Every time I hear singer Joe Jackson on the radio I think of Vinton. He loved Joe Jackson, an unassuming British singer in a sea of outrageous 1980s acts.
Vinton was funny and well-read. He was also very thoughtful—thoughtful of other people, and thoughtful about ideas, and thoughtful of the world around him. He was smart, but discreet in sharing it. In a small Southern town, and within our friend group, smart was allowed, but smart-aleck was better.
He adored my mother, and she loved him. He was in and out of our house just like the rest of my friends, and attended her Christmas cookie decorating parties every year. But he always had a special word for her, and a shared private laugh with her.
Years earlier, because of my extreme fondness of Mr. Bell’s invention, I’d picked up the nickname, “Little Debbie Digit, Queen of the rotary dial”. It had been shortened to Digit.
But to Vinton I was Didge. He was the only person on the planet that called me that, and the only person on the planet who I would have ever let call me that.
Among his many jobs when we were young, he worked at the hospital at the same time I did. When someone called him, they called the main switchboard, and he’d be paged.
Vinton’s last name was Turnburke. The first time the operator paged him, she called for “Vincent Turner”. It became a running gag. Each time she paged him, she’d make up some convoluted mishmash that vaguely sounded like Vinton Turnburke.
One evening I heard a page for “Fentris Parker”. When I saw him in the hall later, I told him that that was the best name she’d made up yet.
He said, “I liked it too. But the funny thing is, I went to elementary school with a kid called ‘Fentris Parker’!”
Vinton and I spent so much time together, got along so well, and were so fond of each other, we decided it would be logical to begin dating. It made perfect sense.
Until we kissed.
It was like licking a battery.
It was then that we learned that logic has nothing to do with romance. We loved each other fiercely, but it was the deepest of friendships, which we cherished as much as the relationships we each had with our own spouses.
He settled in South Carolina, and when we spoke on the phone, he’d always say, “What’s going on, Didge?” And we’d talk for hours, transported back to those days in Elizabeth City, instantly as close and familiar as we ever were.
He was my rock. I always knew he was there, and no matter what, no matter when, he’d be there for me.
I can’t remember that last time I spoke to Vinton, but it’s been a while. You know, life gets in the way, and you tell yourself you’ll call and check in soon.
His wife Barbara called last week. After a short but ugly illness, Vinton passed away.
My friend, that very special chunk of my heart, was no more. I wish I could remember the last time I talked to him. I wish I could have said goodbye, and told him I loved him, one more time.
It sucks and it hurts.
Gentle Reader, don’t do this to yourself. Call them. You know the one. The one you love, but take for granted that you’ll get around to. Knock it off. Call them now, listen to their voice, tell them you love them, and hear them tell you they love you.
Just call them.
Thanks for your time.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.