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Column

Being there matters

You may noticed I’ve been mostly absent from the paper for the last week or so. I felt a little guilty leaving my coworkers just when the sports guys got their pages back and wouldn’t be helping out with the news, but this wasn’t the kind of vacation that I could postpone.

I’m in Kansas, at my brother’s little rental house we call the “No Star Motel” — although it currently has running water and air conditioning at the same time so I might have to give it half a star this trip. Well, I would if the power hadn’t gone out one of the nights I was here, even though that was the weather’s fault. In all seriousness, Over the last few years, I have made many trips down here and stayed at the No Star: some of them for joyous reasons like baby showers and birthday parties and once as a way stop for an actual vacation.

Other times were dark days when a cousin passed away unexpectedly and several trips where I needed to be in Kansas to attend to business I’d rather not have had.

Having this place to come to meant I could be here every time I needed to without worrying about where I’d stay or a big hotel bill. I have probably thanked him for that, but just in case, “Thanks, it’s been a cozy little home-away-from-home when I needed it.” — Not that he’ll see this, he lives in Kansas.

This trip I was here to watch my great-nieces after their mother’s surgery. My niece, their mom, had the same thyroid surgery I had 15 years ago. Fortunately, for her the tests came back negative — no cancer.

But still, surgery where you can’t really move your head very well for a week afterwards and you have two toddlers who love to hug and grab and headbutt you, means you are going to need a little help. I might not have been truly needed, there are plenty of family members around. In fact, I had to share my girls with some of them several days!

But I wanted to be here. For her, for them, for the results of the tests. I wanted to be here to bounce questions off of and make sure she could have no worries about the girls being taken care of. And to convince her on that first night, that, no, you shouldn’t try to take them home. They are nothing if not “mama’s girls” and would not have let her get the rest she needed.

I also wanted to be there for the girls and a nephew who lives close to them, to make sure they know me, that they have an aunt in their corner. If I want to be a part of their lives, I have to be there.

At the moment they are only 1, 2 and 3 and won’t remember much about the times we spent this week, but I’m building a foundation.

Painting unicorns and giraffes, spending hours at playgrounds, rocking the littlest one to sleep, reading all of the books. That’s how you “be there.”

I have an aunt who was that person who was “there.” for us when we were kids. Winter coats, shoes, and probably countless times and things I never knew about. She got me my first job grading papers for one of the third-grade teachers in Osceola. She loaned me the money for my first car.

Through the years, we’ve switched places. I’m the one that is there for her now that she lives in assisted living. For the last few months, I haven’t been able to physically be there due to COVID restrictions, but I’m the one she calls when she needs something.

She always says, “It’s your pesky aunt.” But it’s not a burden. She was there for me. That’s how it should be.

I’m packing up tonight to leave in the morning. Headed home, a little refreshed from the merry-go-round of writing the news and doing the same things most days and weeks, a little tired (a lot tired) from early mornings and chasing after little people in a way I haven’t had to do for a few years — not to mention the June bug that was bouncing around on my ceiling last night until midnight — and ready to be there some more.

It might be as a reporter, giving you the things you need to know from your supervisor meetings (thanks, Dustin for covering that one for me) and city council.

It might be as the shop owner who provides a place for youth to hang out and have good, clean fun in a safe place or older folks to get out of their house for a while and have a chat.

It might be as the mom who listens when days are rough or decisions have to be made.

It might be as a photographer who brings a little beauty to your life.

It might be with a honk and a wave of encouragement as I drive by those who are fighting for change in our society.

There are a thousand little ways to be there. I will try to notice them and act on them.

Who will you “be there” for? It matters.

•••

Let me know what matters to you at rsmith@crestonnews.com, 641-782-2141 ext. 6433, or c/o Creston News Advertiser, 503 W. Adams St., Creston, Iowa 50801.

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