My husband’s aunt, Esther Hein, as a young girl living in the country near Forsyth, Montana, spent some of her school years living in a “boarding house” of sorts. It wasn’t really, but it may have seemed like it to her, except that the owners of the “boarding house” were her half-brother, Walt Schulenberg and sister-in-law, Joann Schulenberg. The problem Esther’s parents, Vina and Walt Hein, faced was that Esther needed to go to school on a regular basis, and the Montana winters had a way of creating a “snowed in” situation for the people who lived in the country. The people living in town could still get their kids to school, but the long country roads could not always be cleared, and when the snow was deep, they mostly couldn’t. So, they often didn’t try. That meant those kids living in the country didn’t get to school when the snow got deep, and as we all know, missing too much school means that the child isn’t going to pass.
So, in what is really one of the sweetest and funniest stories about Aunt Esther that I know, Esther moved in with her brother and sister-in-law. Things usually went smoothly, but you must understand that Esther was a child, with child-like ways at the time. There were times that she didn’t get along with her brother, sister-in-law, and cousins. It was nothing major, just kid stuff and maybe a little sassiness. My future mother-in-law, and Esther’s sister-in-law, Joann sometimes got tired and annoyed. She might have been able to spank her sister-in-law, but she might not have felt comfortable doing that either. That said, when she was annoyed with Esther, her common comment was “Don’t Esther!!” This might seem like it isn’t very funny, but later in life, my mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s Disease…which isn’t exactly funny either.
Nevertheless, my mother-in-law had her “funny” Alzheimer’s moments, as they all do, if you look beyond the disease. She didn’t always like things like going to bed, taking a walk around the house, or especially telling her to stop scratching her itchy skin. Since I was her caregiver quite often, I was the “bad guy” that made her do these things. Her very itchy skin, and the fact that she scratched too hard, caused injury to her skin, so I had to stop her from scratching. Whenever I try to stop her, she would say, “Don’t Esther!!” The first time she said that I was shocked, but once I heard the “Don’t Esther” story, I finally understood that she was mistaking me for Esther in those moments. For me it was liberating. That meant that sometimes when my mother-in-law was mad at me, I could let Esther take the blame. Sorry Esther, but it worked for me. Today is Esther’s 82nd birthday. Happy birthday Esther!! Have a great day!! We love you!!