03 April 2009

Good Friends

It’s now something like nineteen years since they moved away, but while on assignment in Fort Collins, Colorado, this week, I had the opportunity to visit Kevin and Valerie Utter's home, catch up, meet their children, and eat some of their spaghetti.

We talked about guide dogs, Shaklee, Theremins, and Kevin’s recordings, and I once again appreciated their lack of pretension and their faith.

I was nine years old when they moved into the other end of the triplex.

On one occasion when Mom and Dad left my sister and me with the Utters, we went for a walk on a pedestrian bridge over I-405. My sister and I ran back and forth, coaxing truckers into honking at us.

As we turned to go, Valerie folded her white cane and took my sister’s arm. Anita always relished and took that responsibility very seriously.

Kevin was right beside Valerie.

And I saw another tractor-trailer rig coming.

Kevin “saw” me slip away, but he kept walking.

Valerie was busy discussing something with Anita, and when the truck driver gave a long blast on his air horn, she jumped completely off the ground...and then laughed.

That moment captures the sense of humor the Utters have…and it probably also illustrates why Mom and Dad occasionally needed a day off.

Kevin has a Master of Music in Organ Performance from Colorado State University, gave me trumpet lessons for several months, and taught piano lessons at Kennelly Keys. Once I got to sit beside Kevin and change the settings on the organ while he played in a concert.

We’d give Valerie rides to the grocery store. And Mom and Valerie would talk for hours, and sometimes I’d show up and “add” to the conversation. Whenever I’d say something inappropriate, Mom would shoot me one of those looks—and I’d shut up…or dig a deeper hole.

I’ll never forget the time Kevin pushed Valerie out the back door and put out a fire on their range.

We started to learn Braille that year, and my sister and I got into the habit of enthusiastically describing what we could see. Knowing them gave me a glimpse of grace and beauty I wouldn’t otherwise have experienced and for which I'll always be grateful.

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