A couple of weeks ago my great uncle passed. He was 93 years old, but he had been fighting Alzheimer's for several years.
My great uncle Bob is someone I would like to write about, but perhaps this time has passed. I do not know.
As a child, I did not understand his life or who he was--he lived on a farm without a television and often had strange kids and quiet people staying with him. He was gracious and kind when we visited, but he didn't talk much. We would walk around the farm, and he might point out a combine or plane or tractor, which were foreign to me off the farm. I loved the kittens and sheep that he might have, but mostly, it was quiet and a little boring on the farm. Bob traveled a lot when he wasn't farming--all over the world. This intrigued me, but I sort of thought he was vacationing or something.
I didn't understand who he was or what he was doing.
As an adult, I didn't see him much, but when I did, I asked him lots of questions. I learned that he traveled the world teaching farming and agriculture--presumably, not like when I went to college. I asked him once how many counties he had visited, and he told me it would be easier to count the countries he hadn't seen. He said this with a laugh. I believe this is true--once, a few years ago, I sat in front of a world map and listed off the countries, starting in South America, moving to Africa, then Asia, and then finally Europe. He had been to almost all of them.
The kids that stayed with him, they were foster kids. In the last years, one has stayed with Bob to help take care of him. I asked this former foster child now adult how many foster kids stayed with Bob over the years. He told me it was over 40. There is a doorframe in the farmhouse with markings all along it, both sides of the wide arch--markings with lines, dates, and names for the different kids. It's overwhelming to see all the names and dates.
And the strange, quiet people--I do not really remember this very well--one is Jan (pronounced Yahn) from Northern Europe. He came to Bob to learn farming and learned flying instead. They have been friends for years. There were others, I think: quiet foreigners and farmers and previous foster kids. Some from other parts of the world.
In his death, I do not want his life and story to go away, but in the last years, his memories have been slipping away. I hope and pray to have the chance to write about him, perhaps through his foster kids and friends.
His is a story I hope to tell.