This past Saturday, Kay and I had the honor to accept an invitation to the birthday reception for Mr. Noel Allen of Brazil.
If you have not met Noel, you've missed one of those minor pleasures life affords, which make living more enjoyable.
It may or may not have been instructive to learn -- just coincidentally I am sure -- that in the year Noel was born, 1929, this country saw the introduction of both the Great Depression and Popeye.
The reception was hosted by Noel and Helen's three daughters at the Berea Christian Church and the Fellowship Hall was just about large enough for all the family and friends who came to honor Noel.
We were greeted at the door by Noel's bride of 61 years, Helen. There was a moment I noted when, sitting side-by-side, these two automatically, probably unconsciously, held hands. It's the kind of thing you see among married folk with three daughters and sons-in-law, some 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren and counting.
My experience is holding hands becomes something of a natural reaction to being reminded of all rearing children has brought you through.
Most of us live quiet lives, unnoticed by the mass on their way to somewhere else. Some just have more interesting things happen to them than others. When I met Noel, he owned Red Roof Antiques and I didn't know about any of the things he lived through and accomplished.
Once in a while, he'd mention something or another he'd done, or some place he'd been. It was only from the information compiled by his grandchildren for this occasion that I learned what an interesting life he had indeed led, some good things he'd achieved and some of the fascinating places he'd been.
Those grandchildren ought to know another part of the story, that minor part of Noel's life, which touched my family and I.
It is hard to imagine now what would have happened if we had not met Noel shortly after arriving in Brazil in 1996. There were four of us then: Kay and I, our 14-year-old son Benji, and Pepper -- Benji's large but otherwise indescribable dog.
Who rents to a guy in my position: knows no one in town, has no local references other than a son living in Carbon, no visible means of support and in suspect health? And most importantly, who rents to a family with that dog?
Noel not only took a chance on us, but became the best landlord I've ever known. In the 10 years we lived on his property, he never raised what was assuredly below market value rent. In fact, he lowered it at one point to be "easier to add in my checkbook."
If I asked how to fix something, he'd immediately call someone in to do it right. (Noel was always a good judge of my mechanical ability).
If our children had not insisted on our moving into town, I would have been content to live where we were as long as Noel Allen was the lord of the manor.
There are two fair ways to judge the quality of a man: How he treats his fellow man when no one is looking and whether his children and grandchildren are glad they came to his 80th birthday party.
If I live to be 80, I can only hope to be so fairly judged as this quiet man with an interesting past.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.