Loss

DevastationToday’s 8″ to 10″ of snow and still falling, takes me back to  the severe storms we got when I was a kid. I remember one in particular in about 1972 or 1973, where the snow was taller than my little niece, Chantel, who was about 1 or 2 at the time. I don’t know for sure where that picture is, but I can picture it in my head. As I recall, it was almost taller than my dad, who was squatted down next to her in the picture.

Of course, like today there was no school and no unnecessary travel in the area, and about the only people moving were those with snowmobiles. The main difference then is that we had power at our house, which I do not have today. Thankfully I have one of those Olde Trying to save the treesBrooklyn Lanterns, or I would be sitting here in relative darkness, since it is still pretty early in the morning. I’ve read that many businesses are closing due to the weather and due to the “no unnecessary travel” warning, because of trees down and power outages, caused by power lines down.

Occasionally, I hear the cracking of branches in the trees. Because so many still have most of their leaves, they are very vulnerable. That makes me sad, especially since one of the trees we have been nurturing from the day it sprouted…a volunteer from one of our neighbor’s trees…is among those trees that have lost branches. My daughter, Amy’s trees have also lost branches. So far my daughter, Corrie’s trees are ok. The streets look like a war zone, and of course, we have made national news with our freak storm. It is so early in the year for so much snow to hit here… but not impossible as you can see.

What makes this feel so bad, however, is the loss of so many trees. The skyline has War Zonechanged in many ways. When I look across the street from my house, many of the trees are much shorter. It is hard to tell at this moment if they are just bent or if they are broken, but I know that many are broken. It is simply heartbreaking. So many years put into growing those trees, and now they are gone, and there is no guarantee that they will come back. With God’s help we will persevere and we will nurture those trees that make it, back to health. Freak storms are a part of life, I just hate the look of the war zone that they leave behind them.

imageTurning 21 is a big day in the life of a kid. I use the word kid lightly, because they really haven’t been kids for quite some time. Nevertheless, to me they are still kids, except that they can now legally drink, and their parents truly hope that they will be careful and have a designated driver or take a cab home. Well, today is that special day for my cousin, Cody, but that isn’t what Cody is really all about.

I first met Cody when his Uncle Bill and Aunt Maureen brought him along on their family vacation in 2007 to visit our family, and leave my Uncle Bill, Cody’s grandpa with us for a week while they went to Yellowstone National Park to show their daughter Kristin and Cody all the sights there. Cody was a bit shy at first, but that really isn’t his true nature, and by the end of our time with them, we were enjoying good conversations with imagehim. Since that time, I have watched Cody grow up on Facebook, and I’m very proud of the wonderful young man he has become.

It’s not easy for a young man to grow up without his dad, and since my cousin Jimmy died of Mesothelioma on February 1, 2006, that is what Cody has had to do. His mom, Tami has been a wonderful influence on him and did an amazing job of raising him, but a boy still misses his dad, when he doesn’t have him in his life…and Cody and his dad were very close.

Since finishing school, Cody has embarked on a new career with the developmentally disabled. It takes a very special person to work with the developmentally disabled, but the rewards are so amazingly great that every moment is priceless. I know this because of my imageown developmentally disabled sister-in-law, Marlyce, who passed away far too soon in 1989. The developmentally disabled, love those people who love them, and they love them dearly. Nevertheless, they do have special needs and need special handling, and being the sister-in-law to Marlyce, was very different that working in a group home with a group of developmentally disabled people. That is a big job and one that makes me very proud of Cody for his undertaking of it. More importantly Cody, I know that your dad would be very proud of the man you have become. Today is Cody’s 21st birthday. Happy birthday Cody!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!

 

Shirley, Uncle Jim, Aunt Ruth, and LarrySince I began writing stories about my family, I have come to have a greater appreciation for old pictures than I ever had before. Every picture has a story to tell. Every one is like a priceless gold treasure. When I hear of pictures being lost in some way, I feel that loss very deeply, because so often, they cannot be replaced. That is what happened to a vast collection of pictures that had belonged to my Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jim. When Aunt Ruth passed away in May of 1992, Uncle Jim continued to reside in their home until it was destroyed by a fire…taking with it all of the pictures they had collected over the years, including all of the childhood pictures of my cousins, Shirley, Larry, and Terry. Larry had passed away in 1976, so they had so few of him anyway, and now all that remained were the pictures Shirley and Terry had, and that was not many.

