It had been years since he died and I’d finally made it out to where he was buried to pay my respects. Making my way through the graveyard under the hot California sun, I looked down at his grave stone. Now covered in years of dust that hadn’t yet been washed away, I smiled at the name carved there.
I stood there thinking about all the movies I’d seen him in, the charity work that he’d done and what he meant to me as a gawky kid who liked what he was.
“Hey Lady. I’m about to close up. Are you almost done?” The grave keeper asked me as he came up behind me.
“Yeah. Just paying my respects.”
He came closer and looked at what stone I was standing in front of.
“Was he family?”
“No, but he felt like it when I saw his films.”
The man nodded.
“I know something of what that is like. My hero is buried over there.” He gestured to his left, over the rows of gray stones.
I smiled. “Once a fan, always a fan.”
The man nodded with a smile of his own. “I’ll be by the gate after you’re done.”
I nodded and turned my attention back to the stone in front of me. I knelt down and placed the flowers I’d brought with me on top of the stone.
“I’m such a big fan. Thank you for the memories. My dad and I used to watch your films together and talk about them afterward. You gave me the best memories of my father I’ve ever had.”
I got a little choked up at the end, but managed not to sob out loud. I turned and made my way back to the gate, tucking my hands in to my pockets. I was smiling by the time I got there and the old man who took care of the stones smiled back at me.
“All ready to close up for the night?”
The man nodded. “Yeah. The weather girl on the TV says there’s a storm rolling in, gonna be a bad one. I want to get all tucked in before it hits. You should too.”
“Thanks. I’ll make sure I’m back in my hotel before it hits.”
The man paused, like he wanted to say something else. I stopped and waited.
“It’s good that you came to visit. No one really does anymore.”
“What good is a dead hero when he’s not there to make you believe anymore?” I replied.
The man smiled at me. He understood and we finished the quote together:
“The best heroes make you believe, even when they’re gone.”
I smiled at him.
“It’s good you came to visit.”
“I’m glad I finally made it. I was almost afraid I wouldn’t have the time during this trip.”
“Always time for memories. You remember that.” He said as he let me out of the gates. “You young people, always too busy to make memories.”
“I made one today. What’s your name?”
I gave him mine, then said; “Now I’ve also made a friend. Have a good night, Peter. Stay safe.”
He waved at me as I climbed in to my car and waited until I’d closed the door. I saw him walking back to the guard-house, shoulders straight in spite of his years on this planet. As I drove towards my hotel for the night, I noticed the clouds forming in the distance.
It looked like Peter’s weather girl was right. There was a storm coming. I made my decision to stay in the hotel that night and watch his movies, the man whose grave I went to visit, and remember why they meant so much.
There was always time for being a fan.