In the Ruins of the Castle
WATSON-KUBA, DEIDRE M. 1957 to 2016. Chandler Arizona: Deidre Meredith Watson-Kuba, age 58, formerly of Waterloo, died at home after a lengthy illness Tuesday. Ms. Watson-Kuba was a 1975 graduate of Waterloo West High School, and an alumna of the University of Iowa. She received her MBA from DePaul University. She was a noted business management expert, speaker, author, and innovator, and held multiple senior executive positions at Fortune 500 companies. Ms. Watson-Kuba was the daughter of noted city attorneys Charles Jarrod and Genevieve Camila Watson. She is survived by her husband, Dr. Martin Vaclav Kuba, and four adult children. Arrangements are pending, detailed obituary to follow.
Years later, Marty existed as best he could in the wreckage of the home dedicated to his wife.
Good days were when he didn’t stumble across a Deidre artifact that sent him spiraling to despondency. Nevertheless, bad days were becoming more infrequent. Deidra had an immense presence throughout her life, which was apparent in the home she’d shared with Marty and the children for so many years. She was a strong, determined, and well-known successful career woman and industry icon, traits that became a legend during her long goodbye.
Deidre left gaping holes in the lives of her children, Matt, Stephanie, and twins Scott and Stacie. It was hardest on Scott and Stacie, sensitive souls who mostly took after their father in temperament and optimism. The crushing finality of mom’s death was hard to process when life consists of hopeful expectations. Conversely, Matt and Stephanie inherited their mother’s steely determination to grapple with life on its terms. When they hurt, it wasn’t outwardly visible. Some take that for insensitivity. Others see it more fittingly as armor.
The parties they hosted, filled with networking, intellectual discussion, wild spontaneity and teamwork were borne of a fusion of opposites in Diedre and Marty. Former friends, all influential members of the court of Diedre who once frequented the parties had long since ceased to call. Those who did stop by could sense the oppressive atmosphere and lingering spirit of those former times, and never stayed long. If some imagined the house haunted, it would not be by the spirit of Diedre who took on each new challenge and defeated it, but by the thin remnant that was the intelligent and kindly Marty, who was left to deal with an unfamiliar and hollow world.
Still, four years on, the collective Kuba family was working at normality.
Today was a good day. Marty was mostly content as he checked his morning newsfeed over his ubiquitous daybreak iced coffee. In a few minutes, he’d leave for his job at St. Boniface University. Marty was nearly always late, a combination of disorganization, trying to do too much, and benign mindlessness. His mother regularly and firmly berated him for his lackadaisical attitude.
“You’ll end up a ditch digger if you don’t focus. There’s more to life than daydreaming.” mom would scold.
Marty smiled at the thought. One of his school mates became a ditch digger in a fashion: and ended up a multi-millionaire with his own construction company. Marty hadn’t done so badly either. A doctorate diploma on his wall and an outwardly prestigious job at a university.
Marty was a popular program administrator, and teacher of master’s students. All who knew him enjoyed his gentle and friendly style. Daydreaming was a respite from the pressures of life as long as Marty could remember. He could accept that critical people in his life saw his visualizations as a waste of time, the hallmark of a boy/man lacking ambition. Yet it had always been a comfort, and occasionally the birthplace of inspiration. Of course, none of this would have assuaged his mother’s wrath, who would quickly point out deficiencies with a swat to the back of the head, saying that ‘he had completely missed the point.’
Marty’s phone vibrated, interrupting the article on popular stage entertainers of the 19th Century. It was, of course, Stacie checking in for the morning with a smiley emoji. Stacie was the epitome of the caring and attentive daughter who doted on him, particularly in the aftermath of Deidre’s death. Marty could never look Stacie in the eye and give her bad news; he depended on her siblings to address unpleasantness in her case.
Stacie was the fluffy bunny of the brood, and much like keeping the inside story about Santa under wraps for as long as possible, discussing the harsh realities of life seemed needlessly cruel, even though she was well into adulthood.
