Tuesday morning we headed west.
Hit the road for Red Cloud Nebraska.
A month ago, we were kicking around the idea of taking a road trip to see my wife’s Uncle L. He is the last living connection my wife has with the small town of Red Cloud Nebraska. When we were first married we would stop there every couple of years to visit aunt and uncle L. When her grandpa was still alive we would see him too.
L. is 94. All of his siblings are gone. His wife passed away in 2011. His son lives out-of-state. L is hard of hearing and has been for years. Talking on the phone is out of the question. I haven’t seen him in years, but always enjoyed bantering with him to the degree we could. He had his own plumbing and heating business for years, so our conversations tended toward construction.
When you have a relative who is 94, you know it’s just a matter of time until you get “the phone call” so I really encouraged my wife that we should take the trip now.
We decided not to let him know we were coming until the day before, just in case something fell through. Tuesday afternoon, wife called the facility where L lives, and talked with Melissa. She was excited and promised to give uncle L a note, to let him know we were coming the next morning at 10.
He never got the note.
L’s neighbor, Lavae (who lives two doors down ) got a message to expect a Mr and Mrs DM about 10 AM. ) Lavue didn’t know who that was, figured maybe someone working on genealogy so he placed an order with the kitchen for some extra ice tea to serve his guests. He waited two hours but they never came.
We found this out while we were sitting in the large dining room table over lunch with a dozen other 80 and 90 year olds…
After we finished eating, we checked uncle L out and headed to his house to check on things. He moved into this facility this past December, so everything is just as he left it.
Just as I remembered it too…
The several dozen trophies in the trophy case he’d won racing go carts in his younger days. The cart still hangs from the ceiling in his garage.
The Indian figurine in the hutch, the calendar still turned to 2015. The picture of his baby sister sitting at a desk when she was two, who has long since passed away herself. A Christmas card on his desk from the nurses at the VA.
He has one of those walkers that has a fold down seat on it, so for a while we sat quietly in his living room, him on his walker seat, wife and I on opposite sides of the room in stuff chairs.
You could hear a mourning dove just outside the window, singing that quiet mournful song they make. That bird’s song matched the emotions that were sloshing around in my head. L said it felt good to just be in the house for a little bit.
We walked out into his garage. We talked about a tool he wants to give his grandson when he’s gone.
I imagine, after living 94 years, to get to the place where you are no longer able to live on your own, and have to leave 99% of your earthly possessions behind, it would feel good, even for a half hour, to smell the familiar smells, touch the old tools, look at old photos, and just sit.
I’m glad we went.