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The last handwritten note I received from Alice Kundert came a few days after I'd written about visiting her in her Mound City home and finding her still lively, if aging. She took exception to the aging part. It may be so, she said, but did I have to tell the whole world? Beyond that, she thanked me for taking the time to stop and visit.
Not long after Nancy and I moved into the house we own at the corner of Capitol and Washington in Pierre, our next-door neighbor told us of a visit she received from a brash young couple who wanted to buy her house. The neighbor at the time was a kind, old woman named Florence. When I say old, I'm thinking back 40 years. Nancy and I would have been in our late 20s, so a lot of people looked old.
When I went back to covering the South Dakota Legislature for the Sioux Falls Argus Leader in 1987, I moved into a Pierre office building that also housed the Pierre bureau of the Associated Press. It was my good fortune to be thrown into almost daily contact with Joe Kafka, who along with Chet Brokaw, worked for what both of them would tell you is the "oldest, largest and best wire service in the world.'' Well, I worked for AP for nine years, and I wasn't about to argue.
A vivid memory from my one year at Creighton University was the evening a gang of the guys from Wareham Hall walked downtown to the movie theater and watched "The Longest Day." It was a long movie, packed with acting superstars like John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Richard Burton and Sean Connery. Red Buttons played a paratrooper whose chute hung up on a bell tower in the town square of the French village of St. Mere Eglise.
Last Saturday evening I spent a remarkably satisfying hour or so just sitting at a kitchen table holding a sleeping child. The child is my 5-year-old granddaughter, Sage. Nancy and I were visiting the Chamberlain gang for the day. The day, for Sage, involved non-stop activity.
I see by a Facebook posting that at 85 years of age, my old friend Virge just had one of the two happiest days of his life. He sold his boat, according to a post from his elder son. You know. That's the old joke among the river-rat set. The happiest day of your life is the day you buy your boat. The next happiest is the day you sell your boat. Now and then, when things aren't going so well -- say when you wait most of the summer for a water pump or sacrifice an entire boating season to a submerged tree stump that takes out the lower unit -- the order of those two days might be reversed.
I only knew one of my four grandparents, and that one is the only person in the world who ever actually spanked me and meant it most sincerely, all the way to the bottom of her big, Irish heart. My Grandma McManus died when I was in first grade in Reliance. She was my mom's mother. Her husband had passed about the time I was born, and so had both of my dad's parents. These days, all four of those grandparents are buried within a few steps of each other in the quiet cemetery a mile north of Reliance.
Unless your last name starts with a letter way down in the alphabet, you haven't experienced the back-of-the-room feeling known well to the Ws and the Ys. In school at Chamberlain, most of my classes involved alphabetical seating. Even the teachers must have tired at some point of "Waysman, Wenzel, Woster, Yates,'' in the roll calls and assignment lists. But there we were, way down the list of letters and usually either across the back row in the room or the last four chairs on the far right side.
A year ago about this time, I was in the rehabilitation stages after a total shoulder replacement. Well, here we go again. Last spring, a skilled surgeon (at least I'm assuming the surgeon did it, I was out the whole time) deftly sliced open my right shoulder and replaced both the components of the joint. The parts have medical names, but I like to call them the ball and the socket. It makes things sound more mechanical than medical.
Funny, sometimes, how relatively insignificant events rush back from half a century when someone sends a reminder. It happened to me just the other day, and the reminder came through Facebook, of all places. I check my page most days, sometimes twice but usually not more than once. I rarely post personal stuff -- never photographs, once in a while a Sinatra song or some other music with lyrics that make growing older seem a noble thing. Now and then I find something a friend has posted, and I share that. Those are usually Winnie the Pooh sayings or Mr. Rogers stuff.