Thursday, January 15, 2004
I haven’t written anything here for over a month. We had a great Christmas and New Years, but the holidays kept us very busy. I have things to share and I will do that as soon as I can, but at this moment, I want to write about something else.
It’s one o’clock in the afternoon and the church bells are ringing. They have been for a few minutes now. They are signaling the village about the funeral that is just starting for Rudolf Bandi-Schläppi who died early in the morning this past Sunday. I should be there paying my respects with everyone else, but I couldn’t do it. He is the first person who has died in Oberwil that I actually knew and therefore, this would have been my first funeral here. I’m a very emotional person and would have cried through the whole thing. The Swiss seem to hold their emotions close and I’m not sure anyone would have understood.
Eight years ago, I attended a funeral in Chicago for a man who had been one of my customers. Sitting in the back of the church with a co-worker, I did my best to control my emotions. I hadn’t really even know this man very well. At the end of the service, the family walked slowly down the aisle behind the coffin as it was being carried out. I had never met any of them before, but I watched them and thought about their loss. I sat there with uncontrollable tears and snot running down my face. Then I realized that I probably looked like an unknown mistress trying to be unobtrusive in the back of the church. Somehow I didn’t feel that my level of emotions matched the degree to which I was familiar with him or his life. It was the last time I’ve attended a funeral.
And so, instead of going to the funeral today, I decided to spend the time here at home thinking about Rudy and writing this entry. I hope that this is an appropriate way to show my respect to him, or at least it's my way. And there's no one here to see if I cry.
I never knew Rudolf Bandi-Schläppi’s full name – not until I read the notice that was delivered to everyone’s mailbox on Monday. I knew him simply as Rudy. And it seemed that everyone knew him and liked him. Rudy lived in Oberwil all of his life and was one of the 'Bandis', which seems to me to be every other person in the village. He was also known by so many because he had the habit of ‘making his rounds’. Rudy was retired from a business he owned where he put tile shingles on roofs. Every day since he retired he would go to each of the restaurants in Oberwil and the surrounding villages and have a small glass of red wine in each one of them. Whenever I happened to be sitting at the Stammtish -- the community round table -- at either the Bären or the Sternen when Rudy came in, he always gave me a smile that made me feel that he was genuinely happy to see me. And when he got up to leave for the next restaurant, he always gently patted my shoulder and said good-bye. We hadn't talked together too much. It was partly because I was nervous to speak Swiss German and partly because he was a quiet man. But I felt like I knew him very well because he said so much with his eyes and his smile.
Rudy was born on September 9th, 1924 and died at the age of seventy-nine. I hope he had a good life here in Oberwil and a peaceful passing onto the next. I will miss him and more than anything, I will miss his smile.
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