THE BLOG

One Ring

11/15/2012 01:48 pm ET | Updated Jan 15, 2013
  • Lawrence D. Elliott Author, 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' contributor, Toastmasters International member

"Give me one ring," is what I always heard from Lisa's mom as we headed out the door. It was something that was said every time we left Lisa's parents' Anaheim home on our journey to our home. It was her mom's traditional farewell.

It dated back to when Lisa's Grandpa Joe lived in Apple Valley, approximately 90 minutes away. Whenever he'd leave after a family gathering, before he made the drive, Lisa's mom would tell him, "Give me one ring."

The meaning of this was quite simple. When he arrived home, he was supposed to call the family, let the phone ring once, then hang up. It was a sign that he had made it home safely. Back in the days before inexpensive long distance service, this was a money-saving solution to let those far away know you're okay.

Grandpa Joe eventually died from heart failure. The story of what happened the night the family returned home from the hospital after his death is quite amazing. The phone rang... just once. It occurred exactly 90 minutes after his death. That was Grandpa Joe checking in. To them, it meant he had arrived at his final destination.

I can't remember how many times I've heard that story. And no one seemed to tell it more than Lisa's dad Dave, who was not only my manager, but my business partner in real estate. He was also my father-in-law.

Often, people I tell the story to ask me if it was true. "That's what the family says," I'd say with a smile. You see, with Dave you didn't always know. To put it kindly, the line between truth and fiction could be a blurry one.

On Tuesday, November 13, 2012, at 3:30 AM (PT), David Morris Scharlin peacefully departed this world. He was 83-years-young. It made me reflect with great emotion upon this complicated man.

He was not only a dedicated realtor in Southern California for over 40 years, but he was a Korean War veteran and a graduate of Long Beach State University with an accounting degree.

His real estate clients loved him and he loved them, too. He would gently guide them through each deal as if they were his own children.

He was also an officer of the corporation and a sales trainer. His agents loved him even more than his clients and they trusted him as he transformed them from green apples to polished and shiny red ones. He was a true teacher at heart.

He loved to mingle with the younger agents, not the "old folks", as he'd say. He believed the young people kept him young.

He wasn't a financially wealthy man, but if he had ten dollars in his pocket and you needed it, he'd give it to you. And if you really were in need, he'd find a way to materialize it into a twenty spot.

Of course, like all of us, he wasn't without his imperfections. He could make you angry one minute, then do something truly kind that would make you forget you were so pissed.

He was always ready with a joke or two, most of them on the dirty side. I can't tell you how many times I've walked away shaking my head.

Dave was a living and breathing reminder that to demand perfection from anyone in this world, we'd be searching on the wrong planet. We all have our shortcomings, whether we want to admit it or not.

And no matter how "politically incorrect" his comments were, that white, Jewish man never failed to introduce this black man as his son-in-law. And once in a while, he'd slip and say, "This is my son, Lawrence."

Can you imagine the looks we received?

After Lisa and I divorced, he said to her, "He'll always be my son."

Perhaps it wasn't a "slip," after all.

He could make you angry. He could frustrate the hell out of you. But just when you thought you had him figured out, he'd do something wonderful that made you realize you really loved him, too.

When Lisa shared the news of his passing with me, we both wept on the phone. After I hung up, tears continued to fall for another hour. When they stopped, I could feel a smile warm my face as I reflected upon a few funny moments with this complicated man. And that's how I'll choose to remember him.

Not only was his companion Vivian with him when he left, but so was Lisa, who had held her mom in her arms when she passed away ten years before.

I just hope Lisa keeps her phone nearby, ready to get her "one ring". This time, it'll be from her mom, letting her know her dad arrived at his final destination.

And you never know, maybe I'll get one, too.

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