Noticing a red and white Huskers mug on her desk, I inquired, and she confirmed that she'd gotten both her BA and MA from the University of Nebraska. She told me, too, that she was from Crete, NB, which happened to be the hometown of a sister-in-law of mine. Such interconnections continued. One evening in the hotel grill, we met two people from Montana. The woman's mother lives in Great Falls. After comparing notes, we concluded that her mother and my son's family attend the same church.
There were no further connecting links but I must tell you the intriguing story of that pair. The woman, sort of in passing, said that the man's ranch was the second largest in the entire state. Glacier National Park borders his land on the west and the Canadian line forms its northern boundary. Another fellow seated nearby had traveled in the area and recalled seeing, at a distance, a monument, visible from the Interstate, which marks the northernmost point reached by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. They confirmed that it stands on land the government obtained from this gentleman, and is accessible only through his private property.
My daughter and I kept trying to figure out the relationship between the two of them. He knew Rochester well, having brought his late wife there with a series of disorders over many years, but it was her first visit. A second wife, daughter,
live-in? We couldn't decide. Several days later, sitting in the hotel lobby, I heard her explain. It seems, she and his family were closest neighbors, living a few miles apart in that wide-open country, thirty miles from any town. His daughter had been her dearest friend. Within the past year his long-ailing wife had died. Just a few weeks later, quite unexpectedly, the daughter passed away. Candidly telling the story, this heavy-set woman with a heart seemingly as big as the Montana sky, said there was just no place for him to go. "He'd have died, too, if they'd taken him to a nursing home in town." So she just moved in and took over. She still has her own house, but seldom spends time there. Sadly they concluded the story by telling us that his health had been declining so they had come to Mayo to see what was going on. Doctors, discovering a spot on one lung, had taken a biopsy and the results were not encouraging. I think they were awaiting the decision whether or not to attempt surgery. Meanwhile, bless her, she seemed to be doing everything she could to keep him from dwelling on the possibilities.
I'm running out of space, so I will stop for now, but you'll probably be hearing more of my stories next time.