The letter was addressed to “Buddy Swarm.” It was from 94-year old Wilbur Swindler, of Ottumwa. Wilbur was asking Buddy to come visit, and to “bring Curt and Ginnie.” Wilbur had just completed his patio and back yard and wanted Buddy to come and inspect it. So we did. We loaded up Buddy (everybody’s buddy), and off we went to Ottumwa, to visit Wilbur Swindler.
Buddy likes to ride with his head out the window. He has learned how to step on the window-control button to lower the window. The only problem is that the window goes all the way down and we’re afraid Buddy might jump out. Therefore, I engaged the window lock. Poor Buddy, he left nose prints all over the window.
Wilbur Swindler cuts my Empty-Nest columns out of the Ottumwa Courier and saves them. He especially likes the ones that talk about Buddy and Ginnie. When Ginnie and I completed the addition to our garage and had an open house, Wilbur Swindler drove all the way to Mt. Pleasant. Remember, he’s in his nineties. He missed a turn, and wound up in Missouri, which didn’t bother him, because he’s from Missouri. Wilbur did get turned around and got the “Oldest Person Attending Award”–which was his picture taken with Buddy.
Wilbur’s backyard is something to behold. He has enlarged a kitchen window that overlooks the patio so that he can watch the birds that visit his many feeders. There’s a teepee with the statue of a stone Indian sitting in it, immaculate flower beds, and a bird-house subdivision. One display that Wilbur designed and is particularly proud of is a trellis with purple and white clematis. Wilbur had glass panels built and hung between the two different colored clematis so that they don’t intermingle. He plans on having an ice-cream social in his backyard and inviting friends, neighbors and family. You won’t want to miss it if you’re invited.
Wilbur took Ginnie and me to the Riverside Restaurant in Ottumwa for supper because that is where Ginnie and I met. We also got engaged there. (I had written about it in my column.) On this occasion, Ginnie and I had all-you-can-eat walleye (it was Friday), while Wilbur had liver and onions—a delicacy he allows himself three-or-four times a year. He does all his own cooking, and watches what he eats religiously, allowing himself no sugar or salt. Liver and onions, although rich in vitamins and minerals, is loaded with saturated fat. The last time he bought sugar was twenty years ago to make syrup for his hummingbirds. Still able to do 100 situps, Wilbur’s attention to diet has paid off.
The waitresses at the Riverside hover and fuss over Wilbur like a celebrity, which he is. Wherever he goes, people know him. (He still drives.) Wilbur Swindler is perhaps the most positive person I have ever met. When he was in the hospital for two-and-a-half months with complications from shingles, he never got bored. “I’m a happy person,” he chortles, and the waitresses and nearby diners nod their heads in agreement. And happiness is what Wilbur attributes to his longevity. “You get back what you put out. I can’t remember in my whole life ever being despondent. If my doctor told me I had two weeks to live, I’d say, get out of the way, doc, I’m going dancing!”
Wilbur is a war hero, having been a paratrooper with the 11th Airborne Division during World War II. He completed 11 jumps and was about to partake in the invasion of Japan when, “Truman dropped the bomb.” Wilbur is pleased that the surrender took place on the USS Missouri, because both he and Truman are from Missouri. “The discipline and respect I learned in the Army has followed me all my life,” he states emphatically, a chunk of liver suspended on his fork.
Back at home, Wilbur reclines in his lift chair. Buddy, feeling right at home, jumps up on Wilbur’s lap for a face washing. Wilbur’s day is complete, Ole Buddy has come for a visit.
Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Facebook. Curt’s stories are also read at 106.3 FM in Farmington.