I had the great pleasure this last week of spending time with my mother, who lives some 4000 kms from where I live and work. I only am able to be with my mom a couple of time each year. As of late, she has not been well, my mom: heart problems, mobility issues, and failing sight have complicated her life. Since I don’t get out to see her often I like to maximize my time with her. My wife suggested I bring along a book to read to her, which I did. I found it to be a rich experience to read to my mother who read to me as a child. It is a coming full circle, something that I hope comes around to me in due course.
In addition to reading the book I brought, I also read her the local paper which had an article remembering Arthur and Allen Dickau, local gentlemen who died at the age of 90 years. Arthur and Allen were twin brothers who had slight cognitive impairment. They also happened to have a very fine sense of humor. They owned hats that read “I am Allen, the other one is Arthur” and its opposite. They publically swapped hats to confound folk. I remember them so well: they spoke with a kind of slight accent I associate with children of German immigrants, in a rather sharp tenor voice. They belonged to the local Baptist church, and were much loved by folk of faith and beyond. They were true ambassadors for my home town of Ponoka. As the years progressed, their backs bowed in homage to the years of manual labor that gave them occasion to boast of having raised this roof, or having poured this sidewalk; including the sidewalk and roof of my parents’ retirement home, recently vacated by my widowed Mom in her failing health.
As I sat and chatted with my Mom about the article, she told me of the first time she and Dad met them. They were fresh in town, and making their way to the little Lutheran church. Arthur and Allen were on their way to the Baptist church and waved hello with their bibles in hand. She also reminded me that the twins often asked after me. You see, Allen believed I was named after him. Mom chuckled at that memory. I gathered this wasn’t true, but one could do worse than be named after someone who was beloved by all, who lived life to the fullest into his 90th year, who knew the names of many who did not know each others’ names and brought smiles to the faces of all. In fact, I am honored to be claimed by someone who forsook the self to live fully in the community where God placed him; not worrying about what others thought of him, but only thinking of bringing a little joy to others. One could do worse than emulate a man who loved his brother unequivocally. They died within months of each other.
Allen and Arthur will be fiercely missed in their community. Yet I believe that their legacy will be carried on, even if unaware: all who have been touched by them have learned to touch the earth tenderly, to engage their community holistically and to embrace their neighbors tenaciously. Their voices may be still but still they are heard, because you cannot corral compassion set free by joie de vivre.