A few years ago I began a relationship with a man from Hampton, Illinois. For those of you who don’t know it’s a small village located along the banks of the Mighty Mississippi steeped with history and heritage.
Prior to meeting him, I spent lots of time riding my bike on the bike path and cruising through Hampton was one of my favorite routes. Beautiful old houses a pretty little riverfront, even a bench chained to a tree. The bench is what gave me the most wonderment. Who did it belong to? Why was it chained? These were the burning questions running through my brain.
Sometimes life comes around and you get answers, the house I loved so much? His Grandma’s she lived to be 103. The bench, simply stated “Uncle Jack’s bench” Now when I first asked I had no idea who this “Uncle Jack” was but he had a bench.
And everyone knew that was his bench.
I finally met Jack one warm summer day, about 5 years ago. He was an older gentleman, commanding, generous, witty, simply charming and he made me laugh. We had dinner with his family and friends. It was a lively gathering and it was obvious what a close family they were and Jack the patriarch. He was seated at the head of the table leading us all through the meal and the conversations. He was beloved. After dinner we moved to the front porch, and chatted. The entire family was there and they drifted in and out of the conversations taking place on the porch. The porch has white rocking chairs and a few benches and you can catch a breeze from the river sitting there in the late afternoon. Just part of what makes Hampton quaint. And Jack was part of that history and quaintness.
I saw Jack many times walking with his cane down to his beloved bench watching the river flow by, or out watering his flowers he always seemed to have a mission and he never stopped moving, even if very slowly.
I never knew young Jack, I met him this past Thursday as we gathered to celebrate his life. The video presentation and the photos at the celebration were a different Jack. A young, strong soldier, a new husband with his dainty bride, a robust father, a grandpa and a great grandpa. I met an Uncle, a Brother-in-law, a pillar of the village, a keeper of the history, a lover of the spot in the river where Hampton sits, an educator of many and a friend to all.
Jack to me was a lot like that bench, an anchor in a beautiful place, strong, resilient and welcoming. Like sunrise and sunset, Jack is a constant, his silhouette will be forever etched along the banks of the Mississippi.
It was good to know you.
Until Next Time,