Normally, I can anticipate an emotional response when something unusual or unexpected happens. However, my reactions aren’t always foreseeable.
Years ago, I was working a temporary position in a small Pennsylvania city. At lunch time, I would meander around town, sometimes taking a picnic lunch to a nearby park.
One day, upon hearing church bells chiming, I burst into tears. This sudden reaction was not only surprising, but almost frightening. Why should that sound bring on such a turbulent response?
I stopped to collect myself and listened more closely. Then I recognized the pattern of the bells ringing – and the sound took me back decades to when my family would visit my mother’s parents in Brooklyn, NY.
There had been a church on the corner near their apartment – one which I’d never previously considered, nor was I aware of the actual building. The sound of those church bells had been the subconscious background to our family times. And I had not realized it until I heard those church bells chiming on that summer afternoon in Pennsylvania. Emotions washed over me – of missing all those loved ones.
This happened again recently.
Mr. Sanders was my Blueberry Man. For years I’d been gathering blueberries in summer at his small farm north of Opelika. He was a kindly older gentleman, always there to chat. I can still see him in his overalls, a day’s worth of whiskers on his chin. He’d be sitting in the door of his garage, his dogs running about his legs.
His garage was fascinating, where he’d collected every sort of keepsakes, furniture, old toys and household items. It was like visiting a museum. Once in a while he’d talk about some of the items he’d collected. It was crowded in there. I sometimes wondered if he knew of all the treasures he had stored toward the back.
Besides the blueberries, he and his wife raised goats. They’d be baa-ing by the road as we drove it. Over time, there were fewer. I kind of missed the crowd.
Now I’m missing him. My Blueberry Man is gone.
I spoke with his wife, and she shared of his passing. She told of how the family missed him. Just in the couple of months that he’s been gone, he has left a void in their lives. It will be hard for her after 65 years of married life.
As I ended the call, I thought about him, how it seemed as if he’d always be there. He’d be welcoming us to pick to our heart’s content while our fingers became purple-stained. A few “samples” always made for tasting while we checked to see which bushes produced the sweetest crop.
The call ended and I found tears in my eyes. We were just acquaintances really. Just summertime visitors.
I hope he realized how fond we all were of him.
I think I’ll miss him, my Blueberry Man.
(Thank you to Mrs. Sanders for permission to publish this.)
Susan Anderson lives in Opelika with her husband. Contact her at email@example.com.