I took a break.
I took a break from this blog and a break from life and spent the month of November in France. Thanks to Angie for minding our blog and keeping it going beautifully; thanks to my husband and son for handling everything else. Since I have aged and ailing parents, that's no small feat. My gratitude is abundant.
While I was away a man named Bob died. In the context of my extended family it didn’t make the news. Even in my family of origin, few knew. Bob was a southern gentleman transplanted to California. He was quiet, somewhat shy and reserved, and lived a quiet, quite unassuming life. He didn’t make a big deal of things so in keeping with his wishes, there was no big deal when he passed.
He suffered what turned out to be a fatal stroke in October. After lingering for a little over a month during which time he and his partner were tortured by his helplessness, he escaped his mortal restraints in November. It seems cliché to say yet nonetheless true, his suffering was so great it was a relief to know that it ended.
Bob was my cousin’s mate of more than a dozen years. She was a middle-aged widow when they met, a woman making her way in difficult circumstances. She’s one of those folks who’s encountered great travails in her life, none due to her own actions. When I think of her I sometimes think of an old blues tune with the words, “…if wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”
Except for one thing.
Cousin Noni would never sing the blues. After a thoughtful sigh and a few private tears she just picks herself up, stares into the sun, blinks for a moment, and then gives gratitude for its warmth. Truly, I’ve never seen such resolve to love life through every moment, even when unbearably difficult.
So were I to ask her for a quote to describe her life I think Noni might choose this one written by Wendell Berry, from his book, Hannah Coulter. “We’re going to live right on.”
It was no doubt her brand of determination to experience joy and fulfillment that drew Bob into Noni’s circle of influence. Together they made a simple life that wended into retirement, bicycle rides, grandchildren and vegetable gardens, and whether Bob liked it or not, chicken-fried steak became a thing of his past, to be replaced by chicken. He grew to love frittata, pasta, and a host of Noni’s healthy Italian specialties almost as much as he loved Noni. His visits back home to West Virginia were his only opportunity to purloin biscuits and gravy while Noni pretended to look the other way.
Though Bob would probably not appreciate much carrying on in a blog, I thought a few words were important, especially now at Christmas time when celebration is designated as a season on the calendar. This modest man and stalwart woman figured out how to celebrate life’s blessings earnestly, authentically, and fully, every day of every year they were together.
Here's to you, Bob. I toast your life and your simplicity. We miss you.