I am back at Gail's apartment in Fayetteville doing laundry and packing after what will probably be my last day in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas for nearly a year. Tomorrow I am headed to West Plains, Missouri, to spend the weekend with my oldest son, Nick, and oldest grandson, Boone. Sunday or Monday I will aim my rental car back toward Kansas City where I will spend a few more days with Tim and Erin. Hopefully I will be there when their daughter is born. The flight back to Okinawa will begin out of Kansas City on Friday, October 14th.
Today I focused on reconnecting with some old friends. I stopped by McDonald County Children's Services and talked to Diane Cooper for a little while. Diane was working for the agency when I first started there in 1994. She is alarmingly like our old supervisor, Mary Poland, able to remember everything about everyone. When I talk to Diane the years just seem to roll away.
Next I headed to Pineville, Missouri, the county seat, for a scheduled appointment with my favorite physician, Dr. R. David Hill. I have been a patient of Dr. Hill's, off and on, since the 1970's. In fact when I first started seeing him, his office visit charge was eight dollars!
But as I circled the courthouse square in Pineville, I discovered that Dr. Hill had moved. I had parked in front of Abe Paul's law office, an old classmate going back to fifth grade (1958) at the Noel Elementary School. As I was way too early for my appointment with Dr. Hill, I went in and talked to Abe for awhile, catching up on each other's lives and families. Abe had lost track of me when I was living in Arizona and seemed surprised to learn that I am now residing overseas.
Dr, Hill was my last stop of the day. His bookkeeper, Becky, came out and hugged me and reminded me that I took her to prom when we were in high school. Dr. Hill asked me if I was still living in Kansas - no, not since 2005! Many years ago when I was a stringer for the Neosho Daily News (they called me their McDonald County correspondent), I was given an assignment to write about a local dentist - because he was Jewish. I declined that assignment, but told them that I knew a physician in McDonald County who got his undergrad degree from Harvard. I did that interview, took several pictures, and turned it in expecting my masterpiece to be chopped into a filler article that would eat up a couple of columns in the middle of the paper. When the next issue came out, my piece on Dr. Hill took up the entire front page!
On the way back to Gail's apartment I stopped in Bentonville and tried a couple of calls to Mary Poland. Unfortunately, she wasn't home. I guess we'll have to save our catching up until I come home next July.
The best part about being home is getting to see my kids and grandkids - and my sister and her kids and grandkids, but it has also been a real treat being able to reconnect to so many old friends. That insufferable trip across the ocean was worth it when measured by those standards!