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Muskrat Ramblings for Now People


November 9th, 2007

Lester @ 08:52 am

Yesterday afternoon, Judith's sister called.

Their dad, Lester, suffered a heart attack and died, suddenly and unexpectedly, where the family pretty much expected him to die one day: behind the wheel.

One day. Not this day

Lester had been trucking corn through Red Wing, Minnesota. The city of his birth.

I have friends who are writers. Damn fine writers. When they write, magic seems to flow from their fingers. I'm not like them. I try and write. Sometimes I do OK. Mostly, I'm wordy and nerdy. Which is a shame, because Judith's dad deserves far better. I'll never be able to do him or his memory justice. But you should know how special he was.

Lester Heise was a grand old bear of a guy: part grizzly bear, part teddy bear. He was great. I mean, really, really great. The kind of "great" most people who spend too much of their lives worrying about being "great" will never know. He was a force of nature, and a force of life. A unique individual whom I'll readily admit I never totally understood, but utterly admired.

Lester was a northern Wisconsin farmer and trucker, and lord knows what he thought when his daughter told him she was going to marry a cartoonist. Actually, five weeks before our wedding, she told him she was going to marry an unemployed cartoonist, as she saw how miserable I was getting at the Wisconsin State Journal, and convinced me to quit.

But my soon-to-be father-in-law never said anything, though good grief he had every right to. He just welcomed me with open arms. Indeed, on Judith and my wedding night, I had a few moments alone with Lester, who I'd only known for a couple of years at that point. I tried to let him know how proud I was to now be a part of his family. It was, frankly, an awkward and uncomfortable conversation for both of us. Again: him, up-north farm stock; Me, wordy and nerdy. Oil, say "hello" to water. Water, say "hiya" to oil.

But I think that on some level, we both kind of "got" each other, because Judith was the common bond between us

Over the years, as I grew to know Lester better, I found him hilarious and, in his own way, brilliant. He knew what he wanted from life, and lived it to its fullest, whether "the fullest," to him, meant farming, or trucking, or shooting off random fireworks, or doing nothing at the cabin, or becoming the Town Chairman of El Paso township, just slightly to the east of Ellsworth, Wisconsin. All of which he did, and did well.

There really is something to small town life. There's -- again -- a greatness about it that folks like me really don't get, unless they go back year after year for Thanksgiving, when the first snowfalls may just be brushing the landscape. Or Christmas, when the barns stand tall and proud against the cold, grey Wisconsin skyline. Summers are glorious, autumns are spectacular, winters are harsh, the people are tough, and the sense of community is palpable.

Lester (somehow "Mr. Heise" never seemed quite appropriate. I don't think either of us would have liked it if I'd tried to call him that) could be loud and brusque, but he was never short of hilarious. He'd curse like a sailor when playing cards - not true, actually. He'd easily outdo any seaman worth his salt when it came to creative cuss-words and all-too-colorful commentary should he be dealt, say, an eight-three offsuit.

"That's called a 'tell,'" I tried to advise him a couple of Christmases ago, when he decided to try Texas Hold'Em for the first time.

If a person is best known by their friends, then Lester had many, many people who knew him very well indeed. Folks who understood him better than I ever could. Yet to me, the very first time I met him, at Judith's old apartment, when she and I were just dating, I could see was how much he loved her, and how much she loved him. To him, she was always his little girl, and to her, I could see nothing eyes but adoration of him in her eyes. And deservedly so, as I was to find out over the next fifteen years. He was simply, truly great. He was, in his daughter's words, "a special person. So special."

Other good friends, far too many, really, have recently lost people they were close to. It's been a hell of a couple of weeks. In some ways, it's been a hell of a year.

There's no real good way to end this, save to say I'll miss the hell out of Judith's dad. I can't even imagine the pain and loss felt by his family and friends who've known him far longer and far deeper than I have.

I'm privileged to have known him at all.

 
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From:aota
Date:November 9th, 2007 03:11 pm (UTC)
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Sounds like he was a great guy.
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From:whisper_jeff
Date:November 9th, 2007 03:11 pm (UTC)
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I'm terribly sorry for your's and, especially, Judith's loss. Please know you and her family have my best wishes. Take care, my friend.
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From:angusabranson
Date:November 9th, 2007 03:12 pm (UTC)
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Please pass on my condolences and sympathy.
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From:cmerun12
Date:November 9th, 2007 03:13 pm (UTC)
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He sounds like he was one heck of a man. You're fortunate to have known him.

