Editors Note: When I was a theatre reviewer for Chicago Arts & Entertainment in 2002,
I was asked if i had a ‘special’ Christmas memory. The Guys is that memory.
I never knew how Roy spent the holidays until I needed to borrow his copy of the Gershwin musical, Crazy For You. Roy had a vast collection of theatre memorabilia and I always found him to be the source. I promised my nephew that we would watch the musical so he could be introduced to the wonders of Gershwin music. It was noon on Christmas Eve, snow was falling faster than the plows could remove it. I needed that tape. A promise is a promise.
Just as I got to Roy’s street, I noticed a red Chevy lumbering through the snow. It was Roy’s car but it was too far ahead to catch. I could only follow and wait until he stopped for a red light to signal him that I needed to talk. Roy didn’t stop for red lights that day. He was skidding and sliding through the blizzard like a man possessed. Where was he going? I always wondered how he spent Christmas since he had no family and he never accepted my invitations to our holiday parties. He simply stated that he would be with “the guys.”
Now I knew the same “guys” that he did, after all, we’d lived in the same Chicago neighborhood for 40 years. Where was he going? I decided to follow him and see who the mystery “guys” were.
After a long journey through the snow, Roy, with me close behind, arrived at a small six flat building on the far South Side. This place seemed to escape the mayor’s rehab program. Roy parked and entered the building with an armful of Christmas presents. By the time I parked, Roy had vanished. There were many names on the mailboxes, each with an Army unit insignia. Were these some old Vietnam Army buddies that I had never met? Roy would never talk about the war.
He always said, “Lots of guys served but not all came back, I was lucky.” A man about my age walked up to the door and asked, “Were you in the Unit too? I don’t recognize your face. These POW reunions get harder each year. If it wasn’t for Roy, most of us would be dead by now. You seem lost. Can I help you find someone?” I said, “no thanks,” and left the building. I had no right to be here. This place was for heroes. Roy would be with “his guys” and I would be trying to find all the Gershwin CD’s I could because a promise is a promise.
(This piece was published in Chicago Arts & Entertainment newspaper’s 2002 Christmas issue.)