Kit Schlich
Vic's daughter-in-law

Auf Wiedersehen, mein lieber Vic

I write this on a perfect day of sunshine and balmy breezes. Steve just called me from Chicago where he’s waiting to board a plane to Portland to be with his—your—family. I long to be there with you all. Instead I remain at home, raging against my physical limitations. You know exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve come to understand your rage over your body’s imperfections and frailty, the frustration you felt when the body can’t keep up with the spirit. You and I are comrades in this struggle.

Nature consoles me; I sit with laptop on my upper deck and survey my living garden. Tending a garden has become my spiritual practice since around the time I met you Schlichs and the direction of my life improved. My garden teaches me about the rhythms of life, the sacredness of life. With a pang of disappointment I notice that my lavender is past bloom; the flowers have lost their color and are now gray and dry. Did I appreciate them enough at their peak? I wonder: did I tend them well enough? Did I miss some vital watering? Did I give them enough attention? The answers are probably "yes," but in my human selfishness I want more… want permanence I can’t have.

I have these same concerns for my relationship with you, Vic. If I had my way, I’d never have to say goodbye. But I’m left to ponder if I expressed my affection for you often enough, unequivocally enough. Did I give you all I could? I will learn to content myself that—of the over six billion people on this planet—we found each other and our friendship flourished.

Back to that lavender… I have clear memories of it in full bloom: the rich color, the graceful form, the fragrance. These are written indelibly in my brain, and I’ll keep them as long as I can hold onto my wits. But you’ve made a stronger impression on me than a mere crop of lovely lavender. The human connection we shared was rare and wonderful, and I could write a book of memories.

Let me tell you what I thought of first when I found out we had lost you. It’s the first-ever memory: the evening I met you back in 1987. You and Kim flew to California to check out the woman your only son wanted to marry. Within ten minutes of your arrival you were sitting at our kitchen table, and we established immediate rapport. Then, a most auspicious omen: my little gray cat Maggie jumped up uninvited into your lap, climbed atop your belly, rested her front paws on your chest, and began to nibble your goatee. I held my breath at her audacity and waited for you to issue a "Scat!" but instead beheld a moment of budding affection. Maggie blessed you and let me know you were OK! You allowed my little pet to remain in place long enough for me to grab my camera. How happy I am now to have that image forever… from that moment on I knew you and I would share a friendship.

Our friendship developed naturally. We found delight in verbal sparring, which—ironically—drew us closer. You made me want to sharpen my wit. You were my writing mentor, ever encouraging me to spread my wings. When I lost my own father, you stepped in as a worthy surrogate. What a shame we lived 3,200 miles apart, but e-mail and telephone chats shortened the distance.

What a delight it was to discover that a man could have such a soft heart! But you never gave yourself over to foolish emotion; you saved your sentiments for meaningful moments, especially those moments of greeting and farewell that were all too few for us. I learned it was way too easy to get you to drop your gruff German façade; it wasn’t even a sport but a craft I perfected as time went on. Thanks for passing along your sweetness to your only son: to love one of you is to naturally love the other. Steve was the greatest gift you had to give me. Thank you for raising him with love and intelligence. Your spirit and goodness live on in him and his sister Nancy. (I consider her my long-lost sister.)

So I say to you "auf Wiedersehen" which translates as "until we meet again," as opposed to "farewell," for you are always with me in many incalculable ways, and will ever be… only our imperfect bodies will never meet again.

—Your loving Kitzel