A road trip home seems about the best trip in the world, unless it's going home to a funeral. That's bittersweet, if anything is bittersweet. Even if home is a secondary home.
Last week I drove up to Cadott, Wis., - halfway between the equator and the north pole - for the funeral of a very good friend. Walt's cousin, Bub. I hadn't yet answered his Christmas letter, and here I was joining family and friends to say goodbye, we love you, we'll miss you. And various other small thoughts along the way.
My first introduction to Bub came shortly after Walt and I were married 42 years ago, and his parents threw a small party to introduce the new couple. Walt warned me that Bub "liked the ladies."
That's when, in later years, I would have corrected the inaccuracy of word choice. Back then I just nodded.
Bub liked the ladies, all right, but only because they couldn't resist him, couldn't resist the charm, the twinkle in his eyes, the respect he showed them. He died, the oldest, but last of five brothers, at age 92. His given name was Lawrence, but few called him that. He'd been Bub since he was 3 and his long, curly hair had been cut. Bobbed, they said back then. But Bub couldn't say bob. You guessed it; he'd say bub instead, and that name stuck.
A few years ago I spent hours talking to Bub about his war years. He'd served in the Army in World War II, going into the war in north Africa, on to Italy, back through Africa and across the Mediterranean to France, through France, into Germany and ending up in Austria. After four years, he had two weeks R&R on the French Riviera, and the war ended.
As we talked, he'd reach a certain point, shake his head a little, then tell a funny story about something that happened. Finally he admitted he didn't like to talk about the war because he'd dream about "that damn stuff."
That's something I'd heard time and again when interviewing veterans for stories for The Messenger, so I changed the subject and we went on. After all, these were stories I was putting together as much for Bub and his family as for any newspaper, although the story did appear in the Cadott paper.
Not everyone can say they played with Indian children, but Bub did. Born in a log cabin, he played with whatever children were around. Ah heck, he said, kids can get along. Or words to that effect. At that young age, even before becoming Bub, he knew the art of companionship. They were probably little girl Indians.
You can't know whether the love in the room came from the normal closeness of a wake or if some of Bub's love of life spilled out of his folded hands as he laid there listening. Odd thing, I didn't know many people, but I still felt part of the warmth, the sorrow, the love.
That, I'm sure, is Bub's legacy.
So long friends, until the next time when we're together.
Sandy Mickelson retired as The Messenger's lifestyle editor. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.