Posted by: LucidMystery | October 6, 2008

Now You Can Walk, Run, and Leap

A year ago this week, I lost someone very close to me, Bo Wells. My family became friends with him and his wife Carol when I was 7, and he was 68. I’m not sure how it happened, but Bo and Carol quickly became like family to us. They had never had children of their own, so they doted on me and Esha; and Bo and Dad jokingly called themselves #1 dad and #1 son, respectively.

We celebrated not just the holidays with them, but the ordinary days too. I can’t think how many times we just dropped in on them on a random night of the week and we would all go out to dinner or mom and dad would play Bo and Carol at euchre. Those nights stay in my mind so clearly–all the laughing, story telling, and teasing. Even when I decided to subject everyone to my little kid chatterbox self, neither Bo nor Carol ever stopped me, but listened patiently. As the years went on, it became the joke on me how I would never shut up; but even until the very end, Bo insisted he had always loved it.

As wonderful as Bo and Carol each were in their respective ways, Bo was the one anyone couldn’t help but love instantly. He was slow to anger, and always patient. An amazing man, he had survived a bout with polio when he was 19, in spite of his doctors saying he wouldn’t make it. The downside was that for the rest of his life, he never could walk upright. Instead, the indomitable Bo invented his own gait that involved locking his knees and then using his arms to physically lift one leg up, move it forward, and then set it back down. Then do the same to the other leg. He walked like this for sixty-one years, and I swear I never once heard him complain or sound the slightest bit bitter about it.

Because of that ordeal, Bo was the person who originally taught me not to worry constantly about things you can’t control.

“I worried everyday about getting polio from the time I was 11 until I got it. But did worrying about it help me at all? Did it stop me from getting sick? All it did was make me waste time and energy worrying about something I couldn’t change.”

That didn’t stop us from worrying about him, though, when in my junior year of college my family noticed how he seemed to be…foggy, for lack of a better word. He kept forgetting odd things, even how to shuffle a deck of cards, and he seemed to be weaker every time we saw him, even when our visits were only days apart. Then, in February of 2007, he suffered a massive stroke. When I got to the hospital, I remember it took me a good few minutes after I first saw him to be able to control myself to point where I could be in the room with him. It’s horrible to see someone you love become utterly helpless-unable to really speak or move-and hooked up to all sorts of machines with wires and tubes surrounding them like a web. Bo spent weeks in that hospital, yet again defying the faithless doctors who repeatedly said he wouldn’t make it through the night.

But then, God made a move that surprised us all. The only nursing home in the area that Bo’s insurance would pay for was right next door to my apartment building. I could, and did, see him practically every day. Over the months, I got to be friends with the staff there, and Bo took to telling them all I was family. On warm days, we would get him sitting in his wheel chair and he and I would take walks around the building or uptown. I decorated his room with Buckeye memorobilia and bald eagle pictures, stuff I knew he liked. Later, when that nursing home was closed to be made into a dorm, he was moved to a nearby place and he took all of my decor with him.

In a way though, all those times when I visited him for those several months, it wasn’t Bo anymore. Though he was still sweet and caring as ever, the stroke had damaged him a lot; and he never got back his old spunk and his every need had to taken care of for him. He couldn’t even comb his hair. When the a nurse would come into the room to give hims his meds or drop off his dinner tray, his face would fall because eating was such an struggle. I remember going back to my apartment after visiting, and sometimes I would just drop onto the floor and cry for the man who had once so fiercely fought for and appreciated his independence.

In the end, though I wasn’t incredibly surprised with the final turn of events, I can’t say my lack of shock made any of it easier. One windy Monday in October, I was on my way to meet Joel at the science bulding so we could study for our vertebrate morphology test the next day when I got a call from Dad. Come to St. Ann’s, he said. We’re not going to have Bo for much longer. Bo’s weakened body had been unable to fight the pneumonia that had filled his lungs. And dad was right. Just a little past midnight, Bo was gone.

How can I tell you what a person he was? Never a judgmental thought in his head, but still firm when he knew it was necessary. How can I ever describe to you how ridiculous he and my dad could be when they were together? Who else could coin phrases like “I feel more like I do now than I did a while ago” or “I’m not a dirty old man, I’m a sexy senior citizen.” All I can say is that for those of you who got to meet Bo, you were lucky. My family considered our friendship with Bo and Carol through the years to be one of our biggest blessings, and I still thank God for them.

You know what, though? As much as I still miss Bo, I’m happy for him. He struggled his whole life here on earth, but I know where he is now. And I know that he ran there on legs that were finally strong enough to carry him again.

Love you always, Bo!


  1. I’m really glad we all went to the nursing home later to sing hymns with the residents and chat with them. Kudos to you for that idea.


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