Just a Man
It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they executed the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York. Nineteen summers had come and gone since I'd last seen his smile; felt his arms around me in a reassuring hug before I climbed into Aunt Grace's and Uncle Lester's De Soto to go live with them in Savannah. What right did I have to feel such pain, such a sense of loss? He wasn't my daddy, my husband, my friend, my son, my brother, my uncle, or whatever else he was to those he lived around daily. He was just a man I had known for a few days.
The instant I'd read the headline in our paper that Saturday morning I'd burst into tears. I'd wanted to climb back in bed and spend the day weeping, but my children's Sunday school class had been waiting for me to take them to Uncle John's farm on a picnic. The activities of the day had offered an escape of sorts, but reality had never quite gone away, dancing around the edges. And at eleven that evening, when I'd stepped out in the back garden of the boarding house I resided in, there was one lone star in the sky and I was slapped cold.
Nothing had changed. Nor could it be changed. Mr. Stone wouldn't be in his office or in court on Monday. He wouldn't be doing his best to punish the wrongs of the world. He was not. He was gone.
I'd meant to go back, to let him know I had done well, had survived the horrors of my twelfth spring when Mama and Papa had been executed in the apartment we had moved into Saturday afternoon. The bad guys had finally caught up with Papa and I found the bodies when I went to take them breakfast in bed on Sunday morning.
Mr. Stone, living in the apartment below ours, heard my screams. He cared for me until Mama's sister in Georgia could come and take me home with her.
I never made it back until that summer, the summer they executed the Rosenbergs, the summer the bad guys murdered Mr. Stone. What was I doing in New York placing a rose on the grave of a man I'd barely known? I couldn't explain it then. And I can't explain it now, forty-six years later, as I place another rose at his tombstone -- other than to say, that it just feels right to me.