Time flies by so fast sometimes, and suddenly we find ourselves a year out from an event that shook our world…the death of a loved one. It was one year ago today that my father-in-law, Walter Schulenberg passed away. He was a quiet, gentle man who loved his family more than anything else in the world. He hated the years when his job took him away from the family, because watching his children grow up was so important to him. From the time they were dating, he talked about when they would start having children. He knew that he wanted a little girl, just like his soon to be sister-in-law, Margee, who was just six months old when they got married. Of course, he wanted sons too, but he was smitten with those girls, and while his boys were his helpers, and he was very proud of both of them; his little girls were always his little princesses. That seems to be the way life is for daddies of daughters, and he was no exception to that rule.
I never met someone who was more excited to be a grandfather. When I was pregnant with Corrie, his first grandchild, he seemed to have been transferred back all those years to when his children were little. He often asked me how I was doing. He wanted to be sure I was comfortable…because I was carrying his first little grandbaby. He made it such an honor, both times I was pregnant. His children and grandchildren were so important in his life. In fact they were the most important things in his life…with one exception…the love of his life, my mother-in-law, Joann Knox Schulenberg.
From the time they started dating, he knew that there was no other girl for him. I have had the opportunity to read some of the letters they wrote back and forth while they were dating, and he was working in another town. He wanted nothing more than to marry her and take care of her for the rest of his life…and that was exactly what he did. All those years that they were together, he made sure she had what she needed. When she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, he gave up much of what he would like to have done, so he could take care of her. She was his world, and to him, giving up a few little things to make sure she was going to be alright, was only natural. As the years flew by, he devoted more and more time to taking care of her, and did more than he should have in those later years…I couldn’t get him to stop overdoing it. To him, it was so important that she was always going to be ok.
The hardest thing I think he ever had to do was when we had to put her in the nursing home. It had become obvious that we couldn’t keep her safe at home, and there was no other option. He really took that hard. He was so lonely. We did our best to take him to see her, but that was hard on him too. Then he went through a series of hospital stays in a short period of time, and they left him very weak. The hospital suggested that he go into a nursing home, and he was very much against it…at first. Then I talked to the nursing home my mother-in-law was in, and they said they could take him too and they could share a room. It was a perfect plan. He could see her, stay with her, and make sure she was alright, all while he was taken care of too. It seemed the perfect plan, and in a way, I guess it was…except for the fact that he just couldn’t bounce back from those bouts in the hospital, and would return 3 more times before it was over. The thing that was good for him was the fact that, not only could he be near the love of his life, but before he left us, he was able to see that she would be alright. He could see that the staff took good care of her. That last year was a really hard one for my father-in-law. He was getting tired of fighting COPD. It was a fight for every breath, and he knew he was losing that fight. Still, he could not go, without knowing that those he loved…especially the love of his life, were going to be ok. Dad left us a year ago today, and while we know that he isn’t suffering anymore, we still miss him very much. We love you Dad.