Monday, June 22, 2015

Remembering Arne

I was outside at work, walking Max, my new Bichon Frise puppy when my phone buzzed, indicating that I had a text message.  I opened my phone and smiled as I saw that it was from Paula.  As I opened the message and read the 17 word text, my heart sank.  She’d texted me to let me know that her Dad had passed away during the night and that he had loved me.

The death wasn’t a shock…he’d been ill for awhile and had been in hospice for the second time.  But the loss of a man that I was closer to than my own father for 18 years still hit me hard.  I can still hear the words he spoke to me the last time we had a conversation.  He was angry that I had lied to Paula and that it was going to result in our divorce.  He was concerned that I wasn’t being fair in the settlement and I had called him because Paula had asked me to explain what I agreed to do.  I can remember the first time I met him, travelling with him to a basketball camp where Paula’s son Jason was participating to show support.

Unlike my own father, Arne listened as I went through the finances and what I was doing and what I was giving Paula.  And when I was done he thanked me and apologized for his abruptness when he answered the phone.  We had a short conversation and he told me he loved me as we ended the call.  My dad would have interrupted and told me what he would have done.  But Arne was unlike any man I’d ever met.  A strong Christian man who walked his talk.  He could be intimidating as he would read his Bible and then out of the blue, ask me what my favorite scripture verse was.  When I met Paula, I wasn’t really a practicing Christian, although I believed in Jesus as my savior.  When we would visit their home over the holidays, every Sunday morning we would all go to church.  As we would enter, he would go out of his way to meet and greet and talk to nearly everyone in the congregation.   He sat in the front pew with Mom while Paula and I would sit a few rows back.

He treated Harriett like a wife should be treated…with love and tenderness.  The only time I saw him get angry with her was when she got home from shopping late and they had planned to go a basketball game and there wasn’t time for dinner.  But his anger lasted only a few minutes and he was soon apologizing to her and helped her unload the packages from the car.

Arne was a successful wheat farmer and generous to a fault.  He was dedicated to family and had the family at his house on Sunday afternoons for a big family dinner.   He took care of his father when he was in the nursing home and visited him every day.  He supported his sister and brother-in-law when they were in the mission field in Viet Nam and pretty much gave his inheritance to her.  He gave money to his children at Christmas that was extravagant.  He drove a new Cadillac sedan for a few years and then gave them to one of his kids, rotating so everyone would get one.  He enjoyed the Late Show with Jay Leno and football, basketball and golf on the television.  He was a proud man but never prideful as I remember him.  He would never allow someone else to pick up the tab when we went out to dinner at a restaurant. 

I have many regrets in life, but one of the greatest is the loss I experienced when Paula and I divorced.  I never got to say a proper good-bye to either Arne or Harriett.  I didn’t get to hug them or tell them in person how truly sorry I was for what I had done to result in the divorce.  I’m not sure I’ll have the chance to attend his funeral and pay respects to Mom and the rest of the family.  I’ll ask Paula if it’s okay and accept whatever she decides is best for the family.  It might be a time of solitary morning on my part and remembering an incredible man.