Henry's Hospitality by Carol Smythe, Nitro W. Va.
In March 2006, I was new to Charleston. I was spending my days driving around in my yellow Ford Escape looking for a place for my husband & I to rent. We were living in Imperial Towers so every time I drove down MacCorkle I would gaze up at the big round house with admiration and awe not knowing its notoriety.
One day I was up in the hills lost trying to find my way back down to Imperial Towers and ended up on Porter Rd. I realized where I was and knew that house was some where close. I ventured up the last road before MacCorkle in hopes to find it and take a closer look not knowing I would have to turn around in some one's driveway.
I started down the Top 'O Rock's driveway but had to stop because this old man was in the middle of the driveway with his head down putting everything he had into pushing his bicycle up the drive. He didn't see or hear me in my car. I waited patiently watching him fearing I might have to perform CPR until he finally looked up and saw me.
I put my window down to ask if he knew who lived there and to my surprise he said he did. I didn't believe him because he didn't look like he had any place to live! (sorry) But he insisted he did and asked me if I wanted to take a look inside. Well I was thrilled at the very thought of that but still thought he was just pulling my leg. I said yes challenging him to see what he would do next. He asked me if I thought it would be safe for me to go in the house with him alone. This made me laugh out loud and I admired his great sense of humor. So I looked him up & down and replied I thought I could take him if I needed to.
So I got out of my car & followed him and sure enough he opened the door and invited me in. I spent a couple of hours listening to his fascinating stories of his life, looking at all of his treasures, his photography (Yes, he showed me the one on the back of a cupboard of his then girlfriend. I can only pray I look half as good as she did when I'm that age.) and taking in the beautiful structure and its views. It was amazing.
It was time to leave he said cuz he had to ride his bike to pick up his car. I couldn't believe he was going to do that and I wasn't sure he had enough breath in him to make it. I insisted on giving him a ride. He didn't want to take me up on my offer but I eventually won. I could tell he wasn't comfortable receiving a kind act when he wanted me to drop him off in the middle of the road so I wouldn't have to go out of my way and turn into the place where his car was. He started to open his door and I grabbed his arm and yelled "Stop! Its okay. Just wait till I pull in" He did.
I drove away feeling blessed for the experience and meeting him. I was thrilled. It had made my day. I've wanted to go back and visit him but I hadn't till today. Today, I drove back up to the Top O' Rock. Someone was outside with their back to me but I knew it wasn't him. I drove away regretting I didn't stop and ask whoever was out about Mr Elden.
When I got home I googled him and the house only to find out he has just passed away. I am very sad and I regret I didn't go back to visit him.
I googled you and found this email address. I thought you might enjoy my story of meeting your Dad. I will treasure him always.