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The Light Touch / Remembering Spike, a Westport treasure

Updated 11:32 am, Wednesday, October 17, 2012
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Those of us who knew Michael "Spike" Fritchman are the luckiest people in the world. We all had the privilege of being members of the elite "Spike" Fritchman fan club. And so, by sharing him, we are bonded in the same way by the memories we have individually created that will eventually fill the void that his passing leaves behind. It couldn't be any other way -- there would have to be a void because without Spike in our lives, a gaping hole remains.

Everyone has a Spike story -- each different, depending on the particular ways we knew him, but there is one common thread running them all: We all loved Spike.

I first met Spike many years ago at Glynn's -- that wonderful watering hole on the corner of the Post Road. We went there for lunch and dinners or to meet friends, but mostly, we went there to see "our boy," whose eyes lit up whenever we arrived. Without Spike standing guard, Glynn's never would have been as popular. He was the head honcho -- the one-man-welcoming committee, the main attraction. Wherever Spike was, that was the place to be.

My late husband Mort and I were Glynn's regulars. We ate there a couple of times a week, and in that way, we established a relationship with Spike. It was impossible not to form relationships with Spike. He invited us all into his heart with his warmth, his humor and his availability.

By availability I don't just mean he was around, or that we knew where to find him. It was an availability of friendship -- a pervasive generosity of his over-flowing heart that welcomed us in and made us want to be his friend.

Spike (or Michael, as I always preferred calling him and which always amused him) was, in every way the epitome of what a true friend should be. It wasn't that he was simply funny (oh, was he ever funny!) or that he was fun (that, too) but he was one of those rare individuals who showed up even when it wasn't always convenient to do so. He was there in every way a person can be. He made it his business to get involved -- to be present, be available.

When Mort died in 1995, it was Spike who was at my front door before anyone else. He was there to administer what I needed most: A hug. And, let me tell you, hugs like that don't come around very often. When you got a hug or a handshake or even a smile from Spike, you'd been thoroughly and very well "Spiked."

I had the privilege of being very "well-Spiked" for years. He peppered my life in the most delightful ways. It could be simply a phone call to say something silly or something quite profound that really made you think, and you always hung up feeling better than you did before the call.

We once had a laughing jag over the phone that lasted for 10 minutes. We couldn't stop. We tried, but it just kept on coming. Hard to explain, but if Spike were here, he'd tell you it was memorable. And we never even figured out what it was we were laughing about. Those are the kinds of memories I'm talking about -- all the little stuff, which really was the big stuff.

There were the slew of holiday cards, birthday cards and even Valentine's Day cards. We "Spike Girls" all had crushes on him, so a Valentine's card from him beat them all, and even included a hand-written note. I loved being his valentine, and because it was from Spike my husband couldn't do anything about it. He valued and respected our relationship. Whenever I got myself in some sort of mischief or got Mort annoyed, he said, "I'm going to send you off to Spike and see how much he likes you now."

And here's the thing: Girls and guys alike fell in love with Spike, not just on Valentine's Day, but every day of the year. He was simply special and loveable in all the best ways possible.

Mort had a sheepskin coat that Spike admired. He had his eye on it for years. He commented on it, and always said that Mort cut quite the figure in that coat. When Mort died, I passed it on to Spike. It seemed appropriate, after all, that the world's two greatest men should have worn that coat. Spike never forgot it. He was as much a fan of Mort's as Mort was his. And for me, it eased the pain of Mort's death knowing that Spike was the recipient of that coat. It looked great on him. Let's face it: Spike was quite the dashing dude.

People not only adored Spike but liked him -- cherished, admired and respected him. It felt good just being in his company. That's because with Spike it was all about us -- never about him. Even during some of his darker days, did I ever once hear him complain. He never wanted to burden any of us with his problems.

"Rocky (his dog) and I are doing just fine," he'd tell me even when I knew he might be struggling with some pain or having an off day.

After he moved to South Carolina and whenever we talked, before I had a chance to say anything, he always asked, "How you doing, sweetie?"

That's all that ever mattered. We were all his "sweeties." And, no one else could say it quite the way he did.

I shared things with Spike that I wouldn't tell anyone else. He was my protector, my knight in shining armor -- the gold standard of what a true gentleman was all about. He was "The Man."

Spike righted wrongs. He cared. He was kind, ethical and in his own simple way lived as big a life as anyone could. He wasn't rich in possessions, but he was abundantly rich in friendships, and we who have been privileged to know him are ourselves richer for the experience.

I imagine him up there looking down, and being pretty annoyed to be getting all this attention, which he'd tell me he doesn't deserve. But who deserves it more?

So, to my dear, sweet, unforgettable, one-of-a kind, never to be replicated Michael "Spike" Fritchman, thank you for all these many, many wonderful years together, for gracing my life with your steadfast loyalty, friendship and love -- and for embellishing all our lives in the most extraordinary and deeply enduring ways. We are so much the better for having known you.

Judith Marks-White shares her humorous views every other Wednesday. She can be reached at joodth@snet.net or at www.judithmarks-white.com.