When we re-connected with Shirley a while back, she asked if we had any pictures of them as children, and we have looked through what we had…again, not many. I felt very sad for her, because it was almost like tearing her childhood out of her past and throwing it away. Since then my heart has me trying to replace at least a few of the pictures she once had. It has not been an easy task, but last night while at my mom’s house, my sister, Cheryl, Mom, and I went through a box of things, that included a few pictures. I was so excited when a couple of pictures turned Larry, Terry, and Shirleyup of Shirley’s family. I couldn’t wait to get them too her, and I really hope that she doesn’t have these yet, because that will make the find even sweeter.

The more I look through the pictures that make up my past and those of my family members, the more I realize the value of those pictures. So many people don’t have those old family pictures and if they do, they don’t know who they are or what they were like, unless they happened to have someone like my Uncle Bill, who was meticulous in recording the past. He spent much of his life talking to people who knew our ancestors so that he could document as much information as he could. His work, like the old pictures are more than valuable…they are pure gold.

JDWhen we were moving things out of my in-laws’ house, so it could be sold, I noticed how lonely the house felt. A house needs people in it, creating memories, so that it can really have…life, so to speak. When its occupants are gone, taking with them all the memories that they made there, it just feels sad, somehow. Most times when that happens, the other people who spent time in the house never get to see it when new memories are being formed and the house is filled with people again. That is not to be the case with my in-laws house, however, because our nephew, JD is buying the house.

It will be a bachelor pad, at least for JD with Grandpanow, but that’s ok. The memories that still live within the walls will continue to echo for JD and for any of us who visit him. There were many good times had there, and because some of the things that belonged to my in-laws will remain in the home, we will often be reminded of their time in the home. I think especially for JD, the memories will remain strong, as he spends time in his new home, with the memories of his grandparents.

JD used to love to go over there and share talks and laughs with his grandpa. In fact, JD has never known a time when his grandparents lived anywhere else, since he was less than a year 93old when they moved there. All of his childhood memories of visits to his grandparents are centered there. I’m sure that JD will have many moments when he feels like his grandparents are right there with him. I know I would, but it will be a warm cozy feeling, like being wrapped in a warm blanket of memories.

It seems fitting that now, as JD is turning 25, and the house needs someone to live in it, that the two of them should come together. Both of them will be starting a new life…a new journey. Today is JD’s birthday. We are glad you are buying the house. Happy birthday JD!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

93Kevin & Corrie - first promCan a house feel lonely? Well, maybe not the house itself exactly, but it really can take on that feel after the loss of a loved one, and the moving of the other to a nursing home. We have been preparing my in-laws’ house for the sale to my nephew, JD, and the more things that get removed from the house; the more lonely it feels there. When I think back to all the wonderful times we have had in the 24 years that my in-laws lived there, it feels like the house took on their personalities to a large degree. That is the way it goes, when you own a home. You pour your own style into it, and it becomes almost an extension of you.

All the good times and the sad times that went on during the years they lived in the house, keep coming to the top of my memory files. I reme
mber the sadness we felt when Marlyce passed away, and the excitement as each new baby came into the family. Gone are the times when the kids would come by before a dance or to trick or treat on Halloween. Gone is the noise that was always in the house…the television that was 99always on and turned up loud so my father-in-law could hear it, the laughter and chatter from all the visitors they always seemed to have, and even the rumbling of the oxygen concentrator that was a mainstay in the home for many years. Gone are the birthday parties, holidays, and family get togethers. All are gone from the home now, and it is quiet…too quiet really. That is an amazing thought, since they lived on one of the busiest streets in Casper.

It’s funny, how much my mother-in-law hated the noise of the street, and yet loved the flurry of activity that always accompanied that traffic noise. Everyone stopped what they were doing when an emergency vehicle went by, and grumbled at the loud motorcycles and vehicles when they roared by. Toward the end of their time there, it was all that traffic that gave them something to look at and wonder about. Their chairs were set up so they could look out the big front window and see the hubbub of activity going on, because whether they ever admitted it or not, they liked all of it…except maybe the noise in the summer when the doors and windows were open.

I’m glad my nephew is going to buy the home, so it stays in the family, and I’m glad for the home that it will once again have someone living in it…someone who will remember the scan0266scan0057good times that we all had there for so many years. Oh I know that JD will change the house, add things,  and make it his own…that is inevitable, but to us and him, it will simply always be remembered as his grandma and grandpa’s house…at least somewhere in his memory files…and that makes it all feel better somehow. A house needs to be lived in. That is its whole purpose for existence, and when it isn’t lived in, it is simply a house…so lonely.

