When I think of Norman, I think of his smile and the tenderness in his eyes. I don't actually remember meeting Norman; I can't even say when I started going to their house. When his daughter Kate and I call each other "old friend," we mean it literally: Kate's been my friend since first grade. I've been to their daughters' weddings and they came to mine. I feel I've known them forever, because the Leonard family has always been a part of my life.
I've been blessed to have three father figures: my Dad, my father-in-law, and Norman. When I was a teen, I spent a lot of time at Alyce and Norman's place, visiting Kate. Being there helped me through those "angst-ridden" teenage years. It was my second home, because I felt comfortable and welcome there.
I'm so grateful Norman and Alyce moved to Florida a few years after I did, because it gave my husband and me a chance to get closer to them. When the Leonards first moved here, we hadn't seen each other in quite some time. My husband and I weren't able to visit as often as we wanted to, so it was always hard to leave them to go home.
Just a few months ago, I was delighted when, as we talked about old times, Norman told me, "For a few years there, I thought we had four daughters." In the same way, it touched my heart when Alyce said we'd tell the hospital that I was one of their daughters so I could get in to see Norman there. I wanted to see him badly, to let him know that I loved him. These simple statements from Alyce and Norman meant a lot to me because they affirmed the close connection I've always had with their family. And I was able to give him a hug--for what I was afraid would be the last time.
When he got out of the hospital, they stopped by so Norman could see our new house. He was so pleased when our little terrier, Kuma, jumped right into their van to say hello. Dogs always know when people like them, and Norman was definitely a dog lover. Kuma knew Alyce from when she stayed with us last October. I think it made Norman happy that Kuma jumped right up to visit him, too. This is when we had our last hug, the last chance to say "I love you." He was kind of a gruff old guy, not really given to obvious sentiment. But I could see the love in his eyes.
Now Norman has gone home to Our Father in Heaven, so family and friends gathered together to celebrate his life. He loved his family and was proud of them. You could see that pride whenever he talked about them. He had a good life.
And Norman was a good man.
March 14, 2009
“When God's ready for me, I'll go.” --Norman L