slowing down, or being good, for anyone.
The year I left South Africa was the year he died. I missed being there to say goodbye, but he would have just pulled a face and made a joke about that. My parents went to the funeral. They say there were four large candles in front of the altar.. and they kept behaving very oddly. First they'd go out, then they'd flare up huge.. the service kept having to be stopped so that someone could see to the candles. My mom says she wanted to laugh. She knew. Sexy was still being a tease, even at his own funeral.
I miss you, Mr K. You were more like family than a friend. I only hope I can meet my own old age with the same enthusiastic subversive spirit.