In 1997, the pastor of our parish asked if I would assist a fellow parishioner named Walt to purchase a computer and learn how to use it.
When I greeted Walt, I recognized him immediately. The previous summer I took a portrait of him with his wife, Ruth. Ruth had Alzheimer’s and wasn’t too keen on me positioning her for the photo. Walt began speaking to her softly, “Now, Ruthy, it’s okay, she is going to take our picture.” She caught his eyes and was immediately calmed. Her eyes danced in the photo. It was obvious to me, there was something special about this man.
With this we began our journey.
Walt had a dairy ranch, much of his computer lessons involved teaching him to enter data on his heard, run reports, etc. Walt is bright and eager to learn new things, so he caught on quickly.
A 30 minute session took 4 hours.
The tech stuff was accomplished in the first and last 15 minutes. The rest, well Walt told stories and if he noticed me looking at the clock, he said, “Just one more thing.”
And so our routine was born. I started planning for the longer visits. In time, he needed no assistance with his computer, but we went through the motions anyway.
We all need story tellers and Walt is a master.
Little by little I learned of his youth. I learned of his days in WWII. Which roses in the yard he liked the most and about stray voltage in the barn.
Photo from the Walter Matthews collection
I laughed and cried when he shared stories of his daughter, Pat. She was the light of his life and brought much joy to Walt and Ruth. Pat died at 37 from primary biliary cirrhosis.
Not long after that Ruth was stricken with Alzheimer’s. For many years, Walt cared for her every need. The kind of care not born of obligation, but born of love.
A few years after Ruth passed, Walt was blessed with another chance for a love in his life and Bee came into his heart and ours.
Bee and Walt, just after Valentine’s Day 2008. Photo by MaryALivingston
Every once in a while, we still sneak a morning together and a cup of tea. We make no pretenses of caring for the computer, the time is ours to enjoy the stories and share a little bliss.
If you ever have the occasion, ask Walt to brew a cup of tea and tell you a story.
Your life will be richer for it.
I love you Walt,
The two of us. Photo by Bernice Bennett (Bee)