I only knew my sister-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg, for 15 years before she passed away from cancer in 1989, and yet, I felt like I knew her a lifetime. Some people just have the ability to have that kind of an impact on others. Marlyce just radiated love for her family. Marlyce was developmentally disabled, but higher functioning. She could do many of the things the rest of us could do, but her mind was on the younger side. That made her eager to please people, and interested in fun projects. She loved to be creative and especially loved it when things she made pleased those around her. She loved baking, and chocolate chip cookies were her favorites, and mine too.
I can’t believe that Marlyce has been gone for 31 years now, more that double the amount of time that I knew her. With some people, the length of time you know them, doesn’t matter, because the impact that short time had on your life far outweighed the length of time you spent with them. That really is the way it was with Marlyce. Her sweet nature endeared her to the people who knew her, and still does to this day. Some people are never forgotten, and I think Marlyce was one of those people. Her influence reached far beyond her years of life, and for those who knew her, continues to this day.
Marlyce wasn’t perfect, of course, and she could get angry when things didn’t go her way. Like any child, she had a temper, when she was crossed, and her siblings sometimes enjoyed seeing that temper present itself, so teasing was not unheard of in the Schulenberg household. That was on thing I didn’t participate in, however. Maybe that’s why she always tried to please me, by making the signature chocolate chip cookies. I can’t say for sure. What I do know, is that Marlyce was always very sweet to me, and I can’t recall a singly time we had a fight, or even a simple disagreement. I’m glad, because I would never want to be the source of any pain or discomfort in her…not that her siblings were mean to her, but we all know that siblings are used to each other, and fights are par for the course. Today would have been Marlyce’s 70th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven sweet Marlyce. We love and miss you very much.
This time of year, everything is so exciting for the little ones in our lives…and even for the not so little ones. The littlest ones especially find the lights, gifts, candy, and the excitement of it all to be almost more than they can believe. Their eyes light up as brightly as the Christmas tree, and keeping their little hands away from the tree and gifts can prove to be really difficult. On Thursday nights, I spend the evening with my mom, Collene Spencer and my sister, Cheryl Masterson. With school activities and Christmas shopping to do, my niece Jenny Spethman often drops her daughter, Aleesia off at my mom’s so she can spend a little time with her grandma and great grandma. That means I get to see quite a bit of her too, and she is so much fun to be around at this age. She is such a goofy little girl anyway, and I don’t know if it’s the candy or the season, but she becomes even more goofy.
I have had a chance to hear Aleesia say a lot of things, and believe me they are all just as cute as they can be. She always calls the movie Despicable Me, Spicable Me and the Minis. She calls my mom, her great grandma, GeeGee. She loves to say Paaaaleese with her grandma. These are common mispronunciations among little kids to be sure, but such fun to hear the kids say. And as we all know, kids grow up so fast that before you know it they can say all their words without mispronunciation, and those cute little sayings days are gone.
This last week, while my niece, Jenny was shopping, Aleesia and her brother Zack were at Mom’s house and we were watching kid movies. It’s funny how easily you can get used to those kid shows, when there is a little one around trying to say all the words they aren’t sure how to pronounce. That night though, Aleesia was having a lot of trouble concentrating on the movie. She kept touching the tree and pointing to the tree. Then she got up on the couch and looked out the window and saw the lights on the other houses and said, “Moo Lights!!” I laughed in spite of myself. I knew that she was trying to say “more lights”, but in my head I pictured cow-shaped lights. It was such a funny thought, that I could not keep a straight face.
Of course, what would Christmas be without candy. Christmas especially seems to be filled with baking of cakes, pies, cookies, and candy. By the time the holiday is over, the kids have had so much candy that is takes a couple of weeks to bring them back to earth. My sister, Cheryl had a really difficult time limiting the amount of candy Aleesia had. Aleesia kept coming back for more, saying, “Chocoleet!” She placed a strong emphasis on the “leet” part, and her high little voice just made it sound so cute. Of course, it was chocolate, but any candy would have been just fine.
I know that these days are very short, at least for Aleesia mispronouncing word, so I am very thankful that I have had the opportunity to be around to hear her funny little sayings. They will most likely be said only this year, and then next year, she will either not mispronounce words, or the mispronunciations will be entirely different words. Either way, I think I will always smile when I look at Christmas lights, because the thought of cow-shaped lights called Moo Lights will always be in my memory files.
Kids have a tendency to pick on the child who is most bothered by it…especially siblings. In Bob’s family, the child most bothered by it was, none other than Marlyce. She was the oldest child, but with her developmental disabilities, she would never really be the oldest child mentally. Nevertheless, she was able to do most things for herself, and she excelled at knitting and cookie baking. While Marlyce was great at these things, she did not respond well to the normal teasing that kids do with their siblings. That didn’t stop her three sisters and two brothers from teasing her anyway. In fact, for as long as I knew Marlyce, they picked on her rather unmercifully. They weren’t mean about it, but she was sensitive, so she took it wrong. In reality, much of the teasing was funny, and I think especially for the younger siblings, it was all done in pure fun.
When she wasn’t being teased, Marlyce was very loving to her siblings, and if someone else was picking on them… look out, because Marlyce was their biggest protector. In reality, Marlyce had a very soft heart. Not only did she not like to be teased, but in her opinion, it was simply not right to pick on her siblings either. She might get really mad at them, but she loved each of them dearly.
Another part of Marlyce’s life that held high importance to her was her nieces and nephews. In her opinion they could do almost no wrong…except for that pesky teasing that they embarked on every now and then too. Funny thing though, the nieces and nephews got away with a little bit more when it came to teasing than the rest of the siblings.
As for me, well normally, I am really into teasing too, but somehow, with Marlyce, I didn’t have the heart for it much. Don’t get me wrong, I could see the humor in the teasing that was done, but I somehow ended up being her protector, I guess. Marlyce was one of the most special people in my life, and I loved her very much. There never was a kinder, sweeter, more loving person on earth. She has been gone from us now for almost 25 years, but in my memory files, I can picture her so vividly telling me that she made her wonderful chocolate chip cookies. I miss her very much, and I look forward to seeing her again. Today would have been Marlyce’s 64th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Marlyce. We love you.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a mind thief, and when your loved one has been diagnosed with it, you find yourself thinking often of all that they have lost. You have to remind yourself to look at what they still have, which is hard sometimes. My mother-in-law is really a shell of what she used to be, and even though she seems happy with her life, I remember the things she used to do, such as knitting, crocheting, sewing, cake decorating, canning, baking, and raising her family. In her lifetime she made many people happy with the various things she made, and it is sad to think that she won’t be making those things anymore, even though she thinks she still does.
One thing that I have had to look back on, even though she will never do that again either, is her horses. My mother-in-law would have lived on a horse if she could have figured out a way. If she could have figured out a way to never get off, she would have done it. She owned horses with names like Molly and her colt Pie Face, Danny, and Twinkles. I don’t know who named the horses, but my guess is that it was her. There are a number of pictures of her with and on horses. And of course, her favorite shows are Westerns. I’m quite sure she can picture herself on the horses they are riding, galloping across the prairie. I don’t think she ever liked driving a car much, and she only did it when she absolutely had to, but a horse, she would had taken everywhere, if only she could have.
I agree with the research I have done concerning Alzheimer’s patients, in the you need to forget what they can no longer do, and focus on what they can, but I also think that sometimes it helps in their care, to remember what they used to be, because in so many ways, they think they still are that person from the past and they still do the things they used to do. They don’t know that they no longer do those things. I wish she could still be that person from the past, but since she can’t, I’ll just remind her of the days when she was a horsewoman…and a very good one.