60 days
July 17 2014

Dearest Old Bolds, Family, and Friends,

What was I thinking, planning a trip through France and then two big counterclockwise circles inside of Germany in 60 days with a 90-year-old, and working my "real job" at night? Holy cow!

Welcome to Day 46. This afternoon we're visiting a Knight's Cross holder, but before we do, we've spent a pleasant morning walking through the wonderful spa park in Bad Driburg. Germans love to go to spas - they have a lot of ancient healing waters throughout the country - and their health insurance sometimes even pays for the visit. Too bad we don't have time or money to immerse ourselves in mud, or loll in the pool.

We're badly in need of some downtime as a result of our grueling travel schedule, but it's ever onwards. Although some of our appointments have cancelled, we still need to get to the next gentleman.

This week we had an appointment with a dive bomber with the Knight's Cross. Charley had talked to him just over a month ago to set up the appointment. When we called a few days before our arrival to confirm, the number was disconnected.

We feared the worst.

Picking up our young historian friend Jannick (who is 18 and has been interviewing veterans since he was 15), we set out to find our man, come what may. At his house the neighbors, to our relief, informed us he was still alive, and assisted us in reaching the family. That avenue only provided us the name of a home where he had been placed. With a smart phone, we were able to find the phone number and address.

In the end, after driving down a god-forsaken, nearly abandoned road, strewn with dead weeds, we found a modest old folk's home forlornly positioned under a massive, and loud, autobahn overpass. There we dropped in without prior notice, finding our man in a room with his bedridden wife. Although he's nearly blind, he welcomed us with warm handshakes, and his eyes teared up when I held his hand.

He wouldn't let go while he tried to regain his composure. I wasn't quite sure if he understood who we were and why we were visiting him, and if the distress came from that quarter, as may happen for folks who have memory problems.

But it was much worse than that. He was fully "on board", as was his wife. At the end of the world, removed to this sad place, they had simply, for all practical purposes, been forgotten. Our quest to find him took him completely by surprise, and he couldn't hide how much our simple presence affected him.

And so we are reminded how important we humans are to each other, how essential love is, how easy it can be to give joy just by showing up, and how necessary it is to offer and receive the gifts of respect and recognition. Here, the antidotes to the ever-increasing, casual cruelty of our daily lives.

Even though I am not there with you, I am thinking of you, and sending you most beautiful wishes on this summer day,




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