My condolences to you and Judith.
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From:righteousfist
Date:November 9th, 2007 03:15 pm (UTC)
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My most heartfelt condolences, to Judith and her family.
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From:dclingman
Date:November 9th, 2007 03:18 pm (UTC)
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My condolences. Your post does indeed tap into that magic you referenced at the beginning.
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From:maviscruet
Date:November 9th, 2007 03:18 pm (UTC)
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My condolences to you all.
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From:ocultado
Date:November 9th, 2007 03:19 pm (UTC)
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My thoughts are with you both.
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From:adamjury
Date:November 9th, 2007 03:20 pm (UTC)
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Much love to you, Judith, and the rest of your family.
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From:hyrkanian
Date:November 9th, 2007 03:31 pm (UTC)
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My condolences to you all.
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From:lllvis
Date:November 9th, 2007 03:31 pm (UTC)
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I'm very sorry to hear about your loss. Lester sounds like a fantastic person, the type we should all encounter and appreciate in our lives. I lost my Mom a couple of weeks ago, and was asked to deliver a eulogy. You are right, there's no easy way to end such things, so I resorted to using someone else's words:

"The angels have waited, for so long, now they have their way. Take your place."

My condolences to you and your family.
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From:delazan
Date:November 9th, 2007 04:29 pm (UTC)
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What is that from? My mother died a week ago, and I think that's perfect for her.

My sympathies on your loss.
-Lori
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From:snesgirl
Date:November 9th, 2007 03:34 pm (UTC)

condolences and sympathies.

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I shall be thinking you you and yours.
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From:smoemeth
Date:November 9th, 2007 03:38 pm (UTC)
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My condolences and sympathies. I lost my dad earlier this year in a similar manner, so I know exactly what Judith is going through right now.

It sounds like a cliche, but it's true ... the memories and the stories do help, a lot. And when they involve a great person who lived life to the fullest, they help even more. (It's okay to laugh, btw. Fortunately our family has a great sense of humor, otherwise we never would've gotten through.)
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From:lllvis
Date:November 9th, 2007 04:53 pm (UTC)
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A-men on the "it's okay to laugh". Laughter is a tension release very similar to crying. At my mothers service we encouraged it, and fortunately everyone had good and funny stories that helped people laugh and feel more comfortable.

My condolences and respects for your father.
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From:serpentstar
Date:November 9th, 2007 03:49 pm (UTC)
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My condolences to the two of you. It sounds like Lester led a full life, loved & respected by all who came into contact with him.
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From:jacylrin
Date:November 9th, 2007 03:55 pm (UTC)
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*hugs* to you and yours
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From:lampbane
Date:November 9th, 2007 04:03 pm (UTC)

My condolences.

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I think you wrote very well, here.

Now you've got me curious, and forgive me for bring so personal - you said were nervous about bring unemployed when you married Judith, so then, what did Lester think of your later work in the games industry, or on Dork Tower?

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From:muskrat_john
Date:November 9th, 2007 04:27 pm (UTC)

Re: My condolences.

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I'm not sure he ever really understood it, but he was very happy once things like "Apples to Apples" started popping up in the stores around the area, and he enjoyed tales of our travels around the world to conventions.

I think he knew I'd become successful, but I'm not sure he understood - or needed to understand - why, exactly.
From:doccross
Date:November 9th, 2007 04:04 pm (UTC)
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Our thoughts are with the two of you, buddy. You did a fine piece of writing there, too.
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From:reliantfc3
Date:November 9th, 2007 04:05 pm (UTC)
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My condolences as well.
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From:natural20
Date:November 9th, 2007 04:06 pm (UTC)
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My condolences to Judith and her family.

May he rest in peace.
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From:kuroshii
Date:November 9th, 2007 04:10 pm (UTC)
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"eonia i mnimi"
(everlasting be his memory)

you and judith are in my prayers.
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From:7th_son
Date:November 9th, 2007 04:15 pm (UTC)
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I'm sorry to hear, John. Your wife is fortunate to have you to help her through this time.
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From:xiphias
Date:November 9th, 2007 04:22 pm (UTC)
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Baruch dayan emet (Blessed is the Judge of Truth).

May you be comforted among those who mourn.
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From:bassfingers
Date:November 9th, 2007 04:25 pm (UTC)
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I saw the picture with the fez and thought "Oh, he was a Shriner... therefore he was also a Mason in good standing. Of course he was a good man, because those are the principles we Masons should try to live by."

I hope that the lodge that he was a member of has been informed of his passing. Even if his family chooses for him not to have a Masonic burial, by being a brother, his widow and children are entitled to any aid or assistance they may find necessary in this, their time of sorrow.

I, too, am sorry for your loss.
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From:kesmun
Date:November 10th, 2007 06:13 am (UTC)
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My grandfather was a Shriner, and I had similar thoughts when I saw the fez. *Nod*
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From:e_juliana
Date:November 9th, 2007 04:29 pm (UTC)
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My deepest sympathies to you all. I'm so sorry.
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From:delazan
Date:November 9th, 2007 04:32 pm (UTC)

My sympathies

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Lester sounds like quite the character, like my FiL. My sympathies to you and Judith and the rest of the family at this time of loss.

I'd offer to help somehow, but I'm a little busy at the moment planning another funeral.

Take care,
-Lori
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From:muskrat_john
Date:November 9th, 2007 04:54 pm (UTC)

Re: My sympathies

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Thanks, Lori, and take care yourself.

I didn't get news of your loss until I got back home.

Dork Tidings

Muskrat Ramblings for Now People