My friend, Leon


It’s very true that opposites attract.  My friend Leon and I are as different as night and day.  He is the salt of the earth, one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life.  I can be salty.  He is polite to everyone he encounters, I can be completely rude.  He has a giant heart, I pick and choose.  If ever, he’s very seldom a lounge lizard, I can excel at that.  He was born during the depression and I’m the last of the baby boomers.

Leon on his firetruck

In my early 30’s, he and his friend, Roger Carlson, used to come into the restaurant I worked at every Saturday night.  Roger had the out going personality, Leon was the shy one.  One night I informed them both that I was tired of the fact that they were each other’s date EVERY Saturday night and that they needed to get out there and live a little.  I pointed to a table w/2 women sitting at it and told them that I was going to go over and line up dates for them.  I walked over to the table w/the women at it and started talking to them, it wasn’t my table, I just struck up a random conversation.  Their table was far enough away from Leon and Roger’s table that those 2 couldn’t hear what we were conversing about, they just got to witness me talking to them.  Then I turned around and pointed to a picture on the wall behind the guy’s table and said to the women “don’t you love that?”.  At that point I got to take a glance at Roger and Leon, Roger was laughing,  poor Leon was  beat red.  The women looked in the same direction enthusiastically nodded that they did like that picture.  To most people it would have appeared that the ladies scoped out the men.  I ended my conversation w/the ladies and walked  back to Leon and Roger and told them that they were all set for the following Saturday.  There’s the difference between my dad and I, he would have asked the ladies to go out with the guys and I just pretended to :o)  Anyway, I thought poor Leon was going to die right there, so I confessed.

Another Saturday night, about a year later Leon came in, as usual, on Saturday but he was by himself and didn’t sit down.  I walked over to him and asked him what was up, he let me know that his dear friend Roger had had a brain aneurysm and was no longer with us.   Roger Carlson was 56 years old and is the one who started the annual Fire Muster in Burnsville.  He owned somewhere around 12 firetrucks when he died.   He’s also the one who introduced me to my dear friend, Leon.  When I attended his funeral I shouldn’t have been surprised to run into a fellow waitress that I had worked w/15 years previously.  Roger made an impression on people and always got to know those who provided him with some service or another.  I’m sure that if I’d have asked others, at Roger’s funeral, I would have met his grocer, his butcher, his baker and so on.

Not everyone would have done what Leon did when he made it a point to let the wait staff of the Timberlodge  know of his friend’s passing.  Bless him for that.  Three of us from the Timberlodge attended the funeral.  Leon assured us he would keep coming in for dinner, to keep in touch, and he did.  Not every Saturday, but at least once a month he would come in by himself  just to see us.    My older daughter, Shannon, started working there as a hostess when she got her 1st job.  He got to know her, came to her  grad party.  I took all the kids up to New Hope and he took them for a ride in his firetruck back in 2003.  We send each other postcards from our adventures, I was slow to get email but when I did we started emailing and when I finally left the restaurant industry in 2004 we decided that we’d go out to lunch occasionally instead of me serving him dinner.  Since then we’ve gotten to know each other a lot better.  Shannon, Kevin and Samantha have each joined us from time to time.  He came to Samantha’s grad party and Shannon and Kevin’s wedding.

Shannon and Kevin’s reception wasn’t a “seated” event so when I thought about it, I know, but lots of things on the  brain when one is MOB,  I would look for Leon, worry about him sitting alone.  The last time I had that thought I did locate him at a table of people half my age that I didn’t even know.  I moved him to my parent’s table.  He had a great time!   Turns out he thinks my dad is as funny as my dad thinks he is :o)

Leon takes an annual summer trip and goes everywhere.  It used to be by motorcycle.  He took his last summer motorcycle trip when he was 75 years old.  He sold his beloved motorcycle a few years later.  He was very sad but said that he’d never had an accident and wanted to keep it that way.  I was sad for him.  But he still goes every summer, just by car now.  To see cousins, aunts, uncles, his daughter and her children on the east coast, to steam engine museums, firetruck shows, you name it.  He’s back from his trip this year and I can’t wait to have lunch with him to hear all about this year’s trip.

Leon doesn’t drink, he has never smoked and he’s a nice man.  I like beer, I still smoke and I pick and choose when I’m going to be nice.  Like I said, opposites attract.  He has 3 children, I do too.  So there ya go, we have something in common after all.