Wednesday, July 09, 2014

For James Freeman, in memoriam.

Libby Lee and Freeman consider one another.
July 2013.
We called him Freeman, never actually knowing that his name was “James.” Freeman was such a perfect name for a great and jovial guy. It suited him just fine.

Freeman may be the first person that I have my daughter, Libby Lee, to thank for knowing. He sat across the street, a jovial sentinel, usually positioned in a plastic lawn chair to the right of the front door.

He was one of the first people that Libby Lee became fond of (even though she would feign shyness if we actually walked across the street to say 'hi').

She knew Freeman from his laugh and his smile. From across the street would come that rich baritone: “Libby Lee!” followed by a laugh that was part Santa Claus, but all Freeman. More melodic than Santa, completely benign and expecting nothing. When Freeman rang out with “Libby Lee!” it was an acknowledgement to our 2 year old daughter; no action was required – like passing on the street with a friendly greeting. Whenever Freeman called out “Libby Lee!” it reminded me of an Owensboro restaurateur from my childhood named Gabe Fiorella, whose legacy was greeting diners on Sunday at the door, shaking hands and saying “Hi neighbor! It’s a wonderful world!”

That was Freeman to my daughter — to my whole family. But it was my daughter who really introduced us to him, before she could even talk.

One special day, when not being shy.
July 2013
It was his gold tooth that won her over. Before she could form words, we’d sit across the street on our side porch — in a house that Freeman himself had spent many hours in during his younger days, I learned — and Libby Lee would point across the street, towards the Black’s porch, looking impishly at me, making cooing noises … and pointing at her mouth. I laughed so hard when I realized that she was telling me about Freeman’s gold front tooth.

Libby Lee was always keeping track of Freeman, began recognizing his always spotless, shiny black Chrysler 500 as a two-year old. Every day, she would look for him. She would ask with some of her earliest words: “Where Freeman?” Libby Lee’s fondness for Freeman grew OUR fondness for him, to the point where I would regularly impersonate him, on a daily basis, bellowing out my best, most friendly “Libby Lee! Ho-ho-ho-ho!” which always made her smile and giggle.

And of course we would come and visit, not often enough, I now see in retrospect. Libby Lee would ask to cross the street to see that gold-toothed man with the giant, loving smile and laugh. That man who offered “knuckles” and “fives” — usually while she clung tenaciously to my hip and buried her face in my neck (all the while on the verge of giggling). When her face would peak out, there would be a giant smile across it. 

And it was a smile for one very special guy named FreemanWe will so miss you, James. Thanks for the love you shared with our family.

In Memoriam for James Freeman
A Wake and Service is Saturday, July 12, 2014 at 10am
at New Day Community Church. Click here for more information.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

That was beautiful! May God Bless Freeman and his friends and family. I will miss you my friend, thanks for all your help when I needed it the most.

Dameta Sanders

lezley hamilton said...

im gonna miss him a lot..ive known freeman since I was a baby,,he knew me before I came out of my mothers womb..last time I saw him was thanksgiving at his daughters (jill) house..an his smile was bright as usual.