As he sat, at sunset beside a pier in Fairhope, Alabama, he reflected on his life. He graduated High School "middle" of his class, just another kid destined to work in the train yards. He fought a few tours in the war, yet those experiences didn't define him.
He settled down with a pretty young lady from his home town in Indiana and they were married. A good looking couple, they bought a modest home near the River. He did work in the train yards in the region. He worked hard and saved what he could. Yet, his career didn't define him, either.
They had three children, who, in turn, grew up to give them 5 grandchildren. He and his wife loved their son and daughters and loved the grandchildren.
They vacationed in Florida, often in an RV. Family would come and they would drink beer, shuck oysters and cook on an open fire.
As his grandchildren started to creep into adulthood the affects of time on his body could be felt. His hands, rough from a lifetime of back-breaking work and his eyes, still the sharp reflections of his thoughtful 18-year old self. One morning, he lost his wife to old age. The loss was more than he could tolerate and the memory of her absence sting'd in the day-to-day moments to turn to recollection. The pain of her loss didn't define him either.
He struggled with diagnosis codes and Dr visits, hospital stays and financial planning. His health and strength began to leave him. One daughter estranged. One son, took time nearly every day to come visit and talk with him.
They still visited. They loved him, appreciated him and showed it.
But, in the time between visits, his own failing health began to become more and more unbearable. The thought of growing infirm and weak and worse -- the thought of being a burden on his family wore so heavy on his mind, that one afternoon, he laid in bed with his .38 and took his own life.
The grandchildren who found him were forever marked by the sight. I was at work, 600 miles away when I received word of his passing from this Earth. I remember what I was doing and I remember the longer-than-usual trip back to Indiana.
All of us remember him in our own way.
Is that what defines his life?