Matfield Green - Our first years

Monday, February 27, 2006

Delbert Armstrong

Delbert Armstrong died last week. At 89, Delbert was Matfield Green's oldest male resident. Smiling welcome whenever we saw him. Active, though I know he was dealing with health problems. He'd come to at least two of our pigroasts, happy to have new people in town, optimistic, I think, about what we meant for the future. I think I'm remembering correctly when I tell you that, he'd once defended Wes Jackson in a fight at the Hitchin' Post (the local bar and Matfield's only business). I don't know if it was a physical fight, if anyone had to step outside, but I do know that Delbert stood for welcome and kindness, and stood with people who who love the land.

Last time I saw Delbert was in October. Dad and brother Andy and sister-in-law Ann and I were walking (certainly with Madeline and John in tow) up the one-block gravel road between the church and Delbert's house when Delbert drove up in one of those gian passenger vans. He'd just spent thoughsands of dollars fixing the transmission, or something equally expensive. I'm sure that Delbert realized that life - particularly his life - was fragile, but still he lived. He was thinking about the value of a good van and that it made more sense to spend money repairing it than to junk it and live without.

Delbert had two pet horses (wonder who will take care of them now) that he kept in a small pasture next to his house in town. Right across the street from my office. Sometimes he'd graze them on some Rogler property west of town. I looked forward to learning more about their regime. Delbert died tending to his pets - he'd gone to pick up some hay at Jane Koger's place.

His son Ronnie missed him and went looking. Found Delbert in Jane's barn. He died quickly, I hope. Engaged in life.

Death, I know, will be more a part of our new life than it ever has been before. Our friends are older for one thing. For another, when one member of a community of 70 passes on, and when you look around and see few prospects for new human life, death seems very real, more finite than cyclical.

It occurs to me that the positive thing about this is that it forces me to include all living beings in my life cycle. Because while the human beings of Matfield may be aging with little hope for replacement, there is all kinds of new life beating all around us - in the prairie, the river, in the sky.


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