January 8, 2016
We'll be out somewhere and someone Kim doesn't know will come up and say hi to me. Later she'll ask, "where do you know him from?"
The answer is often "The Arabica".
The Arabica was a small chain of coffee shops on the east side of Cleveland. I hung out at the one in Shaker Square in the mid '80s. I was often there twice a day - once in the morning and once in late afternoon. Before coffee shops were popular, the Arabica was my neighborhood bar. The friends I run into all these years later were regulars.
I met Bob at the Arabica. He would do the crossword puzzle and discuss the days news with a group of folks that I was lucky to be a part of. Bob also was a huge history buff and would always have a great story from a book he was reading or a documentary he'd seen. Once Kim and I got married and bought a house, Bob became our plumber and general handyman.
Bob's son and daughter were about my age. His son Jeff would join us now and then. We seldom saw his daughter Julie.
Bob's wife Sue would join us on weekends and now and then during the week. She worked as an administrator in a medical office, she loved her garden, and she was one of the smartest women I'd ever met. She wasn't showy but she listened intently to what was said around her and contributed like a jazz musician playing exactly the right note and stepping back.
At her memorial service in December, people described Sue's "rapt attention".
The woman officiating had been a friend of Julie's and described memories of sitting at the kitchen table with Sue while Sue really listened to her.
Sue was 80 when she died. By the time I knew her she'd already done some amazing things. Things she never bragged about - but important things. She helped start the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. She worked for the ERA and was instrumental in Cleveland's chapter of NOW. Many of the women at her memorial service talked about how much of what they were able accomplish in life was because Sue had laid the groundwork.
And yet, they remembered, when they talked to Sue, Sue paid rapt attention to what they had to say.
This year the first tiny challenge we're featuring on our podcast is "three words". Inspired by Chris Brogan, we're spending January choosing three words to live by. My first word is "Rapt". I will try to really pay attention when I'm with you. Of course there will be times when I fail, but one of my goal's is to pay rapt attention - to really be where I am.
Now here's a little bonus story for today.
About eleven years ago Julie called us up to invite us to Bob and Sue's fiftieth anniversary party. It was a surprise party.
The day before the party, our furnace refused to fire. It was a cold winter day and we called Bob to see if he had time to help us. When you called Bob, you always talked to Sue. Bob was hard of hearing. We loved talking to Sue. It was a chance to catch up with her. She said Bob would be able to come over and take a look. Bob and Sue took care of us.
Bob came over - at the time my daughters were six and eight. Elena, the youngest, was terrified that she would slip and give away the surprise party so she sat at the top of the basement stairs with her hands over her mouth. Bob couldn't figure out what was wrong. He knew something was up because Elena always flirted with him as he worked - but he didn't know what it was.
Bob got the furnace working manually - we just had to flip something on and off ourselves. "I'll be back Monday," he said. "I'd come back tomorrow but we have something going on." He nodded at us and said, "I don't know what it is."
This was too much for Elena, she had to leave us. She was too afraid she'd blurt out "I know what it is."
The next day at the party, Bob and Sue entered and were surprised. He looked at Elena and gave her a wink and she beamed.
If there's a heaven, I hope Elena has been able to meet up with Sue. Maybe they have gardens there. Or kitchen tables.