Monthly Archives: May 2014
When my niece, Andrea was a little girl, she was so cheerful. She loved to laugh and joke. She loved it when her grandparents and other family members came to visit her family in Washington. She would always get so excited when company was there. When my sisters and I went to visit Caryl and her family one year, when Warren, Andrea’s dad was on sea duty in the Navy, the house became wall to wall beds, and Andrea was so excited to come out in the mornings and greet everyone. The day seemed perfect to her, because there were so many aunts in the house. I suppose having a lot of aunts in your house at one time might mean lots of attention, and really, what kid doesn’t want lots of attention. And what better kind of attention is there than the special attention of having four aunts in your house at one time. Of course, Andrea did have to go to school for part of that visit, but she did get to spend a lot of time with us. We all had such a good time.
It was always hard for Andrea when family had to leave to go home. She didn’t get to see any of us much, and that was really hard. Of course, we knew how she felt, because we felt the same way every time Andrea’s family had to go home after a visit. It is a tearing situation. Loving family members from afar creates a lonely kind of a feeling. Holidays are smaller affairs, because you live too far away to be there with the rest of the family very much. That was hard for Andrea, because she heard about all the fun the rest of the cousins had at the big gatherings. Of course, she knew that it could not be helped, and that her family loves her, but it is still hard for a little girl to understand why they can’t come for Christmas every year. Still, her parents made their holidays fun too, and made their own traditions. That’s how it works when you live far away from family. And those traditions are just as fun as the ones the rest of the family has, just different…just your own.
I think living far away from family, can often bring you very close to your siblings. Andrea and her younger brother, Allen have always been good friends. Oh they had their little tiffs, just like any other siblings, but they grew close over the years. With Allen in the Navy and stationed in Japan now, I’m sure that Andrea feels a twinge of loneliness whenever her brother comes to mind, but she will always know that no matter how far apart they are, he will always be her brother, and he will always love her. New traditions are always a part of life, and now with her son, Topher to think about, I’m sure Andrea is making her own traditions to build memories for him. Today is Andrea’s birthday. Though she is still a ways away I hope that she knows that we are thinking of her today and hoping it is a great day. Happy birthday Andrea!! We love you!!
My Uncle Larry was well known to his family and his friends for being a real joker. He loved to tell jokes and make people laugh. He was also very handy with tools. He loved working on all kinds of things, from cars to carpentry. One time he was looking for one of his tools…specifically, his hammer, and couldn’t find it. He looked everywhere, and finally, when he could think of no other way to find it, he sat down on the floor by the cat, and asked, “Kitty…Whar’s the Hommer?” It was said in a joking way, but apparently, the kitty knew more than Uncle Larry expected. Of course, the kitty didn’t really know anything, but when Uncle Larry looked down…there beneath in a crack in the floorboards, was the hammer. I’m sure it was a surprise to Uncle Larry, because he didn’t think he would find it, but in a moment of resignation, he found it because of a silly question.
Uncle Larry was my mom’s best friend as a child. Just two years older than she was, they did a lot of things together. One time, Uncle Larry bought an old car…a junker. He worked on the car, fixing it up, with great plans for it in the future. That morning, he decided to take the car to school, and give his sister, Collene, my mother a ride while he was at it. They figured out pretty quickly that the brakes on the car probably needed more help than the engine had needed. Now they were driving down the road, had no way to stop. For me, this story brought visions of Fred Flintstone putting his heels to the pavement in an effort to stop quickly. Of course, reality is much different. According to my mom, her brother pulled off an amazing feat…swerving around every obstacle until he could finally get the car slowed down enough to coast to a stop. I can imagine that Uncle Larry was extremely relieved that he and his sister were not going to be in an accident. Accidents can be so scary, and it doesn’t take much of an impact to cause injury. I’m sure that my Uncle Larry was very thankful, but my mom was very proud of him. His driving was amazing according to her.
