Thursday, May 27, 2010

Harold Gerow

When I first met Mr. Gerow he was already in his 70’s, a rail-thin man with a neat white goatee wearing a baseball cap and driving a pick-up truck filled with lawn mowers, blowers, rakes, shovels and weed-whackers. He reminded me of my brother, a man who also works in the heat of the day and carries not a pound of extra flesh. And they both wore a similar smile; I don’t recall ever seeing Mr. Gerow when he wasn’t smiling, at least softly, as he went about his work. He took care of our cabin now and then, mowing and whacking away at the grass and weeds and keeping a watchful eye out in the off-season.

I met him through a neighbor whose yard he had been tending to for a number of years. It gave me a sense of well-being knowing that Mr. Gerow was checking in on the cabin during the long winter months when snow and ice storms came roaring through our neck of the woods, felling the massive oak and beech and pine trees that grow precariously in the rocky soil and dropping them on cabins.

Last week I called him to check in and there was no answer, which was unusual, normally his wife picked up the phone to tell me he was out working – he was always out working. I called again a few days later and the machine picked up again. I learned subsequently that he passed away this winter, a few days after my mother.

I admired his industry, his energy and his spirit and I will miss him. He told me once that he had never left the state of New York, in all his 79 years he stayed close to home, raising his family on the farm where he was brought up. In an age when people have trouble making any sort of commitment, be it to work or to another person, it was a bit of a shock to me to meet a man who had never felt the need to venture beyond the place where he was born. I am glad I had the chance to know Harold Gerow; I don’t expect I’ll meet another like him.