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Visitation pinpoints six degrees of separation theory

January 9, 2011
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer

I don't care what you say, it's not at all ghoulish to spend more than an hour at a wake, though I must admit it does sound odd, especially since I'd met the man just once.

The visitation for Justus - Jay - Legvold was late Monday afternoon at Foust Funeral Home in Eagle Grove. I'd met him when I wrote a story last November about his war years, but I graduated from high school with his daughter, Kay; I babysat for the former Laurie Larson, who is married to his son, Jim; and I saw a picture of Jay holding his oldest baby, Steve, so I felt like I knew Steve, too.

It's an unfortunate fact that funerals often are the only activities that bring full families together. For birthday parties or family reunions, work or previous engagements may get in the way, but a funeral is too final to ignore. My dad always said to "Marry 'em and bury 'em," at least that's what my sister tells me. I don't remember him saying that, but I didn't live around Dodge for a lot of years and she did.

You know that six degrees of separation thing - the idea that everyone is, on average, approximately six steps away from any other person on Earth - seems most true at a funeral.

I hung around Jay's visitation, not only to support Kay and her family, but to wait for Cass and John Larson to appear. I haven't seen either of them for a long time. In fact, the last time I saw Cass, she was in "Fiddler on the Roof," the Paddle Wheel Players presentation in Eagle Grove several years back.

As I waited for them, Elmer and Shirley Olson came in. Way back when - and I mean way back - they attended South Enes Lutheran Church in Vincent, and their little girl could sing in perfect pitch. I remember that. I don't remember her name. I know now, however, that she and her husband are moving back to Eagle Grove from Montana. And that's something I never, ever would have figured to learn at Jay's wake.

I didn't have to wait long for the Larsons to show up. I remember them most for living just south of us on the farm and for asking me - and my sisters, too - to babysit when they needed someone.

You know how an idea will sometimes burst into your head so brightly you figure it must be a wonderful idea? Well, I had one of those ideas one night when I was babysitting for them. After the kids went to bed, I dragged out the vacuum and started a house revamping.

It remains fuzzy why I did that since I didn't like to clean, even when I had to. Maybe it wasn't a cleaning, since I vacuumed only under the furniture I moved, but I had this crazy urge to rearrange their furniture. Not just an end table here and lamp there. I threw the furniture up in the air - well, not literally - and pulled down a new configuration of sofas and chairs and everything else in two rooms.

Really, it was one big room because the opening was so big, so it didn't count as two.

When I saw the car lights pull in the driveway, I sat quietly on the sofa in its new position and waited for my thanks. Possibly even a bonus on my sitter pay. The kitchen door opened. They walked together into the dining room. I was getting goose pimples just thinking about it.

Cass let out a low, long "Oooooohhhhhhhhhhhhh," rather like a puppy squeezed in a closing door. John looked around and yelped, "What the hell happened here?"

When I went back the next day to pick up something I'd forgotten, the house was back in Larson order, and I never rearranged it again. I did babysit, but I never rearranged their furniture.

So long friends, until the next time when we're together.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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