It would be my last chance so I wasn’t about to botch it this time.
On a Thursday night while driving back home to Winnebago I remembered there was something I needed to do.
My wife Leona, who works at Parker Oaks, and daughter Ashley, who worked there part time, wanted to buy a plant in memory of Kiernan O’Neil — a former resident — and send it to St. Mary’s Catholic Church for his Saturday funeral service.
I decided to stop at Bittersweet Mercantile to buy a flower arrangement for someone I didn’t even know or had never met.
Maybe it was because of what Leona told me one day.
She says Kiernan liked to talk and it was about stories he had read in the Register.
Every Monday, Kiernan would wait for someone to bring him his newspaper.
Then, he would read and read. And, he enjoyed stuff I had written.
Kiernan would tell Leona he wanted to meet me, so we could talk.
I think he just wanted to critique my articles, and tell me what he really thought.
I always told myself one day I would go visit Kiernan at Parker Oaks. Later he was admitted to a Rochester hospital, then St. John’s Lutheran Home in Albert Lea.
Again, I told my wife we should go see Kiernan.
We never did.
Three or four days before Kiernan died I asked my wife how he was doing and to find out what his room number was.
On Nov. 2, my biggest fan — perhaps the only one — passed away.
I’ll never forget how I felt when Leona told me Kiernan had died.
It was an empty feeling.
I knew I should have gone and visited him. To talk with him, share ideas and stories.
Now, all I could do was buy flowers in his memory.
After five minutes of browsing, I think going to see Kiernan would have been a lot easier and more gratifying.
In all, I must have looked at 15 different plants and arrangements; at least it felt like it.
There were fresh cut and potted floral arrangements, rubber plants and fern-like formations that reminded me of a bonsai.
Nothing stood out and caught my eye.
Then, I was shown something called a bromeliad.
It is part of the cactus family, at least that’s what I was told.
It was a purplish flower stalk surrounded by green stems, much like that of a pineapple — the most well-known bromeliad.
Something tells me my plant-picking skills can now be added to Kiernan’s list of things he would want to talk about. I hope not.
The plant was unique. Just as Kiernan was.
I know, all of us possess a quality that defines who we are.
Kiernan’s was being able to poke fun at himself to make others laugh.
I’ve been told he had a dry sense of humor.
Confined to a wheelchair, he would tell the aides he wanted to stop by the supervisors’ “stand up” meeting before taking a shower and say, “Here I am!”
I don’t have to tell you how he was dressed, or should I say wasn’t.
Kiernan also had a “sweet tooth.” However, he was a diabetic.
That wouldn’t stop him from asking some employees to sneak a couple pieces of pie to his room.
He wouldn’t tell anyone, if they didn’t; it would be their little secret.
An avid Minnesota Twins fan, seeing Kiernan in a team T-shirt wasn’t uncommon.
The more I learn about Kiernan, the more I think we had many things in common.
I, Leona nor Ashley were able to attend Kiernan’s funeral.
Ashley was running in her last collegiate cross country meet.
I think Kiernan would understand our absence.
On our way to Grinnell, Iowa, for the meet and the way back I thought about Kiernan.
Life is funny.
It’s not only the people you cross paths with who may leave a lasting impression.
Sometimes you’re left with memories of a person you’ve never met.