I told a story a few weeks ago about our old handyman, Scott Ayres. We were lucky enough to know Scott for almost 15 years until he died in 2009. The day he drove like a maniac to make sure I hadn't electrocuted myself ini the basement was so typical of the man he was. Recently I've been thinking of the last time Scott came to the house to see me.
On Christmas Eve 2008 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had postponed getting a mammogram for about 2 years, and Christmas Eve was the next available date. The technician noticed a large calcification and asked me to wait outside until someone could review the films. The radiologist was very kind, but basically said there was no place I could hide from this.
Over the next few months I had a barrage of procedures and appointments, then ultimately had a mastectomy at the end of March. I didn't see much of Scott during that time, mostly because we were preoccupied with medical procedures and didn't have time or presence of mind to deal with home improvement projects. I learned later that during that time Scott had been diagnosed with his own cancer nemesis, an enemy much more devious and deadly than my own. He underwent numerous procedures including basically having an open hole in his chest where doctors poured in chemotherapy drugs in hopes of stopping the spread. Try as he might, nothing worked.
A couple of weeks after my surgery, while I was home recuperating, Scott came by to visit. He drove up in his old Hudson and parked in his usual spot at the top of the driveway. Scott normally showed up at our house in a plaid flannel shirt and jeans, sometimes with his dog and always with a bagged lunch. That day he was coming to call in a button down vest, collared shirt and dress pants with a brimmed cap covering his closely cropped hair. He was thin and somewhat frail, but came in and hugged me with strength, energy and purpose.
We pulled up two stools to the kitchen island and began to swap stories. It was such a strange conversation—I was fine....my surgery was successful and prognosis exceptionally good. He asked about my doctors, my surgery, my recovery plan. But Scott was dying, and even though he had undergone some of the most invasive treatments possible, there was little hope for him. I struggled with the fact that I should be the one visiting him, not him wasting energy to visit me. I can't even imagine the amount of strength that it took for him just to get dressed and drive to my house. We talked for about an hour, but he was tired and needed to go home. Before he left he handed me a box to open. Inside was a small mobile he had crafted from a fork and 5 silver spoons, flattening the spoons into small fish. It was adorable and he helped me put up a small hook so that I could hang it in my kitchen window.
I remember barely being able to say goodbye to Scott when he left, and I must have known it would be the last time I saw him. Hans and I played for his funeral, and it was one of the most difficult services I have ever played. I truly believe music has soothing and healing powers, but on that day it was nearly impossible to find any comfort in trying to provide relief for his family and friends. I think of him often, pretty much every time something breaks down or we're cursing our "California contemporary" for its quirky flaws. His mobile still hangs in the kitchen though, and I am always struck by the beauty of its gentle ring whenever a breeze catches it through the bay window.