Maquoketa Iowa. It is as foreign as it sounds.
Nothing I saw would make this area stand out on a map. It is a small community nestled between farm fields and the river sharing its’ name. The downtown is at the early stages of “revival” with a few shops and restaurants sprinkled in with building undergoing construction. It is the the quintessential small town.
My preferred lodging has been one of three hotel chains; none of which were within a 60 mile radius. With at least two days of work in the area, and my desire to be as efficient as possible, I stepped out of my hotel comfort zone and booked a couple nights at a local bed and breakfast.
This is where I met Virl. Him and his wife Kathy proudly run the Squires Manor Bed and Breakfast in Maquoketa. While I could go on and on about how amazing their property is (is really is), I will instead focus on my new friend Virl. I was briefly introduced to him during my check in. He shook my hand and welcomed me to his home. He was warm, friendly, and had a sincerity about him that is rare.
A short while later I took to exploring the gardens on the property, and Virl came out to join. His cane in hand, he slowly walked with me, showing me all the fruits and vegetables growing under his care. At the edge of the garden, he asked me if I heard about the new research on use of medical marijuana for Parkinson’s. I stopped, a little puzzled by this, realizing he was asking because he had this disease. I told him, “no, I really know nothing on the subject,” hoping he would share a little more about his experience. The subject, however, was as abruptly dropped as it was brought up instead he adverted my attention to the patches of edible flowers in his neighbors lawn. We slowly walked over to see the flowers, all the while I was distracted by the thought of this awful affliction and the effects it had on my new acquaintance.
After being filled in on all the happenings of the town and its residence, Virl and I made our way back to the house. Once inside, he traded out his walking cane for a walker, jokingly saying, “I keep one of these by every door,” followed by, “now I need a rest.” I left him to his resting spot in front of the television and went about my afternoon.
Later that evening, I joined the host couple for dessert. For hours, I sat intently listening to the stories of their life, I was fascinated. Virl was born and raised on the land of Iowa. He has grown corn, cattle, hogs and I am sure a lot of everything in between. Him and his wife ran a successful antique business, and now they run this beautiful bed and breakfast. He understands hard work, and the importance of keeping up with the ever changing times.
I was able to spend the next two mornings listening to more of his stories. About how he lost part of his finger, how he was run over by a tractor, how he has traveled across this country delivering antiques. I learned about his family, was able to paint a better picture of what shaped him into who he is. Never once was there any sense of pity or resentment on having such a debilitating disease. While I know I only caught a glimpse of this mans life, it served as such a reminder to live and love life to the fullest.