Life is strange sometimes. It’s pathways intertwine with the lives of different people as the journey takes us to this place and that place along life’s road. I have been amazed at how many times my life has crossed paths with different people who would become a part of my family down the road. Such was the case with my Uncle Jack McDaniels. My mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg had done a lot of sewing for Uncle Jack’s mother, and then my father-in-law worked with Uncle Jack at Casper Concrete. In the middle of all this, Uncle Jack married my Aunt Bonnie on February 14, 1959, and became my uncle. Then I married Bob and the circle completed. It was kind of cool to know that our lives were all intertwined that way, because of how much the different people in in that circle have meant to me.
Uncle Jack was most in his element when he was at his place out in the country, along the Platte River. He loved to tinker around in his shop, and then take walks down the lane to get the mail, or just to enjoy nature. I’m sure he spent time fishing down at the river, and watching all the different wildlife that wandered around in the area.
Nevertheless, as with most families, people get busy and we don’t get to see each other as often as we would like. After a while it comes down to a family picnic and a Christmas party…along with occasionally bumping into each other around town. It’s funny how it seems like as we get older, instead of meeting our friends and family at a bar, we meet up at Walmart. At least that is where Bob and I seem to see all of our family and friends. And, that is where we saw Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Jack. It was always a treat to run into them, and get to visit and laugh together. They were always so good together and so much fun. Their love for each other was so obvious. It makes me sad that Uncle Jack is gone from us now. Today would have been Uncle Jack’s 80th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Jack. We love and miss you very much.
Living in Wisconsin, my Uncle Bill was no stranger to snow. In reality, it was a fact of life from the time he was a little boy. I’m sure that some winters were worse than others, which is the case in any area that gets snow, but those winters when the area got lots of snow, seemed to cause particular problems for Uncle Bill. I’m sure everyone thinks that lots of snow causes problems for everyone, and I would have to agree, but for Uncle Bill, it was a depressing event to a degree.
At least in his younger days, my uncle loved to be outdoors, and traveling, in particular, was very enjoyable to him. In the letters my dad wrote home to him from World War II, Dad mentioned that Uncle Bill was thinking of going to Mexico…of course, there was a job involved in that one, but Mexico would have also been a way to get out of the snow and warm up too, and since the letter was written in February, it’s my guess that Uncle Bill was, true enough, worried about the shipyards closing, but also, and maybe more importantly, feeling the cold winter weather pretty deeply too.
As a little boy, Uncle Bill had run across snow problems when he found himself sitting on the front walk of the family home, looking at the deep snow that was making it impossible for him to any further on his tricycle. The look on his face told me that this was not a happy little boy, and who could blame him. Tricycles are for riding on, not sitting on with the inability to move. And unfortunately for Uncle Bill, his tricycle was not the only place he found himself in just such a fix. It seems his car ended up snowed in as well, which we all know can be frustrating. The biggest difference between the tricycle and the car is the fact that with the car, Uncle Bill was still able to smile about the whole situation, where with the tricycle, he looked quite annoyed.
Winter’s snow can be lots of fun for everyone, or at least those who like winter and snow, but it also has the irritating ability to slow traffic, mess with travel plans, and make the use of certain toys impossible. For those who live in areas that get lots of snow, it can be particularly annoying, as was the case for Uncle Bill, whose plans always seemed to be foiled by the dumping of large amounts of snow, right on top of his world. It seemed he was always getting snowed in again in those days.
As I have looked through some old pictures over the past few months, I came across a picture of my cousin Jimmy as a young boy, with his parents, my Aunt Doris and Uncle Bill. I have been thinking about Jimmy quite a bit lately. He was such a funny guy, making all of us laugh at his antics as a child. Sadly, Jimmy’s life was cut short by Mesothelioma on February 1, 2006.
Jimmy was a boy who was full of life, and his life brought laughter to those around him. When my sister’s and I were young, and visiting my Uncle Bills family in Superior, Wisconsin, Jimmy kept things lively with his jokes and his great smile. If there was going to be trouble…and I mean mischief…you can bet Jimmy and his big brother Billy were going to be at the heart of it, with Jimmy usually leading the way.
