I used to joke that I read the obituaries every day just to see if I'm in them. Or, said another way, to make sure my name isn't there, i.e., I'm alive for another day.
It's a habit I've formed. On the days I don't recognize any names of the recently departed, I'm grateful. On the days I do, well, that's when the memories come.
Yesterday it was the name of a well-known business man in my home town, 'Frannie' Mack.
I knew Frannie my whole life. My earliest memories of him where from going into the Curry and Mack Hardware when it was still on the west side of main street. I was still very young, i.e. with one of my parents and not yet roaming the streets on my own or with my sis.
My memory is of being there with my Dad and being impressed by the way Frannie greeted him: "Hi Lou! How are you doing? What can I do to help you?" As a country kid, I had the feeling the town businessmen were somehow better than us. Yet here was one of them treating my farmer father as though he was the one who was important. Only years later did I come to understand the symbiotic relationship.
The times I was in his store with my mother, his greeting was just as friendly but maybe with a slightly different warmth. Frannie was one of those men who liked women and made them feel special without any overtly intimate overtones.
When I was a little older and had the freedom to wander the streets on Saturday night, I felt like it was safe to go into the hardware store because Frannie knew who I was because he knew my parents. And why did I want to go in there on my own?
Today, reading the obits in the Des Moines Register, I learned of the passing of another old friend.