For the last three years, a local garage has taken care of my car. Referred there by a friend, I quickly got to know the owners who took me under their wing and taught me about how Vermonters interact. As time passed, I got to know more people in the shop, including the wiry man with the scraggly white Vermont beard and sweet smile who often worked on my car.
He called me sweetheart—and got away with it—and he knew a lot about a lot of things, including everything that happened on my hill. He lived further up the hill, so from time to time, Ken would give me a ride home if my car was still ailing. He told me about his beagles, and we swapped dog stories. He spoke of his wife with respect and love, even while he flirted with me in a way that said it was only in fun.
Last week, I took my car in to see what it might need and the shop owner handed it to Ken with instructions: “Do whatever you would do if it were your wife or your daughter.” My car came back with four new snow tires, an oil change, and the worrisome banging in the defroster has gone away. I felt very well cared for.
Last night, Ken died. He fell while trying to cut a branch, and died of injuries in the fall. As a young friend who had known him all her life pointed out, “It’s the way he would have wanted to go—quick and with little pain.” We all miss him very much.