Monday, March 08, 2010

I Just Wish . . .

. . . I had listened more closely to my brother-in-law’s conversations with us. It wasn’t that we didn’t talk to him often. We did. There were long phone calls, either on special occasions or just to check up on each other. I greatly admired the fact that in his late seventies he faced —and overcame—the challenge of conquering a computer and our whole family exchanged frequent e-mails. In spite of his delight in his new skills, he never lost the practice of sending hand-written letters, often accompanied by clippings from papers and magazines. He usually painstakingly underlined the passages that were of most importance to him.

It wasn’t that we didn’t see him often in person. We did. Family was important to him and he spent a great deal of time with Ernie and his two sisters. He loved and showed much interest in his nephews and nieces, marrying many of them, traveling as far as Montana and New Jersey. But because he was always stationed in small towns in northern rural Iowa and eventually retired to one of them, it seemed easier for him to travel to visit with family members. He spent many holidays with Mary Ann in Chicago, because he often couldn’t travel until services were over. He loved to drive, so vacations in Montana, Michigan and New Mexico were frequent. We did on occasion visit him in his various parishes, but for the most part he came to us. So when he talked of his friends and his activities at home, there was no “hook” to hang his narratives on. We knew of the Pilgrims, a group of farmers for the most part who shared his love of Harleys. Together they traveled around parts of the mid-west and even took trips across America. Bob rode in all forty 48 contiguous states. The Pilgrims married and had children and they adopted Bob as a second family. We heard their names and anecdotes about them, but we were often too busy with family obligations to etch their stories in our brains. I heard about much, listened carefully to little.

It was hard last week to stand by Bob’s casket and shake so many hands and realize that I should have known more about the myriads of people from miles around who came to pay their respects. My knowledge of the surrounding towns was sketchy; my understanding of the lives of Iowa farmers was abysmal. It was Bob’s readiness to listen to the words and the stories of these people that made him so beloved. I wish I had been more like him.

1 comment:

Slope Opera said...

Finally catching up with Amen T blog. And this was worth the wait. An important message. I'm belatedly sorry for your loss.