Sunday, January 7, 2007


Chances are, if you have a dog, you're familiar with Snausages. An art director named Dennis Yeider came up with the name in a eureka moment years ago, when our group was working on this new sausage style snack. I think his exact words were, "Snack sausage?  How about Snausages?"

In advertisng, my being in the same room with Dennis is almost as good as coming up with the name itself. But modesty forbids taking all the credit. Anyway, you may remember the commercials, the silly dog and the funny voiceover -- "Snausages. Dogs in search of the perfect snack." 

The guy who did the voiceover for all those commercials -- remembered by Snausages fans almost verbatim to this day, twenty years later, was a good friend of mine. Where he came up with that voice, I'll never know. He was usually hired to be the voice of beer or insurance companies, not for something goofy like a cartoon dog. Dennis and his partner obviously saw a side to him I missed in the four decades I knew him.

His voiceover work was quite lucrative for him. He also had small character parts in a few movies, especially if they were looking for a coach or a cop. His most high profile role was playing The Rangemaster in The Untouchables. He only had a couple of lines, but he ended up with plenty of stories about what it was like working with Sean Connery and Kevin Kostner. None of which can be told here.

He wasn't that old, sixty-one or sixty-two. But his last seven years had been pretty hard. Especially for a guy who'd been MVP of his high school football team and won the local 4th of July race for men 18 and over well into his forties.

That's because seven years ago he underwent a heart liver transplant after his heart was destroyed by the hereditary version of a disease called amyloidosis.

His dad had died of the same illness. He had the same doctor as his father, so you might think the doc would have been alerted to the possibility. Like father, like son. However, not only was his doctor clueless, but a cardiologist who looked at an echocardiogram of his enlarged heart said it was bigger because he had been an athlete all his life. Even with evidence to the contrary, like a telltale halo on the scan, caused by the disease, nobody caught the problem until two years later.

Anyway, he underwent the heart-liver transplant they hoped would alleviate the symptoms of the disease. Except that the amyloidosis, which is pumped out by the liver, had invaded too much of his body, in particular his intestines. So he spent all these years after the transplant with chronic diarhea and nerve damage in his lower legs that finally left him emaciated and unable to walk.

He was also always complaining that he was cold, so he would lie in front of the fireplace to warm up at night. Unfortunately, he couldn't feel the heat from the fire on his legs, so two or three times he fell asleep and woke up with second and third degree burns that once required skin grafts. I asked him why he didn't just get an electric blanket. He wondered why his wife didn't get him one.

What about his wife? She became a monster. Without her he wouldn't qualify for the transplant list because family is so important afterward. Because of her I'm convinced he died sooner than he had to.

Once a week she would prepare boxes of pills for him to take each day. I guess the effort was exhausting. You'd think she was Mother Teresa the way she talked about the sacrifices she was making for him. She didn't let hiim forget it either.

She added a dose of venom to every meal she served him that left those of us who listened to her heartless ridicule just shaking our heads.

During the year he was waiting for his transplant, I drove him out to a house they owned in Michigan to open it up for the summer. His wife made some snide remark about how she wasn't worried about us being alone together because he couldn't get it up anymore anyway.

Yeah, he'd been a bad boy forty years ago. I busted him myself on more than one occasion. But I knew her secrets too. In fact, I may be the only person who knew both sides. As time and his health began sliding down hill, she just got worse and worse.

The last time I was with them together last summer, she was making faces at him behind his back. He saw her reflection in the window and told her to stop.

When he died last week, I'm glad one of the kids, not the witch, called to tell me. "Is this a call I don't want to get?"  Yes. Two days later I called her to ask if there was anything she needed me to do. I was referring, I thought, to bringing food, helping to make arrangements, writing an obituary.

"No, My friends from work have all been great. I'm going to Millennium Park today and tonight we're all going out."


She never mentioned her dead husband during our conversation.  Not once. It was all about her.

So I called his daughter. She told me about the arrangements. I was reminded of a conversation he and I had that weekend we went to open up the summer house. We talked about two things -- first, should he have the transplant? I said yes, because he had grandchildren who loved him and deserved to have him around as long as possible, another seven to ten years, versus just one or two.  The other subject was his funeral. We talked about music he'd like, stuff like that.  Apparently he never shared his thoughts with anyone else.

This September as the two of us sat silently on the patio of their summer house overlooking the lake, he suddently turned to me said he wanted me to speak at his funeral. I didn't say anything. He didn't press me. I was honored that he asked. But I also knew I couldn't do it without sobbing.

Wednesday there will be a memorial service at a local funeral home. His daughter said that they were asking people to speak. I didn't volunteer. She didn't ask.

He died on one of my brothers' birthdays, which just means it will be easy to remember the day. Next year on the first anniversary, I'll call a couple of his other friends to go to dinner and we can have our own memorial to him. 

This thing on Wednesday will probably just piss me off.


mosie1944 said...

That's just sad.  And I read your grief here.

suzypwr said...

I am very sorry for your loss, Mrs L. Losing a friend is so painful, especially when you feel so close, but can only be a spectator for the services. Your memorial next year will surely help you through your grief. I wonder if the widow will be remarried before then?


ksquester said...

Oh Mrs. L. I am so sorry. This man sounds like such a wonderful person. YOU will always remember him and YOU will do him proud.  You will know exactly what to do and say and WHEN to do so.   I do remember the Snausages commercial. In fact when my fingers get swollen, I refer to them as Snausages.  {{{hugs}}} to you.  Anne

ladeeoftheworld said...

I'll remember your story every time I toss my dog a treat.  You were lucky to have crossed paths with this gentleman in your lifetime.  

gaboatman said...

Mrs. L
I am sorry for the loss of your friend.  I can tell you will miss him.  I understand why you did not volunteer to speak at the funeral.  The private memorial on this anniversary with some of his close friends will be so much more meaningful for you, I am sure.  

cberes1 said...

Oh yes, I remember snausages.  This story makes me so sad.  It's just so sad, the whole thing.  May he rest in peace and may she rot in hell (sorry, but it had to be said).

I'm glad you were his friend.


onemoretina said...

I'm sorry to hear of this.  His widow sounds like a piece of work.  Lucky for him that he had good friends.   Tina

mombzbe said...

It is never surprising to me that we get attached to the people we work with so much so that some of them are like family.  Afterall, you spend so much time with them, it's hard to not take a bit of them into your heart.  It is certainly true here with your friend.
So sorry for your loss, Mrs L.
And don't worry, the 'merry' widow will get hers.  Karma has a way of taking care of these things.