Batter up! After we unloaded two antique swinging doors from my friend’s truck, he drove away. I stayed to talk to the owner of the antique repair shop. He worked in an old building filled with piles of pieces of antiques as if all had been dropped off for recycling.
“Come on back,” Lee responded. Although I knew, from the sound of his voice, that he was only ten or fifteen feet ahead of me, I couldn’t see that far. Tools and glue pots and pieces of wood leaning against partially restored tables and whatnots blocked all but a trail about fifteen inches wide.
I pulled one of the doors, about seven feet tall and twenty inches wide, in Lee’s direction. Seconds later, his smile greeted me as he peeked out from behind a piece he was finishing.
“Nice,” he said, despite noting the chipped white paint. “That stained glass is beautiful.”
Lee was referring to the diamond shaped panes in the upper half of the top panel. He asked how much I’d paid.
I asked if he could dip the pair to remove the paint. In the years since we’d last talked, I knew a lot had changed. The city had shut him down for a while; they claimed his building was a fire hazard although he’d been doing the same work there for more than twenty-five years. Added to that, the auctions that had welcomed his reworked antiques no longer brought decent prices. “That’s why my truck and vans are for sale,” he told me. “And my wife divorced me. I’m living here now,” he said, and pointed to the far side of the building. “In a camper.”
We talked a while longer before I left. In an interesting way, being with Lee was like the old simple days when we’d done business together. I knew he’d do what I needed and would do it right. But I also remembered that, long ago, I had to wait months for him to finish and deliver.
That’s why I was surprised to see him this afternoon, only a week after dropping off the doors. “They’re ready,” he said. “Gotta be 100 to 150 years old. Just beautiful.”
Minutes later, he and I studied the craftsmanship. Impeccable. “Thanks,” I said, as I paid him a little more than what he’d asked.
I was eager to do my work, hand sanding then applying tung oil. Indeed, I would have started it this evening, but I’d promised to go to services at our Temple. We were having guests from Martinsville; their Jewish congregation includes only twenty-two families. I knew many of them.
At the oneg afterwards, I saw D., a man I’d befriended decades before; he and his family had owned a department store then. Now, at seventy, he’s a consultant.
“And I play softball,” he said.
“Yeh, it’s the over sixty-five league. Wanna play?”
“Love to,” I said. “I pitch.”
“Terrific! We have a few men from Danville. Practice starts in February.”
I couldn’t believe it. I’d wanted to play for years but couldn’t think of a team that would have me. As I listened to D.’s story about his recent heart operation (stints for blockages), I tried to picture what the games would be like.
“What position do you play?” I asked.
“Centerfield. All the fastest guys are in the outfield,” he said. I tried to imagine that too.
“I’d better start to get back into shape,” I said to D. For the first time in years, that thought excited me. Even so, I wasn’t sure what to do first.
What I did know was that, before I could begin, I had to restore an old set of doors and make them look new.
B. Koplen 11/9/12
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