Monday, July 5

Promises to Keep...

"Mr. Ryan?" the young man asked.

"Do you remember me? I played second chair trumpet in the District Band. Umm, I'm John Danvers and my sister, Lisa, played clarinet in your band too."

Dad put down his coffee cup, took a good look at the young man and smiled.

"How are you, John?" he said. "How did that scholarship work out for you? Did you finish college yet, or still working your way through?"

John took a seat at the counter with Dad and me, and proceeded to talk about his progress. At the end of the brief conversation, he turned to me and explained that Dad was a great teacher and a good guy.

Encounters like this one were pretty common whenever I'd sit with Dad at the Bob's Big Boy counter. His former students knew that Dad would still be interested in their lives, years after the classes were over. To some, he was more that a great teacher. He was a man who was truly interested and involved in their lives.

Dad would stop in at the counter pretty regularly, and there were several customers and waitresses who would talk with him about life, work, families, current events, vacations and all of the things people talk about. He loved people and throughout his life, no matter where he was, he'd get people to talk about the things going on in their lives. His curiosity, warmth, intelligence and interest disarmed almost anyone in his path. He also had a wry and teasing sense of humor.

Before he passed away on July 5, 2003, he asked that I make sure and take a cruise to Alaska. He and my mother judged this trip their favorite of many wonderful trips, and he wanted to share this experience with me.

He also shared his curiosity and fears about the end of life. It seemed morbid at the time, but he asked the wonderful hospice workers he saw daily to explain what happens at the end of a life and what he should expect. Because of their wisdom and his persistence, he was able to pass away peacefully and leave his family with fond memories and no worries. Did I say that my Dad was considerate and compassionate too? His final months taught his family and friends much about death and how to deal with it gracefully and intelligently.

Maybe the greatest lesson he taught his family is to "love each other" and we do. I can hear him urge me to make reservations for that Alaska cruise.

"Don't wait!" he admonished. "Do it!"

I promised I would.