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Lee’s Heart

4:00 p.m. It’s Friday, December 7th. I’m on time at Curious Craftsman, a shop in Norfork, Arkansas, ready to sign books for four hours. Here, just in case someone buys a book and wants it signed.

I’m pretty disciplined about writing. But not so good about marketing what I write. Tonight I’m making an effort to market books.

Curious Craftsman is cozy and smells like a flower. I’m surrounded by art, quilts, pottery, jewelry, books.

My corner of the world is expecting snow and sleet tonight, but it has not yet started. Someone says, “After midnight. Not ’til then.”

My time has gone to Thanksgiving, family, and writing lately. But once I get set up at a table and have pens laid out, it all comes back to me. Much joy in meeting people and talking about books.

I’m in the middle of downtown Norfork. I get to be social with people from my area, whether they buy a book or not.

The first person to enter the door is an older gentleman. He sees three women in the small store. Someone greets him. He says two words. “Pat Durmon.” I respond, “That’s me.”

He then says, “I’m Lee.”

Immediately, I know who he is.

He’s the man who’d written me a short note saying how much he appreciated my writing a poem about his aunt Bernice Warren and her Victorian Rose house in Norfork. The house is directly across from the shop we now stand in.

I hurry across the shop floor and hug him. He may have been a little surprised by my doing that.

Short history: I had long admired the house called The Victorian Rose. I tried to capture it in a poem. Lee knew the house intimately. As a child, he found love and comfort from Aunt Bernice, the woman of the house.

Weeks back, Lee had seen a write-up in the newspaper about my winning an award for the poem which I have renamed “Bernice and Her Victorian Rose.” He and his family were thrilled to have a poem written by a poet about their dear Bernice and her home.

So, when he announces himself, I am filled with delight.

We find a spot to stand and talk.

I have 15 minutes with him. I want two hours. Never have I heard such a big heart for a town.

He shares how he’d written down much of his growing-up years in Norfork. He opens a folder and shows me copies of pictures of Bernice. (I had never seen her photo before.) Boldly, I ask if I might borrow his writings, promising to return them.

“Oh,” he says, “these pages are for you. I have another copy.”

What a gift. I tear up.

Know, kind readers, that I had spent much time researching this house online, at the library, and through phone interviews before writing a two-page poem, but Lee was not one of my sources. I did not know about him until he read the article and contacted me to say thank you for honoring his aunt in such a way.

Lee is kind-faced, a good thinker, and praises the townspeople of Norfork. He tells me, “I came to this town from an orphanage. The people in this town welcomed me, taught me, corrected me, helped me.” Clearly, he felt mothered and fathered by his adopted parents and many of the people living here. He is especially grateful for those who spent time and energy loving him as he grew up.

Now he stands in a craft shop, telling a poet of his deep love for his town and its people.

It touches me to hear his words. I place my hand over my heart and tell him so. Then he says, “Imagine how good I feel meeting you!”

Really, what had I done to deserve praise? I wrote a poem about a generous woman who was real and down-to-earth, and a house he’d loved being in and out of as a child. He loved that I had honored this woman who was so dear to him. Legacy. I suppose one soul honoring another is something.

Lee says he is four years away from being 90. I love the way he says that.

He came to just meet me.

Now if those words don’t make you feel special…

How often do I go somewhere to just meet another person? It’s paying a high compliment.

I happily receive the folder containing some of Lee’s memories, photos, an important chunk of his life. He just handed it over to me, trusting me with it.

Today, we do not have much snow. I spend the better part of the morning reading every word Lee has written. My eyes water as I read.

I call him.

His story is tender and powerful. The man writes with all his heart.

My life now is the life of a writer. Writers are the kind of people who tell feelings, let others into their vulnerable world, and make adjustments when the story makes a u-turn. (Like me, Lee fits the description of a writer.)

You think you are in a shop to talk about books, but no, that’s not it at all. You are there to meet people, hug people, get surprised. It’s a God thing, and there’s no way to make it logical.

What a moving and fun time. How I love being reminded that the world still has goodness in it.

Thank you, Lee.


Pat Durmon

P.S. I thank my readers for any sharing or commenting. It certainly blesses me, and perhaps it helps another.

Photo of Pat selling books at Curious Craftsman in Norfork, Arkansas, taken by Diane McCarthy from Norfork, December 7, 2018.

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