In my book Herb is a very minor character portrayed as a diplomat seeking sanctuary SomeplacElse.  In my life the real Herb had a significant influence on the formation of my character.  Herb passed on last week and today’s entry is dedicated to him:

There was a time before the internet, before the cell phone, before the PC, before Cable TV and even before area and zip codes when people came together to enliven themselves.  During this time my parents would, on special occasions, take their very young children to a magical place called Chicago.  It was my mother’s homeland and unlike my father’s country our journey there never took us through farmland. To get to Chicago we actually traveled on a thing called the skyway.

Chicagoland was full of marvelous buildings and delicious foods and many wondrous sights, but the real magic for me was in the hearts of its inhabitants.  We would travel to Grandma and Grandpa’s or Evelyn and Esther’s or Helen and Herb’s and on those oh so special sometimes we would all come together for a smorgasbord of joy at the Southside Swedish Club.

I distinctly remember an early trip to Helen and Herb’s.  I have no idea how old I was, but my brother was not yet with us, so I couldn’t have been more than 6 or 7.  It was Christmas time and we had been driving through something they called a neighborhood looking at the amazing coordinated light displays.  Dad stopped the car in front of a brick house and Mom told us we were going inside.  Helen opened the door and squealed with delight.

She hugged my mom and brought us all inside.  The house was warm in all senses of the word.  Their Christmas tree radiated the season and there was a scent of something good to eat coming from the kitchen.  Helen said they were eating something called lasagna and then put her hand over her mouth and apologized for something called garlic.  I didn’t know what she was talking about, but everyone was laughing.  This man, Herb came right up to me and put his hand out for a shake.  When I shook it, he made a face and said something about how strong I was.  I asked him where his bathroom was.  I really had to go, bad.  He said something about me being direct and everyone laughed again, but without skipping a beat he walked me down a hallway turned the light on and closed the door for me.  I liked this guy, Herb!

When I came back out, he and my mom and dad had gone into the kitchen with Helen.  My brother Alan was sitting on the couch so I sat next to him.  After a few minutes Helen came out all happy and asked us if we wanted to play with Herb’s toys.  Herb had toys?

How cool was that an adult with his own toys?  She brought down a box from a closet and called to Herb.  He came out and sat with us.  Then he opened his toy box and carefully selected an item for each of us to look at.  He watched our reactions carefully to make sure his selection was appropriate, and kept exchanging toys until he found the one that brought the reaction he was looking for.  I have no recollection of what toys were in the box or what toy I finally played with, but I can see Herb’s earnest gaze as if it were yesterday.

Throughout my life each time I encountered Herb Peterson, he would treat me as the individual that I was, never judging, always sincere and genuinely interested in what I was doing and what I had to say.  I mourn his passing, but I celebrate his spirit and shall endeavor to act in accordance with the life’s lessons he taught me.

I loved this guy, Herb.