I grew up in rural Kansas. There was one house within a quarter-mile of mine, and it happened to be across the road. The hundred-yard distance in south-central Kansas was the equivalent of a neighboring apartment for someone growing up in urban America.
The inhabitants of the house were amazing people. The patron was an unquestioningly kind soul, within whose grandchildren I found friends. The matron was someone within whom I could never imagine an unkind or an inhospitable thought.
Recently, I recall marveling at the sight of the holiday parking feats which caused their yard to impersonate a car dealership. It seemed one of every make and model of vehicle was parked in neat, orderly rows for each Thanksgiving and Christmas. Their family was fruitful, and love seemed to bring all of their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren home regularly to vist.
I have a huge number of memories, all of which are pleasant and involve borrowing something from them or playing with their grandchildren on their farm equipment or stopping to visit on one of many all-too-hurried trips between my house and my grandmother’s during harvest.
My fiancee Diane and I are re-watching the West Wing. We usually average a couple of episodes each night. It’s a great TV series that deals with idealism, but one of the overriding themes is that of a president who has multiple sclerosis, a long-term and debilitating disease.
The West Wing had 156 episodes. There was one episode that dealt with a different, long-term, deblitating disease called Alzheimer’s. It’s in the middle of season four, and it’s a one-episode story arc that deals with the father of one of the regular cast memebers. It’s a truly heart-wrenching episode, and it’s what came next tonight in our one-by-one rewatching of the series.
I don’t believe in fate or providence, but it’s unnerving to watch that episode tonight knowing that I received word this morning that my neighbor passed away from Alzheimer’s. He was a beloved friend, and he and his family were never anything but unconditionally kind to me and mine. Rest in peace, Willard, you are and have been loved and will be missed.