My father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg would have turned 87 today. In the three years and almost four months since he went to Heaven, I can say that I have missed him very much, and yet it’s been like he never really left. Alzheimer’s Disease has taken the memory of her husband’s passing away from my mother-in-law, along with the passing of her parents and her daughter. It isn’t a bad thing for her, because she doesn’t have to experience the grief the rest of us have to go through. Nevertheless, because of her condition, I…we, the family have had to keep up the charade that Dad, Marlyce, and the Knox grandparents are still alive.
There is a song that Tim McGraw sings about a girlfriend that broke up with her boyfriend because he wanted to move away and she didn’t. He never quite got over her, and in his imagination, he saw her in all the places he traveled. For the man in the song, I’m sure the visions were somewhat torturous, but for my mother-in-law, they are a blessing. She sees Dad in some of the men at the nursing home, in her sons and even grandsons, and she has it in her mind that he is simply in the garage, at the neighbors, or at Walmart. When she asks about him, I always tell her that he is at Walmart, and he will be back later. That satisfies her, because she knows that he would never leave her. And we know it too.
I have to wonder if Dad ever thought about all the places he would be see after he left for Heaven. We tend to think that when we pass away, we will only live on in the hearts of our loved ones, and that’s true, but the mind is a funny thing. Our imaginations can place our loved ones in places they really aren’t…whether our mind is sharp or not. There are many times I can see my mom and dad, my father-in-law, sister-in-law, and grandparents in many memories that I have filed away in my memory files, but I think that most of the time, my memories aren’t nearly a vivid as my mother-in-law’s, and that’s ok, because it allows my father-in-law to keep his promise, never to leave her, alive in my mother-in-law’s life. Happy birthday in Heaven Dad. We love and miss you very much.