Marty smiled as he worked on his coffee and continued examining his newsfeed. Living assuredly provided challenges, but Marty felt particularly blessed with his children and their nuances. And though she existed in his life as only a memory, his Deidre.
The incoming phone call disrupted his article on new planetary discoveries. A small sensation of tension bordering on slight annoyance manifested when he saw the ID. It was Stephanie, dutifully filling in for her departed mother, making sure dad was up and on his way. Stephanie was night and day to Stacie, and her communications always had a point.
Stephanie was organized and steadfast in her determination that time is best when scheduled. This was particularly true in her dad’s case, as he would come to no good left to his own maintenance. Matt was no less intent on shepherding dad away from whatever pitfall his casual attitude would lead him to, and Stephanie was his close contact proxy in such matters.
“Dad,” Stephanie began, “did I catch you on the drive?”
“No,” Marty sighed in small exasperation, “I haven’t left yet.”
“Dad! You carry this absent-minded professor thing too far! You know if you’d just apply yourself, you could make emeritus like you always planned. Anyway, that’s not why I called. Jared and I want you over for dinner Sunday. We’re going to talk about our trip this summer, and we both want you to come with us.”
“Stephanie, I’ve thought about it, and I appreciate the offer, but maybe I’ll just take the summer off and hang around the house, got a few things to do…”
“Dad!” Stephanie blurted in annoyance, “that’s all you did last summer! And the one before that! Now look, sitting isn’t good! Besides, it will do you good to see the continent, and you haven’t been anywhere since...well since mom.”
There was no point arguing with Stephanie, who ultimately had Marty’s best interests at heart. Still, home was safe. Marty became good at normal staying within its confines, and those of the university. ‘I don’t want to go,’ Marty thought. Nothing more can happen here. Moreover, there was always Deidra’s lingering presence to make the world seem less like it had turned upside down.
“Something else, dad,” Stephanie injected with a smoother tone, “Matt is coming too. We wanted to talk…that is have you thought about moving mom’s…and your…investments over to his company?”
‘That was blunt enough’, Marty thought. On occasion, it seemed the organizational Deidre hadn’t left at all. Stephanie was very good at channeling her mother, who could become directive without notice. Still, Stephanie and Matt were not the enemies; and were looking out for family interests, if not precisely his. Marty always had the feeling that Matt and Stephanie imagined him signing over the wealth, the lion’s share generated by Deidra, to some intrepid huckster selling vacation lots in the Everglades, or perhaps to some young woman selling false attention. ‘As though’ Marty thought, ‘I’m no old fool.’
“Well, yes, I have Stephanie, but I don’t see the urgency. Even Matt admitted that I was getting a good return now.” Marty said firmly as he staked out the far ground. His meaning was apparent, emphazising ‘I’ as in his decision, his funds.
Stephanie was well familiar with a significant component of her father’s makeup. He was easy-going right up to the point of becoming stubborn and belligerent. Push further, and the heels dig firmly into the ground. A softer approach may work in these situations.
“Dad, if something should happen. Not that we expect it, of course, no one does, but we want to make sure you’re secure,” Stephanie said, voice flowing with concern like warm honey.
It was times like these that Marty would relent when presented with irrefutable facts in a compassionate manner. Still, he was in charge, and had to be stern for their good, and especially for his.
“Well,” said Marty lightening the mood, “It would be nice to see the house since you’ve done it over. I’ll tell you what, why not invite Stacie and Scott too? We haven’t all been together in forever.”
A long pause ensued, that Marty let linger, despite his typical need to fill all moments of silence with conversation.
Finally, Stephanie spoke in a measured tone. “Ah. Well, I’m not sure we’ll get much done with them there. I mean, I love them to death, but… For a purely social occasion, yes, but…”
“Stephanie,” Marty said in his authoritative classroom voice, “Let’s not be unkind. I think Stacie and Scott can be just as serious as anyone else, and as you said, this is for the family.”
