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The Villages
Saturday, June 12, 2021

A self-proclaimed Florida Cracker

Lisa DeMarco

Andrew was the only person on the planet I had ever met that had more stories to tell than I did! The fact that he was 95-years old gave him the right to talk about whatever he pleased. He would brag that he was a self-proclaimed “Florida Cracker” that loved to tell tales about the Lake County area long ago. He was like a walking encyclopedia of our county and nation’s history as a whole.

One of Andrew’s greatest gifts was his desire to share his colorful memories with anyone who wanted to listen and learn. Old and young agreed whether he was chatting about his own experiences or telling stories about the area’s history, no one wanted to miss a word spoken.

I LOVED waiting on this man!! Anything and everything he told me was like he was enlightening me. It was like gospel to my ears. I didn’t know if he was telling the truth or not. To be honest, I didn’t care. He was so informative and entertaining, plus it always sounded like it was true!

He used to tell me, “If you really want to see me when I was in my prime, you should check out the Leesburg yearbook 1919 edition,” and then he would wink at me still looking dapper even in his old age. 

As always, I did not have enough sense to not play with this man, who was easily old enough to be my grandfather, but neither did he. He constantly boasted about how, back in the day, he ranked #1 among the boys in the “nuisance category.” Nonetheless, when he started reminiscing about Florida when watermelons and rattlesnakes were everywhere and Walt Disney was just a young boy, who used to come with his parents to visit his Aunt in Paisley, my eyes would widen and my mouth would close. (Believe it or not!?)

However, Andrew was also a tricky little man. Like an illusionist, he could get your attention over here so you weren’t watching him over there. He’d get me every time. For weeks, I would have sworn he had psychic abilities or some kind of crystal ball because every time I saw him, he had something new to share with me about myself. The sad part was, he was always dead on!

One day, I was waiting on him, and he asked me to write a word in a small spiral note he had pulled out of his coat pocket. The word was “YESTERDAY.”

So I started to print the word, “YESTERDAY,” but he stopped me two letters in, ripped that sheet of paper out of the notebook, and asked if I would mind writing it again in cursive. Other times he asked me to print, sometimes all caps, a few capital, and lowercase letters. Yesterday. Quantity. Illumination. These were a few of the words I can remember. I never questioned anything, I just did as I was asked. After he’d stare at it for a minute or two, and then we’d go on business as usual. Until his next visit, when he’d ask me to write a different word on a different page, never looking back at any of the previous pages. This went on for a couple of weeks. Until finally I couldn’t help wondering why he kept asking me to do this. By now, I couldn’t resist knowing why. I thought I could, but I could not.

So I finally asked, “Andrew, what’s with the words?” 

“I’m deciphering you,” he laughed.

“Excuse me?” I questioned.

“You would be amazed what you could learn about someone just by looking at their handwriting,” he replied.

“Really, so now you’re gonna tell me you’re some kind of fortune-teller?”

“No, I can do way better than that,” he said with a grin.

Then he went on to tell me that among his many talents, he had achieved the designation of Master Graphoanalytst, and he could easily tell that I was a big dreamer with grand ideas. An extroverted attention seeker with a positive viewpoint toward the future.

Stunned, I asked, “How the heck can you tell all that just from ‘yesterday’?” 

Which he explained, right after he corrected my annunciation of the word, “Yesterday.” (Picking on my Jersey accent was something this southern gentleman enjoyed.) Then he said, “The way you cross your t’s and dot your i’s, really does tell a lot about a person. The way you slant your letters, close or open your a’s and o’s, etc. also does. Whether you believe it or not, it is all quite scientifically sound. And you my dear, with all your loopty loops and big, bubbly letters, you are walking billboard advertisement for an outspoken optimist.”

“Really?” again, I questioned. “You got all that just from me writing down a couple of words?”

“No, silly girl,” he replied. “Although, with your flowery penmanship you’d be an easy one to read. If you must know, it’s from watching you write the special board in the mornings – with all your big colorful letters and smiley face designs – that, my child, is a red flag dead give away to your core, a hopeless romantic at heart,” he finished with a hand tap to the table like a judge striking a gavel to show court is now dismissed.

For years, Andrew continued to grace my section at the Diner bringing me new tidbits of world history with him each time. As time went on, I continued to be amazed by all the people he had met and all the accounts he witnessed. I never had the nerve to question the validity of any of his stories. Not even when he told me he was personally requested by government officials to analyze President Clinton’s paperwork when he was in office.

As always, he was on the mark when describing my traits, so you could only imagine what he would have said about Bill?! 

Lesson learned: You never really know who you are waiting on. 

Laugh on. Peace out.

Lisa DeMarco is a waitress at Billy’s Cafe and a columnist for Villages-News.com.

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