I am going home tomorrow, hopefully in time to say goodbye to a relative. He is the definition of "good genes," and I am fortunate to have had him around for this long. It is, as my husband said, sad, but not a tragedy that he should die now.
We were starting to think he was immortal, I think. And who could blame us? This is a man who, in his 80s, fell off the roof of a barn, and ended up with only stitches and a couple of bruises. In his 60s, he (and the tractor he was driving) rolled down the side of the hill. He was fine. The tractor was never the same again. In his 30s, he survived the war in the Pacific, as part of the "black gang" on a supply ship. His post at the ship's engines was hard, hot, physical work. If the ship was attacked while he was at this post, he once told me, it meant almost certain death. Before that, he worked in the coal mines of Eastern Kentucky, and navigated both the dangerous work and the sometimes dangerous people. (He carried a pistol in each pocket every day.)
The old saw is that you should never meet your heroes. I think you should never have heroes you can't meet. He is a flawed man, sometimes angry, always stubborn. He is also a gentle, kind soul. At the end of the war, while he was in Japan, he felt so guilty about eating a donut in front of a starving Japanese child that he still told the story 60 years later. This is the proper way to have a hero. To see a person in all dimensions, to honor the good and learn from the bad. How wonderful for me to have such a person to know.