My Uncle’s family lived just down the street from the funeral home in Superior, and of course, that meant that the Ghost Stories were sure to be a part of our visits. The boys were always trying to scare us girls with their suggestions that the dead might still walk the street, and maybe we should go check it out…right, like I’m going to go down there and have a look at the dead people who might be walking around just looking for some dumb little girl to grab, who was just stupid enough to decide to go into the funeral home…I mean, isn’t that like saying “Hey, ghost…here I am!! Come and get me!!” Yep, that sounds like a great plan to me, right…NOT!!
I remember one other time when my Uncle Bill, Jimmy’s dad had taken us to get ice cream, and apparently there had been spill problems in the past, because Uncle Bill told us kids that if we spilled in his bus/camper, he was going to make us lick it up. It took all of about 2 seconds for Jimmy to manage to spill his ice cream on the floor. He looked up at his dad, very wide eyed, and I’m sure a little queasy in the stomach, probably hoping for mercy or that maybe…just maybe, his dad had bee kidding. Well, no such luck. His dad…towering over little Jimmy, said, “Ok, lick it up.” So, Jimmy got off of his chair and started to get down on his knees, gulping, I’m quite sure, and got ready to lick it up, when my Uncle Bill boomed out, “Don’t lick it up…I was just kidding!!” Well, I don’t have to tell you how relieved Jimmy was, and before you knew it, that winning little smile was back on his face.
While I had not seen Jimmy for a number of years, I will never forget his great smile and funny ways. He was a wonderful person, and I will always remember the great times we all had as kids. When I look back into my memory files, I can still see his face, just as he was the last time he was here, and That is the way I choose to remember my cousin. Love you Jimmy!!
As Spring approaches, the minds of many men turn to…well, fishing. And it isn’t just the men either. My daughter, Corrie has already mentioned that she is getting camping fever. I suppose that really is normal for this time of year. Winter has dragged on long enough, and everyone is really over it, and ready for warmer weather. Bob and I don’t do much camping, but we love to hike, and lets face it…walking the mall just isn’t the same thing. So, as we get to this time of year, we can feel spring fever coming on too.
For avid fishermen, spring brings on a pretty big yearning for the open air, the water, and the fishing pole. I have never been one for fishing much, but then again, maybe it would be kind of nice sometimes. I lead a pretty hectic life, and the thought of sitting in a chair with nothing to do but wait for the fish to bite could be just what I need. I know my kids and grandkids seem to really enjoy it.
There are a lot of the other members in my family who love to head out to Pathfinder Lake to see what they can catch. And since I have fished in the past, I can relate to the challenge. There is really something about feeling that fish on the end of the line, and the ensuing fight to bring him in. The minute you feel that first tug, you wonder who will win…you or the fish.
And you don’t even have to enjoy eating the fish to enjoy the sport, because while Corrie’s family doesn’t like fish, they simply supply other family members with a couple of meals that are well received and very much enjoyed. My mom and sister, Cheryl have been the grateful recipients of a weekend’s catch, as have Kevin’s mom and Bob and me. So I guess we can’t say that we mind the fact that they don’t like fish.
As February comes to a close, and March marks the move toward Spring, the minds of sportsmen of all ages begin to think about fishing and other water or warm weather sports. I think that if it is possible, the adults are more excited that their little fishing buddies, for the season to begin. It’s like a breath of fresh air…or the light at the end of the tunnel. Winter is losing it’s punch and with it’s death comes the promise of the coming Spring and Summer…the lazy days of Summer and fishing, camping, hiking, and…warmth…beautiful warmth.
