Tag Archives: long marriages


Yesterday a friend came by and said her husband was at the funeral parlor, one of his friends from the Mutual breakfast gang had died. The Mutual is the diner that time decided to ignore. Two eggs and coffee with toast are $2.50, and the booths are dark fake wood Formica. The staff are cheerfully surly and the regulars are mostly retired guys in seed caps.

Jack is a regular (but he wears a flat cap) so of course we were startled, and asked in unison, “WHO?”

Eulis was a Korean War Veteran, a long haul truck driver (as was his son after him) a loving husband and an attentive father. He made trips with his son John until about 3 months before the last stroke laid him low. Eulis was the only guy I ever knew who swore coffee tasted different in Styrofoam cups than in ceramic mugs.

Over the years Eulis never said much to me beyond, “Waaalll, there she is; how’s Mrs. Jack today?” Sometimes he’d say, “You know, your husband’s a fine man, Missy, a fine man.” And I’d smile and agree.

Naturally, Jack loved Eulis.

As we measured out our lives with Mutual coffee spoons, we watched Eulis walk tall and proud, then with a hearing aid, then a cane, and finally a slow, booth-to-booth shuffle, stopping to regain his balance with a hand clamped to each seat back.

His wife Annie was brilliant. “That the best you can do?” she’d goad him when he slumped or rested over-long. Annie used to be a nurse. She’d been married to Eulis many years, and she knew how to keep him standing to the very end. He was a proud man.

And a fixture to us, here in the community. Eulis was as much a part of Mutual mornings as the chipped ceramic mugs he drank from. His cap with the “Korean Veteran” lettering. His wire frame glasses. His quiet, tall presence.

About two months ago a mutual (Mutual) acquaintance came by the shop and said, “Wendy, you know who’d make a really good book? Eulis. He’s got some life story. And he’s such a nice guy. You should go talk to him. I think he’d do it.”

“Sure,” I said, my mind going to the slow shuffle I’d last seen him doing. Step. Hand clamp. Rest. Shift. Step. Annie behind him all the way, holding him up with her careful, aimed teasing. I resolved to find time soon.

There’s an African proverb that says, “When an old person dies, a library burns.”

In his obituary, Eulis made all his fellow coffee drinkers from the Mutual honorary pallbearers.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized

Honey Do – Right Now!

Jack’s weekly guest post

Husbands of a practical turn who live in old rambling houses will be very familiar with the ongoing list of tasks to be accomplished just to keep everything ship-shape, far less the more extensive jobs needed for renovations.

Some four years ago we applied for a license to serve food in the bookstore and this turned up the need for an additional sink in the kitchen area. Assembling all the needed plumbing requirements, I practiced a few essential curses, then set to with a will. Several bashed knuckles and contortions later, it was finished – – almost – –

A drawer unit had been where the new sink was installed, so now the space where the drawer had opened out had no room for the actual drawer. The obvious answer was to take the front off the drawer and fit it as a dummy over the space. Much easier said than done! Eventually a temporary fix was accomplished that worked so long as no one tried to open it. From then on we got used to the sound of the drawer front falling on the floor fairly regularly and I got used to adjusting the not very effective method of holding it in place.

My long-suffering wife regularly asked me to do something permanent about it and just as regularly I promised I would.

Last night was our weekly Needlework Night (AKA ‘Stitch N’ Bitch’)and as I passed briefly through the all female company I heard the familiar sound of the drawer front hitting the floor. Wendy appeared with an expression of determination on her face, saying “WILL you fix that thing properly?”

“Of course dear,” I said, and continued with what I was doing.

Shortly I heard a sound – rrriiipppp, it went – rrriiipppp again, and again. The needleworkers fell silent, eyes fixed on their work. I looked toward the sink area —

–where Wendy was just finishing putting the drawer front very inelegantly but quite firmly in its place. With brown packaging tape.

Maybe you'll fix the darned thing now?

Maybe you’ll fix the darned thing now?

My mother had a favorite story she told me often in her later years:  apparently she, my dad (a house-painter with his own decorating business) and we very young children would visit his widowed mother on Sunday afternoons. On occasion she got up from the table, dipped her finger in the jam-jar, walked over to a piece of loose wallpaper she had been complaining about for ages and stuck it down with jam. Not a word did she say!

It must run in the family (although the drawer front is now firmly and permanently fixed by me, I hasten to add). Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. . . 


Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA