On Aug. 18, my friend "Big Ed" Chatham went home.
I met Ed three years ago at the McDonalds in Grovetown. As I came in on the right side of the restaurant, in the very back section on the right sat Big Ed with his Advantage camo hat on; very seldom did I ever see him without it. Ed was a big man: probably 6 feet 2 or 3, dark hair with a little grey around the edges, black mustache, glasses; a strong face, but a kind face. He would always greet you with and a "hey, how ya doin'." As I came back many times over I would see Ed again, and finally wound up sitting with him and trying to solve the world's problems. Ed had one special place he sat and nobody ever challenged it.
Through time several of the locals would come in and have coffee or a biscuit and eventually there was a great meeting of the minds. Fellows like Henry, Sir Charles, Bob (The Bird Dog Trainer) Doodle and the Mrs., Bob Keller, Ted and Hal, Cliff (who drove a yellow three-wheeled motorcycle) and Charlie (the peanut man), just to mention a few. Even Mayor Dennis Trudeau would drop in from time to time. Quite a cross-section of personalities.
Ed would generally stay there until about 11 each morning. You see, his wife worked at night and Ed was suffering from lung cancer.
When he first told me he had cancer, I asked him what he was going to do to beat it. He said he didn't think anything. Gruff in his response, I told him there were too many people who loved him - not to mention a grandson whom he loved with all of his heart. He had to try.
He eventually went on to have chemo and went into remission. Oh, he had to quit smoking with some resolve, but he did it anyway.
About a year and a half later, the cancer came back. Without any hesitation, Ed went back on chemo. He seemed sicker this time after each treatment and wanted to quit. But I think just being around his peer group and the love of his family he kept going.
The emotional side of this story humbles me - humbles me a lot.
When folks would come in the door at McDonalds they would always get a greeting from Ed, especially little children. He would buy them a Happy Meal to get them a toy or maybe give them a dollar; anything to see them smile.
As I was growing up in Grovetown (been there 55 years now), Poole's Grocery was the hub as McDonalds is now. They had a lazy bench in front of it where the locals would go each day and do the same as we do today.
About a year ago a few of us were in McDonalds one morning and I asked Henry where all of the old-timers went now. He said I was looking at them. It's hard to believe we take this much for granted.
I would always refer to the guys who would get together in the morning as "The Big Ed Club." Who will take his place? I guess we will all take turns.
You're in our hearts, old friend. I look forward to seeing you again one day.
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