Today cannot be contained in 50 words, so please settle in. I hope you enjoy this tale of shocking connections among some truly special people, my dear friends across America. (Photos of the fun follow…ALL photos are at the bottom of the post.)
The web helping me cross America today goes from Joey & Cheryl in South Carolina to Joe and Georgene in Oregon to Bob Will in Heaven. Now let me explain…
The day dawned with a walk in Oregon farm country and a delicious breakfast quiche with Joe and Georgene, friends of my friends, Joey and Cheryl from South Carolina. After hours of incredible discussion Friday night, our Saturday began light and free and stunningly beautiful with a trip to Silver Falls.
My first set of waterfalls in America! We ended up hiking, my favorite, to the smaller falls after seeing the main falls. It was worth every drop of sweat. The photos are great, but could never do justice to the tropical rain forest climate and beauty we experienced. I was inappropriately dressed and it made no difference at all. Can’t you hike in flip flops???
After the falls we ventured to the German town of Mt. Angel, Oregon. By German town, I mean GERMAN! The town is modeled after it’s home country counterpart and is built around a spectacular food and beer festival starting in September and ending in October. (Thanks for the info, Kile O.) I realize that Oktoberfest is not a new theme, but it was my first time to enjoy a proper German version of the American festival import.
An eater’s paradise, Joe and Georgene insisted we splurge, as they take on the role of incredible Oregon hosts, we dove into delectable, sort-of-German tastes. First, massive bratwurst with kraut and grilled onions on rye. Next, the German Chocolate Brownie, a shared item. Is German Chocolate Cake really German?
We walked and talked, listening to bands playing in the streets, we stared at the old school German attire that people keep in their closets just for this festival each year. It was FUN! We had great Oregon grown cider and beer from local hops. In one area an incredibly odd and entertaining gaggle of people were dancing to the German Waltz.
We marched through the hundreds of vendors debating over our final calories. Where would we finish our German feast? What fantastic dessert would win out? Would it be homemade donuts, apple fritters, strawberry shortcake, apple strudel, elephant ears…the list could go on and on…back and forth we walked, searching…
“We’ll take three apple strudel’s ala mode,” Joe said.
And with that, another 1000 calories of heaven were devoured. To the car we walked, stuffed and laughing, completely in love with our day of exploration and food.
Driving home, I began to mull over something I wanted to ask Joe. He owns a seed company in Oregon and a beloved family member of mine owned/owns a great American seed company in another very German town, Haubstadt, Indiana. I could feel the universe aligning…from seeds to Germans to Bob Will, my secret angel on the road. I oddly blurted out, “So, do you sell your seed to other seed companies?”
Joe looked at me sideways, we definitely were not talking about work at this point in the conversation, but confirmed that he did. I relayed that my cousin owns a seed company in Haubstadt, Indiana, another very German town. And within seconds Joe, driving, raised his voice and said, “Wait! Are you talking about Tenbarge? Are you related to Bob Will????”
I burst into tears. Giant, rolling tears. As if this moment could get more strange, tears are flooding my cheeks as I struggle to speak and say yes. Joe worked with Bob for many, many years. He worked with him more than almost anyone else in his seed salesman years. Joe really knew Bob Will. Their business had them meeting in other states at conventions for years. Joe knows Bob’s sons, Rocky and Chad, who run Tenbarge Seed these days. Joe knew his character and respected him. Joe, Georgene and I were all equally in awe of this special connection as we shared our Bob stories and news of his passing. I showed him a photo of my Dad, who looks so much like Bob, he saw it right away.
Now, for the backstory. Very few people know my push to leave my old world behind and embark on this new world is, thanks in large part, to a great man I learned a lot from, Bob Will. Bob, my Dad’s cousin (double related by their mothers, Mauer sisters and their fathers, Will brothers) was my Dad’s friend and a great friend and a kind of mentor and inspiration to me. He and his wife, Diane, visited me in New York and every time I got home to Haubstadt I visited them.
Bob passed away this spring, six weeks before I departed on my journey. I was lucky to spend a few hours with him this Christmas with my brother. Bob loved our many adventures. He was interested and excited as he listened to our stories. He shared his stories and lessons. He guided me, without ever realizing he was passing along knowledge I needed. Bob was a great adventurer. He excelled in the life well-lived. He explored Haubstadt, America and the world, while making an impressive life at home with Diane, their children (Rocky, Chad and Wendy) and grandchildren and of course in his work at Tenbarge Seed.
Bob would have asked to ride along with me on this trip, jokingly, but I feel confident he would have been a wizard working the map from Haubstadt for me. In many ways, Bob was a super bonus extension of my awesome father. Similar Will looks, thoughts and that accountable and reliable Will attitude in all they do.
When Bob passed away I drove 13 hours to the funeral. It was the best funeral I have been to and filled with stories of a funny, generous and magic man that helped everyone he knew and managed to enjoy it all. My drive home from that visit was a game-changer. I had breakfast with my Mom, Dad, Aunt Susie and Uncle Jim near Evansville, IN. I had lunch with my longest existing friends, Mandy, Cory, Bob and Cele in Nashville, TN. My final stop was dinner in Asheville, NC, with my “lil sis” and my brother’s girlfriend, Joy. I arrived weary, yet incredibly fulfilled at my door at 2am in South Carolina.
…And the shift in my life began. I became aware that I was moving in a whole new direction. I wanted to see America and I wanted to see the people that matter the most to me. It was also clear after Bob’s sudden passing that life can be cut off at any moment and the people in our lives are really all that matters. We have no choice in our death, but we have a choice in what we do, who we see and how we make our life count in every day we live in this incredible world.
From that day forward, Bob Will has been my angel on the road. I have felt him along the way, riding beside me, keeping me awake and making sure I don’t run out of gas. I often think how much I would like to share my stories with him in person, but I know he sees it all. I knew all along that there would be a special day when Bob would give me a great big hello to let me know he is always in the adventure with me, rooting for me. I knew I would see him again in America with me. That magical day was today.
It is amazing, this journey I am on in America. I left South Carolina to prove my hypothesis: “the social and personal web we weave is greater than any of us can imagine.”
The web helping me cross America today goes from Joey & Cheryl in South Carolina to Joe and Georgene in Oregon to Bob Will in Heaven. Hypothesis Proven!
(One final note, the day ended with Joe and Georgene and I on the couch cheering on Oregon State as they defeated Utah as we sipped wine, snacked on grilled lamb and M&M’s. So really, how can you not believe in magic, God and this incredible Universe we all get to live in together???)
Kelly travels across the country sharing her One Person, One Community, One Nation Movement. She is changing the face of the nation one connection, one adventure and one inspirational story at a time. Kelly delivers a front row seat to the best of the United States of America.