I was checking one of my fantasy baseball league boards this morning and saw a message from Craig Freeman, a friend of mine for over 40 years. Craig noted with sadness that his father, Robert Freeman, passed away Sunday morning, May 3rd.
I remember meeting Craig the summer of 1968. His family had just returned to Wisconsin from a year in England. We were both 12-years old and our birthdays were 12 days apart. We became instant friends. When not involved in adolescent highjinks, listening to music or playing baseball and football, we spent many evenings at each others homes. At the Freeman home our antics were warmly tolerated by Craig's mother, Ethel, and with bemusement by his father.
Craig's mother has always seemed to me a proper English woman. In fact for years I believed she was from England. She has always inquired how I was and listened with genuine interest. My impression of Craig's father was similar; but he was more continental than Ethel I thought. I guess it was appropriate since Robert taught French in the West Bend high schools.
Robert was also, to this adolescent, slightly odd. There were many ways that he appeared so, but most famous was his love for gardening. How many fathers garden? But Robert not only loved it he was very good at it and the Freeman yard was always in full bloom, regardless of the season. He also liked to cook. From childhood on whenever I stayed at the Freeman home a tasty breakfast was invariably waiting in the morning with fun conversation and inquiries about the family and life in general. I always felt like family.
It's been quite a while and I've lost count of how many years, but Robert had been long afflicted by that most terrible of diseases, Alzheimers. I have seen firsthand how hard for Craig it's been not to have more than a one-way conversation with his father. I can only imagine the pain Craig must have felt to not even be recognized by his father.
The last time I saw Robert was at the funeral of his oldest son, Scott (another painful story). That was five years ago. Though he turned to me when I said his name, his gaze was fastened somewhere else. Still, the smile was the same.
To Ethel, Craig and Julie (and all other family members) my condolences.
Oh, one of the loves of my life is my yard and its gardens. I learned from Robert it was alright to depart from the stereotypical. Thank you, Robert, for that gift.
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