Loose Ends: The ties that bind

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MEEKER | I never thought that the first page I would turn to in a newspaper would be the obituary page. I admit I do tend to glance at the significant dates (birth and death), so I might be accused of this tendency to assure myself, as usually I am interested in everyone else’s stories. So many of the family and friends who have shared this community with me are gone now, but their presence is never forgotten. Especially during the holidays.

In my younger years, I read this page last but I always enjoyed learning about the folks that author Wallace Stegner called the “Stickers,” those community members who put down roots and stayed. The wonderful writer of all things western, Stegner described his father’s tendency to move all over the west and uproot his family regularly. His father was sure there were better opportunities everywhere except the place he had chosen. The writer was sure that his childhood was affected by the fact he had difficulty making and keeping friends. There was never a time to put down roots that would serve to hold fast no matter what difficulties arose. 

The qualities of small town living that ensure most of the community residents have stayed put can be listed as both advantages and disadvantages. The fact that most everyone knows everyone by name and thinks they know all about each and every member of the family can be viewed as both a benefit and a detriment. Parents of children appreciate this closeness, until the children are grown and the focus changes.  It suddenly feels that everyone knows one’s business and feels as if they need to form an opinion about it.

Some folks in my family often felt constrained by this intense focus on our family and as that old expression goes, “just a little too close for comfort” comes to mind. Until one finds themselves in that quandary for whatever reason, the closeness of the small community can get uncomfortable. An old favorite Christmas carol of mine lauds all the comfort and joy one feels over the holiday until it feels like it is a little too much.  But as one who has been aging in place and is reminded each and every time I come to the weekly obituaries, I don’t take that closeness for granted. It is a gift.

By Dolly Viscardi | Special to the HT