When Uncle Larry was older, he decided to go to work in Bemidji, Minnesota in a mine there. With World War II going on at the same time, the family found out that he had been drafted. They had no way to contact him, so it was decided that my mom, and her fiancé, my dad, and Dad’s sister, Ruth would drive up to Bemidji to let him know that he had to come home, and prepare to go to fight in the war. They went up there, but couldn’t find him right away. He had gone into town. Eventually they found him and headed back home to Casper, so that he could go and fight for his country. I’m sure that was a bittersweet trip for my mom, who was now unsure of his future. Thankfully, Uncle Larry came home from the war, and went on to become the wonderful husband, father, grandfather, and uncle that he was to us, as well as the great brother and son he had always been. Today Uncle Larry would have been 80 years old. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Larry. We love and miss you very much.
When a person thinks about all the friends who have come and gone in their life, they, at some point, reach a place where they can say with relative certainty…this one is my oldest friend. This person is probably not someone with whom they have never had an argument, because when a friendship has passed the test of time, there were likely a few rough spots along the way. Most of us might think our oldest friend is a classmate, maybe from grade school, if we still know any of those, or possibly from high school, because it is possible that we still know many of those people, but I have to think that sometimes we might need to think outside the friendship box a little bit. I have thought back to all my friends over the years, and while I am still friends with a lot of people from high school and even as far back, as grade school, there is someone that I can truly say has always been my friend…from the day I was born. I’m sure that you are getting the idea…yes, it is my older sister, Cheryl.
When I needed someone to confide in…to talk things over with, she was there. We shared all the schoolgirl secrets, like what cute guy we liked and even what teachers we hated. Like all friends, there were the little tiffs, and while they might have seemed huge then, looking back now I know that they were just a blip on the lifelong screen of a friendship that would last forever, and become a cherished relationship in my life. I don’t know if all siblings become friends too, but we definitely did. Cheryl and I were the older of our parents’ 5 daughters, and there were three years between my younger sister, Caryl and me, so the three younger sisters, always seemed so much younger. In fact, we always called them the three little girls. There always seemed to be a natural separation between us, but not a distance…just differences in our ages making for the natural separation. I know I might not be Cheryl’s oldest friend, because she is two years older than I, but then again, I have been her friend longer than most people I can think of, so who knows, I might just be hers too.
When it comes to friends, I can’t think of any with whom I can say that I have so much in common, nor one who I can count on for any need. Cheryl and I have been through so many things together, and she has been a rock through it all. She never likes to promote herself, so I’ll just have to do it for her. Cheryl, you have been there to protect me from enemies, bullies, and monsters…real or imagined. You’ve been there for me to confide in, and you were never judgmental. You backed me when I needed it, and stood by me when I need that, you lifted me up when I was feeling down, and you made me smile with your sweet spirit. You have and always will be my oldest and dearest friend, as well as my dear sister. Life is good. Today is Cheryl’s birthday!! Happy birthday my dear, Cheryl!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you very much!!
I saw a post on Facebook the other day that got me thinking about my two moms. The saying went like this: “Always love your mother, because you’ll never get another.” I started thinking about how often we take our mothers for granted. As children, we depend on our mothers for everything. No matter what the need is, we expect them to be able to meet that need. We think that there is no end to their capabilities. While it’s great for us to think that our mom can do anything, it is somewhat unrealistic, and eventually we start to realize that she is just human, and maybe even annoying at times. Of course, it’s probably just that we have hit those annoying adolescent and teenage years…you know, that time in our lives when we are certain that our mother just doesn’t know anything…well, actually it’s our parents who don’t know anything, but in this case, we are discussing Mom, so she doesn’t know anything. We will feel that way for the next few years, and then suddenly, about the time we hit our twenties, she becomes so much smarter…especially when we become parents, and need her advise on how to treat a sick baby, or some such thing.
Being a mother really is a thankless job, and one that takes a very special person. A mother has to be selfless in so many ways, because it takes so much of her life to do the job she does. She might want to be at the spa, at home reading a good book, or out on the town with the love of her life, but instead, she is out there in the audience watching as your music recital, ball game, or class play are taking place. And who was it that got you to all the necessary practices…you got it, your mom. She set aside all the things she might have been doing, so you could achieve your dreams, or even just see if you really wanted to be a professional ball player, singer, or actor. And when you decided that you liked track, cheerleading, or the debate team, she switched gears, taking it all in stride, knowing that next year, this dream too would morph into something totally different, and she would be cheering you on in that new venture too. It’s a funny thing how your hopes and dreams changed so much through the years, but your mom’s devotion. loyalty, and interest stayed with you, no matter what. It was the one constant in your life.