Every year on February 9th, a small group of friends gather for breakfast at Johnny J’s Diner to talk about a little girl who touched all our hearts deeply, and left us far too soon. Brooke would have been 15 years old on December 24, 2011, but she passed away on February 9, 2004 from an acute asthma attack. I often wonder who she would have been today at 15 years old. She had such a bubbly personality and a smile and laugh that made it hard to ever tell her no…even if you should have. Her siblings knew how to get something they wanted, or do something they wanted to do…they just got Brooke to ask for it. The funny thing was, however, that she never seemed spoiled to me, or to anyone else that I know of. She was just sweet.
Now, 8 years later, we still gather to talk about the little girl who meant so much to all of us…and to console her mother, who still struggles with that day, as well as the month of February and even from December 24th through February 14th, which was the day Brooke was laid to rest…a fitting day for a girl who was born on a holiday, and very much loved.
Of course, Brooke was never a mother, but in her short little life, she practiced for that role she dreamed of having by mothering every baby she ever came across. Her mom, Dani babysat my grandchildren, but it was Brooke who babysat my youngest grandchild…Josh. Dani could help…a teeny little bit, but not very much, because Josh was Brooke’s baby, and everyone might just as well get that fact through their thick head, because that was the way it was.
Brooke touched the lives of young and old alike. She had her very favorites though, like my husband, Bob for example. Whenever Bob walked into a room Brooke was in, she ran over to him and gave him a big hug. She was almost like a little girlfriend, and I might have been jealous, had it not been for the difference in their ages. She loved him so much, and it was very hard to be jealous of such a sweet little girl, so I had to be content to share him whenever Brooke was in the room.
Now, 8 long years after her passing, we can each remember how she touched our lives, and I’m sure the stories will all be shared as we gather to look back on the life of a child that has been gone longer than she lived, and yet seems to still be so very much with us. Her memory is everywhere…every time we hear a child laugh, every time a little girl takes a shine to Bob, every time we see Madyson, Brooke’s little sister, who looks incredibly like her older sister…so much so, that I often call her Brooke. And so we gather to console her mother, and remember the little girl who touched our hearts.
When your birthday happens to be on a holiday, it can be a special thing. Groundhog Day, 103 years ago was one of those special days. That was the day Bob’s grandmother was born. I don’t know if Grandma’s parents looked at her birthday as something special in those early years or not. For me, however, as her granddaughter-in-law, hers was a birthday that I never forgot. It wasn’t that Groundhog Day was any big holiday where I come from, but for me, the coming of Spring means…well, a return to life!!
I was curious as to whether or not Groundhog day was even something celebrated when Grandma was born, and since I had never researched it before, I decided to look. I found that Groundhog Day began in 1841 when a German shopkeeper named James Morris in Berks County, Pennsylvania, wrote that February 2 was the day the groundhog comes out of his burrow from hibernating. If the day is sunny and the groundhog sees his shadow, he returns to his burrow for six more weeks of hibernation. If the day is cloudy and the groundhog cannot see his shadow, then he ends his hibernation and the weather will be mild. So it was something that was celebrated when Grandma was born.
Still, I don’t know if her parents gave it much thought or not. What I do know is that for her children and grandchildren, it was a special day. Of course, many people like me look at Groundhog Day as the day we hope will point to an early Spring, but for our family it is also the day a very special lady was born. Grandma was the glue that held the family together in the early years, and the one who taught everyone about love. In the later years, her grandchildren and great grandchildren loved to spend time with her too. She made every visit wonderful…an adventure.
Grandma always liked the fact that her birthday was on Groundhog Day. I remember her telling about her birthday, and you could see it on her face. I think grandma liked the Springtime too. What rancher didn’t. Spring always brought the new life. New cows, the garden growing, being able to get outside and enjoy the day…these were things she liked. Her front yard was a place she liked to be, as was her garden. But the place I remember her the most was in her kitchen. Grandma could easily run circles around most people. When breakfast was over, a short break, and it was time to start preparations for lunch…and then dinner.
Even if Grandma’s birthday had not been on a special day, it would always be a special day to us, her family, because it was the day grandma’s life began. Grandma has been gone for 14 years now, but every year on Groundhog Day, I can see her in my mind’s eye…always busy, always smiling, always special.