Archive for Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sedgwick: Passing of patriach reminder of life lessons

July 28, 2011

The patriarch of our family has passed. His last days were difficult; his last moments, grace filled. I am told his son placed his hands upon his father’s head, offered a blessing, removed his hands and his father’s body was quiet; his spirit transitioned away.

We are left with an empty chair at the head of the table. Growing up, we sat at a round table, so there was no head; there was however never a doubt about his position in the family. He was a patriarch up against a family of matriarchs; he just didn’t know it.

He made the rules and we followed them — sort of followed them. When we railed against them, as all youngsters do, we knew we challenged a formidable force. He made us all into good debaters. I don’t know whether it was the Swede in him — his mother was a Holmquist — life circumstances or choice that made him the way he was; perhaps it was a combination.

He was my oldest sister, Barbara’s, husband. He virtually lived at our house as he and my sister went to Bonner Springs High School together. She said she was sitting in a class behind him one day, looked at the back of his head, and told herself that he was the man she was going to marry; and she did. They were nearly a generation ahead of me; they married and had a son before I ever started to school. I thought of them as parents.

He joined the Air Force, came home to live with us and went to KU to study engineering. He practiced his engineering skills on us all; taught us problem-solving and logic. He could appear to be stoic; it was a mannerism not a character trait.

He championed me through my cancer, from diagnosis through treatment and recovery; he researched every aspect and e-mailed me daily. I tried to do the same for him.

He was an older brother to me; and so much more. He built our first stilts, filmed us walking on them. Those stilts, his challenge to mount and maneuver them, were a metaphor: Accept the challenge before you, overcome your fear, and push forward. In expecting us to walk on stilts, he taught us a valuable life lesson about challenges: You can do it, he would say, I know you can. So you fell off; get up and try again. And don’t whine while you’re doing it.

Every youngster in our family has or will walk on those stilts. The stilts are in a garage in Idaho, waiting for the next stilt walker. Frank Albin Dobbe was a family patriarch, master stilt builder and champion. He has crossed the finish line; we are left to run the race, on stilts if need be. We can do it; he knows we can. Though the tears may fall there will be no whining allowed. Walk on.

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