As your mother gets older, her position in your life changes, as she steps back to let you soar, but you always know that she will be there to help you with anything you need her for. She becomes your go to person, when the kids need to be picked up and you are at work, or you want to go out for the evening with your husband, and need a babysitter. Who do you call? Well, we know, it’s not Ghostbusters, but it often is your mom. Without really meaning to, you tend to take for granted that she will always be there to help you when you need her, and yet, before you know it, you suddenly realize that she is getting older. You begin to see her as a little more fragile, less able to be that go to person, and suddenly it’s more like you are becoming the new go to person. It’s about this time that you begin to realize that while you have always appreciated all she has done for you over the years, you probably didn’t show her just how much you appreciated her often enough. You realize just how short life is, and it does make you want to let her know just how much you appreciate her, just how proud you are of her, and just how much you love her, before it is too late. To my mom and my mother-in-law, I want to say that you have been the two most important women in my life for so many years. I wouldn’t be where I am, were it not for you. You have and always will be the greatest mother and mother-in-law on earth, and I love you both very much. Happy Mother’s Day!!
When my sisters and I were teenagers, the mini skirt and hot pants were all the rage…much to my mother’s dismay. She always felt like they were a little bit too risqué. Of course, we completely disagreed with her, and in fact, thought she was just being very old fashioned, and really a bit ridiculous. Everyone was wearing these new styles, and we didn’t want to be thought of as the nerds of the school…not to mention the fact that they were cute styles, and we wanted to look as cute as the other girls did. It was about this time in my life, that I began to see the value of skirts, over dresses. You simply couldn’t roll a dress up to turn it into a mini dress, but you could do that with a skirt. So to appease Mom, the skirt was knee length at home, but soon became a serious mini skirt…and before I went into school too. The old saying, “I wouldn’t be caught dead in that” definitely applied when it came to knee length or longer skirts…until the maxi skirt came out that is. The problem is that once a child leaves the house, parents just don’t have total control anymore, and most teenagers will go a long way toward avoiding conflict, if it’s possible. I wasn’t the only girl rolling my skirt either. Every girl whose mother said no, was doing it. Of course, shorts were a little easier to get away with, but Mom still thought they should be a little longer. Her problem was that longer shorts were harder to find…thankfully!!!
We weren’t the first generation to wear the mini skirt, short shorts, and other risqué clothing choices, but to hear my mother talk, we were. In fact, Mom went through a period of time in her own life when she wanted to wear the things the other girls were wearing. Her friends were wearing two piece bathing suits, which were considered very risqué at the time…little did they know that the string bikini was on it’s way and it would make their two piece bathing suit, that covered most of the midriff, look very conservative indeed. Nevertheless, my mom was in a little bit different position than we were, because it is hard to hide the way a bathing suit looks, and it isn’t an item you wear to school, so changing its looks was much harder. Still, she told me that the other girls were wearing a two piece, and she sure wanted to, but was not allowed. The two piece bathing suit was just too risqué…according to my grandmother. Poor Mom…there seemed no way out of her dilemma, and there’s no way to roll a one piece bathing suit to make it a two piece suit.
Bathing suits for women used to be almost like swimming in a dress, and even when they were allowed to be a little shorter, there was always someone who wanted to push the envelope a little…bringing on the need for a different kind of beach patrol. Their job was to measure the distance from the suit to the knee. It is was their job to enforce the dress code for women…even at the beach. Boy, talk about restriction!! You pretty much had no chance of pulling off such a big feat of deception, so there she was in her old fashioned one piece bathing suit while her friends wore the, so much more fashionable, two piece bathing suit.
When the maxi skirt came out, I’m sure many a parent breathed a deep sigh of relief, as had their parents before them, and secretly hope that horrible mini skirt craze would never come back again, and if it did, I’m sure they hoped that it would wait until they had their daughters grown up and married off. Then it would be their children’s problem. Of course, there really is nothing new under the sun, and they had somehow forgotten just how risqué their own parents thought their styles were…or maybe they hadn’t, and they just hoped their children would never know just how risqué they were, because somehow that was different, or maybe it was just that these were their kids, and they suddenly knew just how their parents had felt all those years ago, and they weren’t sure they liked it either.
