Perhaps I’m feeling some guilt.
Perhaps this column would not have been written had I shown a little more empathy during this man’s lifetime, been more attentive to what he had to say. We met only on rare occasions over the last five decades and, I’ll admit, I rushed to leave – I listened, but didn’t really hear, what he had to say.
I’m afraid I’m not the only one who should be feeling a little guilty today – not because of what we did, but because of what we didn’t do.
All these feelings of regret, however, are now meaningless.
I waited too long. It’s too late now to listen.
Daryl died a little more than a week ago, alone in an apartment in Stanhope. I didn’t know he’d moved there. He grew up in Stratford and lived there until all his family was gone. He was born in 1955 and his parents were Lelburn and Isabelle Scott. He had a brother, Dennis.
His dad was killed many years ago – perhaps before he was 10 years old. Lelburn died immediately when he fell from the roof of his mother-in-law’s home, right next door to his own, while putting a television antenna on the roof. He somehow tripped and fell head-first to the ground below, dying instantly.
His mother, younger brother and Daryl all lived together in Stratford, north of the Lutheran Church. When Dennis died because of complications of diabetes, only Daryl and his mother remained. Daryl was left alone when his mother died several years later.
At his mother’s funeral, I remember Daryl looked dazed and confused as the family gathered to discuss how the final rites would proceed.
He never married, probably never had a girlfriend.
Daryl was seemingly always moving. From one small apartment to another, his home at one time or another was Stratford, Duncombe, Boone – and probably others of which I’m not aware. He was living alone in an apartment in Stanhope and he died there, perhaps a few days before his body was found.
As far as I know, he had no close relatives, at least in Iowa. His aunt Betty Jean has remarried and moved to Texas. She has little or no contact with anyone back here in Iowa.
But, Daryl had one good friend, someone who remained close to him through the years, a man from Stratford. I was happy to learn that, even though I suspect they were in only off-and-on contact.
Yes, Daryl was only my second cousin, but I know he looked up to me in many ways. He was proud to say his “cousin Bill” was in the field of auto racing, or that his “cousin Bill” was a newspaper writer.
I only saw Daryl once after his mother’s funeral in Stratford. That came when we simply ran into each other at a small restaurant/bar in Duncombe. They had Karaoke that night and my wife and I stopped in for that. He was sitting in a booth and quickly came up to me with his usual greeting and a big smile.
We chatted only briefly that night, but I thought how lonely he looked and how much he seemed to want our conversation to continue.
It was sad, almost as sad as the day his mother was laid to rest after a small funeral service at the Stratford Lutheran Church.
He had the look of a deer caught in head lights, so alone. My niece sat with him so he didn’t set alone. But, there was no other family to give him comfort of any kind.
I sat there, in a pew several rows back and on the other side of the church, and thought how lonely he must feel at this moment. First, his dad died in a tragic fall, then his brother died of disease and, now, he watched the last rites for his mother.
What could I do? I could only tell him how sorry I was and that, we as a family, were there for him if he should ever need us.
I’m afraid those words rang hollow on that day of mourning.
I feel guilty that I didn’t make an effort to see Daryl now and then during his life. It’s too late now. He’s gone and there’s nothing I can say.
There is one thing I hope with all my heart. That is, that Daryl will find the peace in death that I know he so desperately wanted in life, but could never find.
Bill Haglund is a retired writer for the Boone News Republican and Dallas County News. He can be reached at Bhaglund13@msn.com.