Filling the gaps

Friday, December 2, 2011

Like so many people in this community, I'm going to miss Becky Brothers.

I suppose my reasons for missing her pale in comparison to those of her family members, her students and her colleagues, but I'll miss her just the same.

As Becky has struggled with illness in recent years, I've missed her constant presence at the South Putnam scorer's table at sporting events.

I'll miss seeing her smile and ask how I'm doing as if she's known me for 30 years.

I will especially miss Becky the next time I have to go to South Putnam to take a homecoming picture. She had a knack for always having everything in place, everyone ready to go. The winners' names were already written down, tucked away in an envelope she'd slip into your hand.

It maybe saved me two minutes of work, but it was a huge gesture.

She didn't want to waste your time, and I'm not sure she knew how much that meant, particularly to a grumpy sportswriter who'd rather be spending his halftime compiling stats.

As far as I can tell, this was the essence of Becky Brothers' life. She did a lot of little things -- at least she would have called them little things -- that made life easier for those she touched.

One admirer recently described her gift as seeing the gaps in life and filling them.

I think this description works so well because it reconciles Becky's humble attitude with the enormous impact she had on people.

By all accounts, Becky tried to downplay the praise people heaped on her, saying her kindness to students was simply doing her job or doing what anyone else would do.

Perhaps she was right, but how many people consistently give to others at their own expense for 30 years? I don't know too many.

Once you've "filled the gaps" thousands of times, it adds up to a pretty big body of work.

In the days since my story about Becky was published on Monday, I've gotten many comments on the story and its subject. People have given me compliments I feel I don't deserve.

I just had a good subject to write about. Besides, it was other people, not me, who provided all the good observations. I didn't really know her well enough to have anything worthwhile to say.

I was just able to piece things together in a way people seemed to embrace.

All the same, people continue to be way too kind. I actually got the most awkward compliment secondhand.

"I had someone tell me, 'He isn't just a good writer -- he has a good heart,'" a community leader told me.

What do you say to that? I often doubt both of those things about myself. It does no good to argue, though.

And so I did what I'm sure Miss Brothers would have done: I blushed, said a meek "thank you" and tried to change the subject.