Yesterday, after going out to dinner with my mom and my sister, Cheryl, we all decided to go for a drive. My mom has always loved going for drives, whether it is around town or in the country. As we drove, the conversation turned to the little house we lived in when we first moved back to Casper, Wyoming from Superior, Wisconsin, when I was almost three years old. I don’t recall having seen the house since the time we lived there, and of course, I don’t recall very much of our time there, and most of that is probably from home movies I have seen.
Since we were in the area, we decided to drive by. I must say that I was a bit surprised at how small the house was. I suppose it was the size of a small two bedroom apartment, or maybe even a one bedroom apartment. The house is located in the back yard of a larger house, and may have been, at one time, a guest house for the much larger home next door. Right now, it looks like it is being used as a storage shed, which makes me a bit sad, because when I think of all the memories of our little family that those walls have seen, it seems a sad end to a happy home. The white picket fence that made for a nice backdrop for pictures is gone now, the sidewalk and steps are crumbling, and the house is in serious need of a coat of paint…but then it is a shed now, so paint is unlikely.
As we drove away, I couldn’t get the little house out of my mind. It seemed such a sad, lonely little place. There were no children’s toys, or laughing voices. In fact, there was no signs of life at all. It is included in the yard of the larger house, which is very well taken care of, but it sits like a forgotten ghost, desolate and forlorn. I wished for a moment that I could go in and look around the little house, but I’m sure it would have been more disappointment, and less memories these days. It wouldn’t surprise me to drive by there and see it torn down someday, because it really is in sad shape and probably a hazard, were it not fenced off from the outside world, and certainly not a place of interest to anyone, except the three women who were taking a drive down memory lane.
As I was reading the notes I was given on Frederick Schumacher and his wife, Anna Richard Schumacher, I read that they lost their home to a fire in 1956. I can’t imagine losing your home and all of your precious memories in a fire, and yet it does happen. I don’t know what memories Fred and Anna lost, but my guess is that it included photographs of their babies as they grew up. Those are things that are so hard to get back. All you can do is hope that someone among your friends and family members has pictures they can share with you. I’m sure it was such a shock…everything was gone…in an instant. All you had left was your family and the clothes on your back…and you were grateful. How could you feel gratitude after such a devastating loss? Of course, it is because your family had survived, and in reality, everything else is just stuff. Nevertheless, as time goes by, you begin to realize that you really lost a lot that dreadful day. It’s no wonder you seem to be having a hard time getting past it. I have to wonder if sleeping at night is difficult, because you feel a deep need to be on your guard. Still, you have to move forward for your family.
A fire affects everyone in the family…even grown children who have homes of their own. When fire destroyed my Uncle Jim Wolfe’s home on Wolfe Mountain outside of Newport, Washington, there was no way to get help up there in time. The road is just too rough and the area too remote to get fire trucks up there, so when Uncle Jim’s home caught fire, the only thing they could do was to try to save what they could…and it was not much. All of the memories were lost…pictures, keepsakes from my Aunt Ruth’s life, all of the pictures of the childhood days of my cousins, as well as all of Uncle Jim’s items for day to day living. Before long, Uncle Jim needed to move into a nursing home where he could get 24 hour care for his Alzheimer’s Disease. For my cousin, Shirley it was like losing one more of her precious memories…having her dad living just down the road from her. Her mother, my Aunt Ruth had passed away, in 1992, and this was just one more blow to Shirley.
Fires destroy the dreams, as well as the memories, of those who have an unfortunate encounter with them. For my cousin, Shirley, it has meant trying to find friends and family who might have childhood pictures that they could copy for her. We have been searching for pictures, but have not found a whole lot for her. I am still hopeful that someday we will stumble across a huge cache of pictures that will fill all the memory holes in her life right now. It is amazing to me that in this day and age, we are still unable to save some homes from fire. It’s not so much a remote home, like my Uncle Jim’s, but even homes in town, are completely destroyed be fire. Still there are factors like how long it took to report, and what type of fire it was that can affect the ability to save it too. Whatever the reason, dreams and memories are lost in the twinkling of an eye, and they are really hard to get back.