Marty, who had previously been known as the fun-loving, occasionally comically disorganized type who could zing a point when least expected, did still have his moments.
“Alright, yes, I’ll handle it,” Stephanie said.
Marty could always hesitate at key moments and let Stephanie’s need to organize cover the details.
“Be here at noon Sunday, dad, this Sunday…right?”
Her query was confirmation that the game played to success. Marty would let her have her little joust.
“You bet honey, Love to you and Jared,” Marty with sincerity.
“Love you too, dad,” Stephanie said in earnest.
Though dealing with a moving target like her father was exasperating at times, Stephanie couldn’t imagine a better dad growing up. Her mother was gone globe-trotting for long periods, but times had been happy. Her parents were well-respected for who they were and how they were—a match. Everyone said so. Their house had been the go-to place, and she always felt like her parents were celebrities. They were like well-rehearsed actors who played off one another.
One grounded in reality and playing it straight, the other random and spontaneous. And there was love, a whole house full of it, loving support that you could rely on. Then mom got sick, and life became frightening and insecure. The world transformed into a place of treatments, and drugs, hospitals, and despair as mother withered before their eyes. She hadn’t thought about it until later, but dad changed too. The happy sparkle in his eyes she so loved as a child seemed to dim. And he needed to be looked after.
Stephanie knew a few things with certainty. Someone would take advantage of her father’s good nature; the world is that kind of place. As bad as it would be to see dad hurt, it would be devastating to see the fruits of her parent’s labor stolen by an unfeeling scoundrel. She knew Scott and Stacie would be no help; on the contrary; they’d probably go right along with the thinnest most obvious scam without a flicker of recognition. Stephanie had Matt to back her, and she wasn’t afraid to be the point person. Stephanie was proud to be Deidre Kuba’s daughter and to pick up her role as protector of the family fortune, as her father had always been of home and hearth.
“Oh dad,” Stephanie sighed as she disconnected, “what can I do with you?”
Marty loved Stephanie for precisely who she was, as he did all the children. How like her mother she was, hard-driving, successful, a bit harsh on occasion, but with a heart. Diedre had a hard edge, but an assiduously ethical one. He hoped Matt could become more like her, but as a man in high-pressure finance, he had little time for minding social niceities.
Marty wished that for their own welfare Stacie and Scott could have the Deidra edge lurking below the surface. People could be very unkind to those who care too much. Marty knew from the world before Deidre. Being with her had protected him from much of life’s turmoil, and let him project the kind personality natural to him. He was very fortunate, as had been pointed out for years by everyone he knew.
Marty remembered the day when he first met Deidre. Nobody ever thought they’d match up. No one believed when they did. Deidre’s mom saw him as an amusing temporary distraction for her daughter, nothing more. Her dad thought he was an aimless drifter. By appearances, her father was right. How unlikely, an everything smart girl from the upper-class clique and the directionless disheveled boy from down by the tracks who everyone seemed to know.
Marty glanced into the warm Arizona sun streaming through the window onto his kitchen table work station. The soft, yellow light engulfed his laptop, and the comforting glow aided his ever-present absent mind to wander into clear thoughts of a long-ago moment that changed his life. He could still see the stunning girl with beautiful auburn hair and the come-hither expression from across typing class. My God, how she pierced his heart with her alluring green eyes that first day when she had casually glanced, or strategically looked his way; she was…extraordinary.
With a start, Marty returned to the reality at hand. He was running late.
Make time to break the mood before going. Distraction? Here it is, a glance at his newsfeed. Sometimes it amused Marty that this wonder of modern technology, a compact gateway to all the information accumulated by generations, was used for mostly trivial purposes. It could be a bridge to people however, and he’d had old colleagues and acquaintances catch up before. Since Deidre it seemed, there were none.
Let’s see, hot summer predicted, top 25 college football forecast, and Waterloo West High School 45th reunion August 14 and 15.