January 20, 2013

"Where many were, but few remain"

Just two doors down from Hil's house is the home of her distant cousins Al and Mary. I believe that they've been living in that house not just since before Hil was born, but before Hil's parents were born.

I only went over to visit with them a few times, because each visit took forever. They loved to chat about anything and everything, and share fresh cookies. There was a time we stopped by at the end of a bike ride, all covered with sweat, and stayed an hour.

Once, Hil woke from a nap to the noise of hammering on her front porch. Al had come over and was installing a set of wind-chimes that he had just made. I think he thought she was at work, and he thought it would be fun for her to come home to a set of surprise windchimes. It was quite windy last night, and those same chimes were sounding constantly.

As men so often do, I bonded with Al over our shared military service. He told me that the only time he'd been outside of this city was during World War Two. He was an Army artilleryman, crewing 75mm howitzers in Italy and Germany. He came home from the war, married Mary, bought a house, and they raised three children in that house.

Al died yesterday, of pneumonia. He was 89.

As dusky mountains please the eye
When twilight chases day;
As bugle-tones that, passing by,
In distance die away;

As leaving some grand waterfall,
We, lingering, list its roar–
So memory will hallow all
We've known, but know no more.

—A. Lincoln, "My Childhood Home I See Again." 1846.

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