Follow through

I’m really angry at myself. I wish there was someone else to blame, but it all falls on my own shoulders. The worst part of it is I can’t correct my mistakes.

The old saying is, “Don’t put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today.” I’ve heard it for years. My grandmother said those words to me more times than I can count. I should have learned.

Rex Hunter was my elementary school art teacher. Like most students, I couldn’t wait for art day, when our class would travel to Mr. Hunter’s room to create a myriad of masterpieces. We loved art class, and we loved Mr. Hunter. Even though he was a no-nonsense type of teacher, he had a way about him that made you anxious to go to his class. I’m sure there are countless people who remember Mr. Hunter’s art classes at Princeton Elementary.

Fast forward several years, and I got to know Rex Hunter on an adult level. I still couldn’t call him “Rex.” No, he would always be Mr. Hunter to me, but I found myself in several situations where I would have conversations with him and his wife, Fran. They were a lovely couple, and when I saw either of them, I always made sure to stop for a few minutes and shoot the breeze. I enjoyed their humor, their insight. Their home was on my way to work, and I always admired their outdoor flowers. After I told them so, they painted a little sign and put it in their flower bed. It said, “Hi, Terri,” and whenever I passed by, I would honk my car horn, so they’d know I saw it.

When Fran passed away a few years ago, I always worried about Rex. While I knew his adult kids were around and helpful, I just pictured him rambling around alone in his home. Week after week, I wanted to take a homemade meal to him and chat for a few minutes when I dropped it off at his home. Chili, chicken and noodles, homemade cookies, a meat loaf — I fully planned on dropping some home-cooked food by his house and shooting the breeze with this man I admired. This week turned into next week, and this month turned into next month ... I had good intentions, but it just never happened.

A couple of weeks ago, I was going through the obituaries in my newspaper, when I saw it ... Rex Hunter. My heart broke, and the picture of sorrow in my head couldn’t have been painted any brighter. What had I been waiting for? How difficult could it have been?

And if that didn’t hit home ...

I was coming home from Peoria the other day, and as I was going through Buda, I wondered about my good friend Mary Lu Bitting. I knew she had been ill, and I had a couple of greeting cards on my desk at home to send to her, though I just hadn’t gotten to it yet.

Mary Lu won our inaugural contest called, “Who bakes the best brownies in Bureau County.” Hands down, her brownies were the best, and even though we conducted the contest several years ago, I was still often the lucky recipient of a plate of Mary Lu’s brownies.

Mary Lu and I became friends after that crazy little contest, and when I was quite ill a few years ago, my brownie-baking buddy was one of the first to send me a greeting card — actually she sent me a lot of cards, wishing me well and including a few well-thought out words in her message. Occasionally, she would stop by my home with a plate of her famous brownies, and even though the chemotherapy was keeping me from eating much, I’d always manage to keep one of Mary Lu’s brownies down.

Fast forward to earlier this week, and my heart sank when Mary Lu’s obituary came across the newspaper page. The cards I meant to send are still on my desk. She will never read them or know I was thinking about her.

My heart goes out to both families. I am sorry for my lack of following through. A difficult lesson learned. I will do better.

BCR Editor Terri Simon can be reached at tsimon@bcrnews.com.