I’ve spent a lifetime asking, “Who’s Fred?”
Growing up, whenever something was about to happen, Dad would say, “Somebody ought to wake up Fred.” Then we’d go on about our day, but always… Something happened. Good, or bad, it didn’t matter… Somebody ought to wake up Fred.
As I got older, I started wondering at the phrase, but I don’t really remember asking “Who’s Fred?” There was a point in my life when I had a friend named Fred, but I knew he wasn’t the Fred my dad spoke often of… So, I never connected the two. Life continued, and I developed what I’ve often referred to as a “friendship” with Fred, the man of my father’s phrase.
Whenever things are about to get real, I “think” more often than “say,” “Somebody ought to wake up Fred!”
And for about a month now… I’ve been thinking, “Somebody ought to wake up Fred!”
Fred and George Aloysius are brothers.
Whenever someone new came around, Dad called them George Aloysius. Always got a laugh, but it was his name for anyone with a new name. If you messed up, you were George. As in “George, that ain’t the way it goes… Stop.” Or some other warning. And if you were smart enough to listen to the tone, you knew before you were in trouble that you really needed to heed the warnings.
Many of the men who worked with dad learned to heed those warnings… Some failed. Some grew to love and appreciate the mild mannered directives, and others became frustrated and moved on.
The key to finding direction was in listening.
Fred and George are real.
In a not so fun game of life, I learned the very real existence of both Fred and George. Fred became my go-to guy in times of trouble or ambition… If I needed something to happen, I reminded myself by “waking up Fred” and leaning hard on his presence in my life. He was always there, waiting, applauding, aware of the shift, the need, the existence of “something” or “someone.” My best friend, my brother, my reality? Some might think I was a nut job if I admitted how real Fred became in my life, and when… But he became a reality in a time and place where I needed a shoulder.
Cruising into that wilderness of adulthood that became parenting, Fred picked up the pieces, put me back together, and set me on the road to success. And he never slept through any of the chaos that came after. He was always there, riding shotgun, ready to be my forever buddy.
Fred always seems to show up when I need him most.
And then there’s George. My warning signal. George Aloysius Johnson Smith, as he became one late night on the highway, when the snow blew flat, white became a color, and blindness was the only vision. I needed to see. I needed George not to be my warning but to be my solution, and his warning guided me to safety.
Those words… “Stay the course.” Resound to this moment.
Fred and George are Proud Partners in Life.
Fred celebrates my wins. He provides the shoulder and support I need when life goes wrong. Whether he’s there or not, I never fail to wake up Fred. Even a phone call or a text that just shows up on my phone is a good enough reminder… To wake up Fred.
It had been a while since that long blue limo had showed up in my world, and I hadn’t really told him that I moved down the front range. But I wasn’t surprised when I pulled up to the light behind the limo and the blinker came on. I followed him to the side of the road and stopped behind the limo in a parking lot on the far side of town.
The years have not been so kind, and he’s wrinkled up more than last time I saw him. He asked about my baby girl… And I updated him on all the kids. Where they are, what they’re doing, and when I saw them last… He reminded me of a moment in time, and I shared my daughter’s radio show story, and subsequent ticket winnings to a sporting event. We laughed. He laughed.
And I remembered to ask…
Yes. I have permission to write the Fred story.
After breakfast at a local restaurant, Fred reminded me that the rest of the story hasn’t ever been told. We chatted over the books of notes I’ve kept over the years, and he asked if I would mind including “George” in the book. Beezer was a foregone conclusion, but George? Really, George?
So, sitting there sipping orange juice, biting off strips of bacon, and nibbling at my cheesy scrambled eggs, we discussed the options of writing it as “Non-Fiction, unofficial biography. Or Fiction based on Fact.”
Read: Write Your Story
Then he asked, “How are you going to put the story together?”
I reminded him of waking up Fred. And he wanted to know why I started calling him Fred.
Driving home across Kansas at midnight, Dad had passed the bus, and said, “There’s Fred.”
Giggling, I said, “I thought that was George.”
Down the road a bit, we stopped for gas. Standing in line at the checkout, I had a couple of snacks, a few bottles of pop, and some other crazy thing, standing behind some big guy in black leather that had walked in after I did. He shifted from one foot to the other and managed to knock one bag of snacks out of my hand. As he turned around to excuse himself, I recognized him, and responded… “No worries, Fred.”
He raised an eyebrow and said, “Fred?”
I laughed and told him about passing the bus earlier in the trip. He picked up my chips and was next in line. We stood there a moment and I realized he’d paid for my arm full of goodies, as well as his own arm full of snacks. As we walked outside, he carried my bag and walked me back to the motor home. He shook hands with Dad, and we all had a good laugh about waking up Fred before we headed off in the same direction… again.
With the CB on, we chatted most of the way across Kansas, before he dropped south to pick up a show the following day. We were home shortly after dawn. And Fred knew where we lived…
And that… My friends, is about as close as you’re going to get to knowing “Who’s Fred?” Until the book comes out. But, I’ll be working on writing this one, from years of notes…