The Most Peculiar Disappearance of Ed Larson
There are stray people who, much like a stray dog, will quietly wander into your life, stay for a while, and then without warning, quietly leave. Ed Larson was just such a stray person. He was newly arrived from Sweden; all alone with neither family nor friends; no place to live; no means of support. So when Charlie met him — naturally — of course — there would be no question about it — Ed Larson, poor lonely fellow, should be brought home to live with us. And so he was, and did, as a member of the family, for three or four years. He found employment of some kind, I believe as a carpenter. He enjoyed working with wood, and had a decided talent for creating those intricately carved wooden boxes, so representative of Scandinavian crafts. Two of those boxes reside with me — along with a picture frame with my name carved in it, that he made as a gift to my mother to commemorate the auspicious occasion of my birth. He probably regretted the latter endeavor, for what he received in return was a royal dressing-down from my mother’s sharp tongue. He had spelled my name incorrectly, you see — an unforgivable sin. Although she never forgot that transgression, being a practical woman, after several years, when in need of a small fame, she relented and inserted a snapshot of her little girl and Spotty their dog into that much-maligned frame. It hangs in my kitchen to this very day. I was too young, of course, to remember much about Ed Larson. What little I know is from having heard the many family conversations through the years. There is one snapshot still in my possession that was taken during the construction of the Purdys house. It shows Ed Larson as a tall, lanky fellow bearing a remarkable resemblance to Hoagy Carmichael. (Which is neither here nor there, and has absolutely nothing at all to do with this story.) After several years, one Friday evening while the family was preparing for the usual early morning departure for a weekend in Purdys, Ed Larson begged off, saying he wanted to stay home. There was brief speculation as to whether he had finally found a “lady friend”. But lacking any hard evidence, the theory was quickly abandoned. Sunday night’s arrival home was to a quiet and darkened house. Ed Larson was gone. So was all of the silver, Jenny’s jewelry, and various of the smaller antique valuables which could be easily transported. (Not to mention the “Emergency Cash Fund” kept in the coffee can on the third shelf in the kitchen cabinet.) It was never considered that Ed Larson had met with foul play, for his clothes, suitcase, and woodworking tools were all gone, along with the man himself. Not to mention that his bed had been stripped, and the linen neatly (and thoughtfully) folded and placed on top of the washing machine in the basement, ready for the weekly Monday morning chore. Up to this point, this is not that unusual a story. Scenarios such as this are played out al the time — all over the world. What sets this story apart, and makes it so unusual, was the family’s reaction to the situation. Never once — either initially, or for the many times the story was repeated and discussed — was there ever any anger expressed toward Ed Larson. There was confusion, concern, puzzlement, and disappointment, to be sure — but never anger. There were many theories advanced to explain his departure and the attendant circumstances surrounding it. But not one was satisfactory. Everyone agreed that Ed Larson was not a thief — and that had he needed money for some reason, he surely should have known that he could have just asked for it. At first it was firmly believed that Ed Larson would come walking through the door at any minute with an explanation. Then an anticipated letter watched for on a weekly basis, never showed up in the mailbox. Then when the Thanksgiving turkey had been reduced to leftovers and the carcass turned into soup, everyone agreed that, without a doubt, Ed Larson would certainly be back for Christmas. But he wasn’t. Year after year, Ed Larson was mentioned less and less. After many Christmases had passed, Ed Larson was hardly ever mentioned at all — and when he was, the conversation usually ended with “I guess we’ll never know.” Through the years, one by one, everyone who had ever known him has gone. I’m the last one left who even remembers the story. So the puzzling mystery will forever remain unsolved. All that is left of Ed Larson are the two carved wooden boxes and the picture frame with the notoriously misspelled name. And when I’m gone, those three things will undoubtedly go to the thrift shop at St. Luke’s - to be purchased by someone who neither knows, nor cares about, their history. That someone may briefly wonder, perhaps with a smile, why a little girl and a wire-haired terrier are sitting on top of an overturned canoe. Then, never knowing that the little girl’s name was incorrectly spelled, remove the snapshot from the frame and with a shrug, throw it in the trash. And so it goes. I would like to think that somewhere along the way Ed Larson married and that there were children and grandchildren who remembered him lovingly. I hope that somewhere there is a headstone marking his passing and commemorating his life. I would hate to think that all that remains to attest to the fact of Ed Larson’s existence is this little story. But I guess that would be better than nothing…. wouldn’t it?