Mom & Dad Schulenberg_editedWhen you lose one parent, you feel a like half of your world is messed up. You still have the other parent, but it still doesn’t feel right…doesn’t feel the same as it used to be. I have felt that kind of loss twice in my life, because when you marry into a family, you gain a second set of parents. Having in-laws can be good or bad depending on the relationship you build with your in-laws. For me it was a good relationship, so when  my father-in-law passed away, it was my second dad that passed away. I have noticed something quite different with my father-in-law’s passing, from my dad’s passing.

While both mothers are still alive, and in my family, that is a more stablizing fact, in Bob’s family, it is not so much the case. Since his mother has Alzheimer’s Disease and is in a nursing home, it feels almost like she is gone from us too, in a sense. It isn’t that we don’t go see her often, because we do, but because she doesn’t have any input in family matters. It almost feels like the family is adrift at sea…in separate boats!! Everyone is busy doing their own things, and living their own lives, but that creates a feeling of disconnect in my mind. While some family members call each other and talk about things, others don’t. Some I haven’t heard from since the end of May, when we had Brenda’s birthday party. It is a bit of a lonely feeling.

Other family members, I talk to often, of course, and it is my hope that the family will regroup and become as strong as it was before. I’m sure everyone is just trying to deal with everything in their own way, but for me, it just seems like some of the family has grown farther apart from the rest of us, and I think that is sad. I’m one of those people who likes close family ties, and not talking to the family much is, well…as I said before, like being adrift at sea…in separate boats.

My parents on their wedding daySixty years ago today, my dad married my mom. If Dad was alive today, we would be planning on a party to celebrate the event. It makes me sad that they didn’t get to reach their 60th anniversary together. I remember that just 10 short years ago, we were celebrating their 50th anniversary, and soon after they left on the Alaskan cruise that we gave them. It was the trip of a lifetime for them, and one they never forgot. It made us all feel really good…to know that they had such a wonderful time. I am so glad we gave them that trip. They had always wanted to go, and now, looking back, and knowing that just 4 short years later, Dad would be gone, it was like a last chance that we didn’t know about.

Mom & Dad - Alaskan Cruise on StairsWe spoke to them several times during their trip. It’s funny that two people who weren’t sure that they wanted to go on a cruise without making it a family trip, were the same two people who didn’t want that trip to end. I can understand that. Although they would have had an amazing time on the trip if we all could have gone along, they nevertheless had a love of travel, and found the places they saw to be exciting and fun. Their natural curiosity would have quickly removed any disappointment at going on the trip alone. They were like a couple of kids on a very cool field trip. When I asked them, as their trip was nearing its end, if they were ready for it to be over, they told me, “No.” I knew they would feel that way from my own experience following our 25th anniversary cruise.
Mom & Dad Alaskan Cruise (formal)
My sisters and I have always felt very honored to have the parents that God gave to us. We were raised in a stable, Christian home filled with lots of love and the very best values. We were taught teamwork and mutual respect. We were taught to forgive and to set aside anger, for the greater gift of love. I couldn’t have asked to be a part of a better, more loving family, or to have better parents. Today is my parents 60th anniversary. Though Dad is in Heaven, Mom has never married another man. Theirs was a once in a lifetime kind of love that would last forever. Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!! We love you both so very much!!

Bronzed Baby ShoesThe bronzed baby shoes had been on the shelf in my in-laws’ home for many years. They had grown dusty sitting there for so long on the back of the shelf…neglected, as most such trinkets become over the years. Now as we cleared out the contents of the home in preparation for sale after the passing of my father-in-law and my mother-in-law’s move to a nursing home, the shoes came to my attention again. I had always loved the idea of bronzing baby shoes, but never managed to get it done for my own babies…just too busy living life, I guess. Baby shoe bronzing had been a fad at the time when my sisters and I were little, but not much is said about it these days, although you can still get it done.

To my surprise, the shoes had not been chosen as a treasure by anyone else in the family, so they found their way into my home for safe keeping. I’m a bit of a nostalgic, you see…or maybe, more than just a little bit. The things I find to be of value in an estate, are the momentos and photographs…the reminders of the past, and therefore, our connection to it. The bronzed shoes belonged to my late sister-in-law, Marlyce, who passed away in 1989 at the far to young age of 39 years, 1 month, and 5 days.

Marlyce was developmentally disabled, but that was something those of us who knew her seldom noticed. She was a sweet, loving person, who smiled her way into my heart the first time I met her, and never has left in all the 39 years that I have known this family. Her Amy with Marlycepassing was a sad time in all our lives. Gone, were her delicious chocolate chip cookies, which no one could really match. Gone, were the stocking caps she used to knit. Gone, was her smiling face, her love of babies, and her pride at being an aunt.