I was looking at family pictures the other day, and I noticed just how many of these pictures used cars as a backdrop for the picture. I began to wonder why that is. Maybe in the beginning, when cars first came out, it was because cars were such a novelty. I can completely understand having your picture taken with a treasured automobile, or one that has been fixed up as a show piece, but these were daily drivers, so what was the draw to include them in the picture? I mean, it’s just a car…right?
Nevertheless, here in the family history, I find shot after shot of people sitting on the running board, standing beside and even sitting on their cars in the picture. Personally I have always preferred some beautiful scenery as the backdrop for the pictures I take or those I have taken by someone else, but maybe that’s just me. The latest thing in pictures seems to be the railroad tracks, not that the railroad tracks are a totally new idea either; or even pipes in an alley or an alley stairway. I suppose these are something different, and that is the draw, but they are not my favorite scenes.
The car, however, seems to be the backdrop of choice in all sides of my family. I guess that we all just love our cars. Even I have had my picture taken in a car, back when we owned a sports car. Maybe it is a status symbol, and we just have to show the world that we are doing quite well financially. That might work, except, my family doesn’t really seem the type to feel the need to flaunt the things they have been blessed with. No, for them, I just think they really liked their cars and wanted to have a memory of them.
In the family history writings of my Uncle Bill, you will often find that he tells you the year, make and model of the car he was driving at the time of an event. He really liked cars, and he felt that they were a part of the family history, because they depicted the way things were in the family at that time in history. I guess that in the modern era of cars, computers, planes, and other such advanced technology, we will see more and more pictures of people with things that are in some way of value to them. And maybe that it why I like having pictures of scenery in my pictures. I love to hike, so nature scenes are the things I like…the things that have value to me….making me the same as everyone else who takes pictures with the important things in life. Who knew?
For a child, perception is everything. It isn’t necessarily how things really are, but rather how the child thinks things are. The other day, while Bob and I were out walking, we saw a jet fly over…not an unusual sight, by any means…but, on this occasion, Bob mentioned the contrails, and I was reminded of my perception of jets as a child. I have always loved watching jets or planes of any kind flying overhead, but of the jets, I had a different idea as a child. A different perception about what was happening in the skies above me. I thought the jets were scratching the sky. I suppose it sounds silly, now…as an adult, but then again, it isn’t such an odd idea really, and maybe in a way, they are. Still, it is not a commonly accepted, and certainly not scientific cause of contrails.
The mind of a child works differently than that of an adult. They might hear a song, such as our national anthem, and wonder to themselves, or even ask their parents, what a Dawnserly Light is. That could be because they don’t often hear the word dawn, or because the song tends to run the two words together, making them sound like one, or maybe the child just thinks this is some new word they have not heard before, and they want to know about this obviously special kind of light that everyone sings about all the time. It must be special, if it is in a song. Their minds imagine a light so beautiful that is has been given this special name…Dawnserly!! And when you think about it, the sunrise is really quite spectacular, whether it is Dawnserly or just the early light of dawn, but a child’s perception of it makes it into something so much more beautiful, that you start to think that maybe it does need a special name, and what better name for it than Dawnserly anyway.
One of the funniest childlike perceptions is the one most of us will hear at some point in our lives…you know the one…that 30 is old. Age looks so different to a child. I suppose that it has to do with the fact that they feel like their own lives are moving so slowly that they will never be thirty…therefore, thirty must be an old age…right? They see a thirty year old as if they are the same age as an eighty year old. Many of us have laughed that off, chalking it up to the fact that they are kids, and they soon will learn. Yes, they will learn, but only when they lose that childlike perception of things. It is a time that will come to pass in each person’s life, but sometimes I find that a bit sad, because in reality, what is wrong with seeing things differently from what others see. Maybe those kids will eventually look back and know how silly it was to think that thirty is old, but even adults can see pictures in the clouds, so, I don’t think it’s such a huge stretch to envision a jet scratching the sky.
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.