Thursday, July 15, 2010

He was a good man...

I went to a visitation tonight for a man I've known about 8-9 years. Don, who was the father/father-in-law of friends of mine, died just 15 days shy of his 90th birthday and 2 months shy of celebrating his 70th wedding anniversary with his wife, Lu. He liked people. Pretty much anybody. He'd lend a helping hand to anyone who needed it. He touched a lot of people's lives in his time on this planet, and mine was one of them.

I've shared a number of Easter and Christmas dinners with him over the last several years. My love life (or lack thereof) seemed to be a concern of his. He couldn't understand how I could possibly be single. He used to tell me, "You're a good woman. Any man would be lucky to have you." I'd respond by saying, "Well, tell that to any man." I think he thought I meant that as I once overheard him doing so.

On one occasion, he told me about one man in particular that was just perfect for me. Don informed me that "Al" (name changed to protect the innocent) was a good man and he had a nice house and all kinds of nice qualities. Sounded good. Except he lived in a small town in Nebraska about 5 hours away where Don and Lu were living at the time. Don didn't seem to think the distance should be an issue. I did.

Six or seven years ago, after they had visited over the holiday one year, I went with my friend to drive them back home to Nebraska. Don was hopeful that it would work out that I could meet Al during my visit. On the way there, we stopped at a Cracker Barrel for lunch where I continued to hear about the virtues of Al and how we should get together. Lu piped up and said, "Al? He's too old for her." Don said, "Well, he is not. He's not that old." Lu responded, "Well, he collects social security." I guess 60-something is still pretty young if you're 80-something, but as a 30-something (at the time), I was thinking that might be a little too old for me. Add to that the distance and it just was not meant to be. But, I got a good laugh out of it all. At least he had his eye out for me.

Don's teenage granddaughter wrote and read a beautiful tribute to him tonight. It was also a tribute to Lu and their nearly 70 years of marriage. Don's love for Lu was always apparent whether they were bickering or smiling at each other. He thought the world of her. While I found his quest to find a man for me amusing, I think in the end he just wanted everyone to have a little piece of what he had with Lu.

He was a good man and he will be remembered fondly by many.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Uncle Bud

The Fourth of July serves as a reminder to me of those who fought for our independence and those who subsequently fought for this country. Thus, it seems like an appropriate time to tell you about my Uncle Bud. I never knew him, so the details are sketchy at best. I'm sure my brother who remembers more stories than I do and my aunt will fill in some of the details for me.

He was born February 8, 1925 in rural northeast Missouri. He died March 2, 1945 on Iwo Jima. I don't know a whole lot about what happened in between. I know he was the lone son and second oldest child of my grandparents in a family of four sisters. I know he was a farm boy. I hear he had a sense of humor. His full name was Edwin Earl Hickerson. I don't know the exact story about how the nickname "Bud" came about, but I think it had to do with one of his sister's not being able to say his name.

I know he, like me, liked the St. Louis Cardinals. My mother used to tell me that Dizzy Dean was his favorite player. My aunt has a different recollection of who his favorite player was. My assumption is maybe he had different favorite players at different stages of his life. Whatever the case, it's interesting to me how something like baseball can connect generations even if they never met each other. When I visit Busch Stadium and see Dizzy's name, I think of Uncle Bud.

I don't know much about his service to the country. I know that before he went to Iwo Jima, he was at Camp Pendleton. I don't know where else he might have served. Just a couple of years ago my brother, Mark, discovered via an online search that Uncle Bud was mentioned in a book called "Immortal Images" which was about the flag raising on Iwo Jima. We learned that he, along with four Marines, volunteered for a dangerous mission to scale Mt. Suribachi on February 22 while it was still under enemy control. These five men have the distinction of being the first patrol to scale Mt. Suribachi. My uncle survived that mission, but was killed eight days later on the island.

His death had a huge impact on his family, as you would expect. Certainly when his name came up over the years, he was remembered with fondness, but the sadness also seemed close to the surface.

My mom worked at the post office for years and I often would ride my bike with her in the evening to the PO to take down the flag that flew in front of the building. It was important that it come down every evening because the flag was not supposed to be flown at night unless it was illuminated. This one wasn't. It also had to come down at even a hint of rain because it's not supposed to get wet (unless it is made of weather-resistant material, which most are now.) She had the utmost respect for that flag and treated it accordingly. As I think about that, it occurs to me that the flag was essentially all that she had left Uncle Bud. The respect she showed to that flag seemed to be an extension of the respect and pride she had in her big brother.

That's about all I know, or think I know. If I had a time machine, I'd travel back to meet Uncle Bud and learn more about what he was like. Maybe talk a little baseball or something.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Road Trip!

I recently spent a week with 27 teenagers (and 4 other adults) on a mission trip to Denver--by choice, even. It was a great experience. There were times when my patience was tested, as you might expect under the circumstances, but it was good. In addition to getting to know the kids a little better, I got to meet my friend Nora in person for the first time. (Maybe I'll explain that in a separate blog entry.) She joined us for dinner one evening at the church where we stayed.

On this trip we volunteered at a center for abused and neglected children, we cleaned and boxed food at a food pantry, we cleaned at Ronald McDonald House, we weeded at an urban garden, and we sorted books for a thrift store. In the evenings, the kids prepared meals for the group and we participated in worship together. Friday was our fun day and we got to go whitewater rafting, which was fabulous even though the water was 38 degrees.

I learned some things about the kids throughout the week. One: During worship I was struck by how insightful and thoughtful the kids were about what they experienced during the week. Two: When there was a job to do, they did it. I was particularly impressed by how they labored in the hot sun at the urban garden. Three: They're caring and compassionate people. Some of them may display a layer of orneriness on top, but the care and compassion is just under the surface. Four: They're funny. I love a good sense of humor.

I also learned a few things about myself. One: I was not made to sleep on sofas or drive up a mountain road. Two: I am perceived as "cool" by at least a smattering of the teen population. (By "smattering" I mean one or two teens.) Three: I'm 40. (OK, I already knew that, but this trip was the first time that 40 felt "old" to me.) Four: I have a lot to learn and there is a lot to be learned from the younger generation.

It was a long week and at the end of it all I felt like I needed a vacation after my vacation, but I'd do it again if the circumstances allowed.