All that was left of those 39 years was a little pair of bronzed baby shoes. They seemed such a little thing, and yet the steps they represented far overflowed their tiny size. I could see her first little baby steps…her school days…her work…her hobbies…her love of family, especially babies. So many accomplishments. The accomplishments of a lifetime…short as it may have been.

GG Gpa, Amy, GG Gma CorrieGG Gpa & GG Gma KnoxAs Corrie’s birthday draws near, I am reminded of another of her birthdays…her first. Corrie’s birth put her in close connection with her great grandmother, with whom she shares that birthday. Her first birthday put Corrie, and her little sister Amy, in touch with the only set of great great grandparents they ever got to know…the in-laws of the great grandmother with whom Corrie shares her birthday. It would be their only meeting with their great great grandfather, as he would pass away less than two months later, on August 28, 1976, at the age of 93 years. He had not been ill or in a nursing home, but rather lived in his own home all the years of his marriage. His death came after he fell off of a ladder, while doing home maintenance…at the age of 93!! How amazing is that?

That first meeting between, great great grandparents and great great granddaughters was so special. This loving, sweet couple holding my daughters, was such a precious sight for me. You could just see how they felt about my girls, and it was a beautiful moment. In fact, it was at that very moment that Bob and I decided that we needed to go visit them again…soon. We wanted our girls to have a relationship with these loving people. We did make the trip to see them in late September, but it was too late to see their great great grandpa, and that made me very sad. Such a kind, loving man was gone before we hardly got to know him.

The visit to Washington to see Great Grandma was a precious one. Amy was too little to remember it, at almost 4 months, but Corrie and her great great grandmother got along famously. Great Grandma allowed Corrie to explore her home and play with the pans in the kitchen, and when I tried to stop Corrie from making messes and so much noise, she told me to let her play, because she loved to see her youthful curiosity and her smiling face. She even sent Corrie home with a little chair that she loved to sit on…it was over 100 years old then, so it is about 140 years old now…and still a treasure to Corrie.

The girls would get to see their great great grandma again, and she would also meet Amy, Corrie, Great Great Grandma Knox, Machelle and BarryCorrie and her little chair todayanother great great granddaughter, Machelle and her great great grandson, Barry the next time she visited. The kids all had a wonderful time on that visit too. She was just the kind of person kids flock to. She continued to live in her home for most of the rest of her life, and stayed active and of sound mind for all of it. These were amazing people and such a great part of my children’s heritage. I feel very blessed to have known these special people.

Mom & Dad Schulenberg_editedMy father-in-law passed away on May 5, 2013, but my mother-in-law is doing ok. Alzheimer’s Disease has removed all memory of his passing. I know that many people look at Alzheimer’s Disease as being a cruel thief. I can agree with the thief part, in that it has taken her memory of recent events away, but cruel…maybe not. Her mind simply creates its own reality. In her mind he is not gone. He is at work or visiting the neighbors or out in the garage. Death means nothing to her. It has been the same with her parents, who have been gone for 28 and 23 years now.

I have long known that she lived in a world of make believe, but that fact never hit home as much as it did tonight, when Bob and I were out visiting her at the nursing home. She often speaks of those who are closest to her, and sometimes she speaks about you…to you, saying things like, “Caryn is going to be cooking dinner for everyone” when she is talking to me, or “Bobby is on his way to Grandma’s for the summer, to help with the cows” when she is talking to Bob. Corrie and Amy, work at the nursing home…at least in her mind, and my father-in-law is over by the telephone, so he will answer it when it rings. These were just a few of the recent things she has talked about, and things we are getting used to hearing.

Tonight…well, tonight was different. We were talking with my mother-in-law, and the conversation was following the normal lines…or at least, it was until it wasn’t. Suddenly she said, “Hun, can you help me get this afghan over to the sewing machine so I can finish it up.” She was talking to Bob, but to her, he was my father-in-law. At first we thought it was just a slip of the tongue, but then it happened again. She said, “Walt, you need to move that other sewing machine to the table.” We didn’t know exactly how to react. It was not the first time she had mentioned him, but it was the first time she spoke to him when it was actually one of the guys in the family. She thinks nothing of talking to him, but we know that he is gone, and the pain of that parting is still very fresh in our hearts Boband minds. We can’t be upset with her for what she says, because in her mind, it is reality, but to us it is make believe. Like it or not, we have to play along, because to do anything different is to make her relive his death over and over again.

I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of my father-in-law visiting my mother-in-law. Her mind will bring it up again, and it’s likely that her sons or grandsons will have to play the part again at some point. They will do it, as often as needed, because it is for her. They can do nothing else. They will play the part…so that she can keep her illusion that the love of her life is never far away.

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