Robert Meyer
My last trip to Milwaukee – Giving it my all
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By Robert Meyer
February 13, 2024

Well, it likely won’t be the last time I head down the freeway, but it certainly marks the end of an era, so to speak. It has been a long time since I have written a piece, partly because a lot of my free time was absorbed in helping a friend that I made in May of 2022. Unfortunately, this story is not one that ends happily, at least on the surface. The person in question passed away unexpectedly on December 22, just days before Christmas this past year.

As a widower, I probably dabble in areas I would never think of going as a married man. As a single person, often you lose some of the discipline you had when you had commitments and obligations that demanded immediate and constant vigilance. Perhaps you attempt to rekindle old acquaintances that were neglected while married, or you attempt to reach out and form new relationships. That is the impetus that set me on this journey.

What began as a curious friendship spawned by text messages and telephone calls turned into a situation that taxed my patience and charitable disposition to its limits. I met a woman online. She told me she was a committed Christian, had a career in the medical field, and was a non-smoker, and she showed me pictures of a robust and vibrant woman with a heart-warming smile.

She lived in suburban Milwaukee and suggested that we could attend several of the cultural festivals coming up that summer. She proposed a friendship with no pressure to take the relationship beyond that level. In my youth, my father had taken the family each year to the Wisconsin State Fair, the Milwaukee Zoo, and other local attractions. I saw her proposition as sort of a nostalgic opportunity.

After several months, we finally met in person, and I had to radically adapt my expectations. The situation would require a quasi caregiver more than a companion. Along the way, I experienced the fatigue and frustration of things not going as I had envisioned. There were both physical and psychological issues that would be challenging, to say the least.

During my life, I have had two very special individuals who were mentors to me – one still living, the other deceased for over two decades. These men knew precisely how to motivate me and get the greatest effort from me. Out of gratitude, I sometimes feel compelled to do that for others.

Unfortunately, I have come to realize I don’t have the innate qualities they possessed, so my efforts often seem less fruitful. At different times, I grew weary of the continuing time I was investing in this endeavor, but was assured by her that my efforts were appreciated and helpful, so I carried on. You see, my weakness is I cannot turn my back on someone in need, even if it appears nothing good can come out of it.

News of the unexpected passing of my friend unleashed a bevy of mixed reflections. I sobbed for three hours, fell asleep, then was consumed by a flood of contemplation that wouldn't let me get back to sleep again. I realized I was doing the same things I did before I was married: being a confidant to women who are really struggling in their lives. It is good to be charitable, but it takes its toll.

I have confided in others, expecting rebuke from them for habitually getting embroiled in such situations. But the opposite has happened. One friend I’ve known since early adulthood, who seldom offers explanations in religious language, suggested “perhaps this is what God has called you out to do.” Both the professional counselor and brother of this woman called me a “good man” for my efforts. To be clear, I don’t consider myself a good man, but I do possess a conscience which sometimes causes me to subordinate my own self-interests.

Two years ago, I was involved in a relationship that was coming to an end due to differing irreconcilable objectives. I was told in my youth that truly caring for a person means you want the best for them even when you can’t be in their life. I prayed that this woman would find someone more suitable for her, and it happened almost instantaneously. I had a parallel epiphany with the woman in Milwaukee and soon after she passed away. What am I to think of this?

From a Christian perspective, her brother suggested that he believes she has now found the peace that eluded her in life. If this is really true, then as hard as it is to embrace emotionally, it might be that her death isn’t the tragedy it seems to be after all. My cousin told me that our grandfather taught him never to be afraid to invest in people. In that light, I’ll quote the first part of a meme I found on the internet:

"There is a rare breed of people that go all in. They keep their word, they give it all, they go the extra mile for those they care for. These individuals hardly ever receive the same passion and effort in return, yet never change and always give their all...."

© Robert Meyer

 
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Robert Meyer

Robert Meyer is a hardy soul who hails from the Cheesehead country of the upper midwest... (more)

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