When a United States president is assassinated, it sends shock waves around the world. When one is shot and lives, it sends waves of shock too…and then relief. I was a little girl when John F Kennedy was shot and killed on November 22, 1963, and I will never forget where I was when I found out about it. At the tender age of just seven years, I don’t really think that I fully understood the gravity of the situation. When President Ronald Regan was shot in the chest, on March 30, 1981, I was a married twenty five year old mother of two daughters, and I fully understood the gravity of the situation, and how it could have affected our nation and the world. It was however, the reason he was shot that totally baffled me. I mean, I know what John Hinkley Jr’s deranged reasons were, but it still made no sense to me…especially that he would think that somehow he would win Jodie Foster’s love by shooting the president. I suppose that is simply how the deranged mind works.
In the years that the United States has been a nation, sixteen assassination attempts on our presidents. Of those, there have been four successful Presidential assassinations. They were Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy. I really never thought there might have been that many attempts, but I can see that people get distraut with how things are going, and if they are at all unstable, they might attempt to shoot the president.
President Reagan’s shooting was probably one of the most strange, because he appartently didn’t feel the .22 caliber bullet that entered his chest, narrowly missing his heart, and hit his lung. There were three attendants with him, who were also hit. They were White House Press Secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy, and DC police officer Thomas Delahaney. Hinkley was then overpowered and pinned against a wall. Reagan was shoved into the car and taken to the hospital for treatment. He made a complete recovery, which was amazing, considering that he was 70 years old at the time. He even insisted on walking into George Washington University Hospital under his own power. He was in good spirits and visiting with his wife, Nancy while waiting for surgery. He laughingly said, ”Honey, I forgot to duck,” and to his surgeons, “Please tell me you’re Republicans.”
The next day, he resumed some of his executive duties and even signed a piece of legislation from his hospital bed. He returned to work at the White House on April 11, 1981. He returned even more popular that he already was, and received a hero’s welcome by Congress. His highly successful economics plan was passed with several Democrats breaking ranks to back his plan. Nevertheless, President Reagan felt the effects of the shooting for years afterward. The other men eventually recovered, but James Brady suffered permanent brain damage and later became an advocate for the “Brady Bill” requiring a five day waiting period and background checks before the purchase of a gun, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. John Hinkley received a verdict of “not guilty by reason of insanity” bringing with it outrage among the people of this nation. He has been incarcerated at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital since that time, but more recently has been allowed supervised home visits with his parents. I suppose that one day, he could be released, since they have said that his mental illness is in remission.
Today, it has been one month since my mother, Collene Spencer went to Heaven. After someone goes home to Heaven, it always seems odd to me that the time goes by so quickly. I can vividly remember that night just one month ago, when she left, and it doesn’t seem possible that it is a month already. While we are doing ok, we are finding ourselves feeling some caregiver’s remorse. It isn’t that we feel like we didn’t take care of Mom the way we should have, because we poured our hearts and souls into taking care of her in the way that Dad would have wanted, and in the way that she deserved.
Instead the caregiver’s remorse is that we didn’t realize just how little time we had left with her. She was so well, so we were fooled into thinking that she would not be leaving us anytime soon. That left us…well, taken completely by surprise. It really was the little things like not going into the bedroom with her right away to help her get to bed, the missed hug after church, because someone was talking to her at that moment, missing church that morning, and the distance lived from her home. They were little things, but in the end, they were the most important things, because they were the last moments we had with her…or rather the missed last moments we would have had with her.
We have found ourselves struggling with that final night. We simply don’t know what happened. Mom had a great last day, and in fact, really a great last week. She had part of her family over for lunch during the week, and then my sister, Cheryl Masterson and I took her to dinner on Thursday at one of her favorite places…Red Lobster. But it was her last day that was especially great. She went to church that morning, which was the most important thing in her life. Then, because her sister, Evelyn Hushman was in the hospital, Mom had orchestrated a luncheon at the hospital with her brother and sisters. The afternoon went amazingly well. Most of her siblings and several other family members were there, and they spent about three hours visiting, laughing, and just being together. It was a beautiful afternoon, and one that would be cherished by all who were there that day. Then, Mom and Cheryl went home for a quiet evening, dinner, and a movie.
Then, while Cheryl did the dishes, Mom decided to go to bed, but once in the bedroom, she went to Heaven instead. They couldn’t tell us exactly what had happened, and so we are left wondering about it…and wishing we had her back. That is the real caregiver’s remorse…wishing you could go back and change things somehow, so the outcome could be different. The point when all you know to do is not enough, makes you feel almost like a failure, even though you know that you have done your very best. I know that Mom is happy with Dad in Heaven, but we really miss her here. Our caregiver’s hearts have become lonely hearts. We love you Mom, and we’ll see you and Dad real soon.
When Bob’s aunt, Margee Kountz was born, her oldest sister, my mother-in-law, Joann was dating and planning her wedding to my father-in-law, Walter Schulenberg. He was working in another town, and so they wrote letters back and forth, because they didn’t get to see each other as often as they would like. Of course, they talked about the normal things, like missing each other, and such, but they also talked about the future, and what they wanted it to be.
One thing that has stuck in my mind about those letters, is how my father-in-law felt about his soon to be sister-in-law, Margee. She would only be 4½ months old when they married, and he just thought she was the cutest little baby he had ever seen. He mentioned several times in the letters they wrote back and forth, that when they had a little girl, he wanted his daughter to be just like Margee. He simply loved his little future sister-in-law so much, that he would have loved to have a dozen or so of them. In the end, he didn’t have a dozen daughters, but he did get four of them, as well as two sons, so I guess his dream of lots of kids, and especially daughters, came true.
Through the years, Margee remained a big part of their lives. She has pretty much always lived near them, and has shared a good portion of their lives. Holidays, birthdays, and barbeques were among the things the families shared, and of course, these always included Grandma and Grandpa Knox, the sister’s parents too. It was the way they kept the families close, and it was a good thing for all of us.
As the years flew by and everyone got busy with their own lives, it might have seemed that we didn’t spend as much time with Margee as we used to, but when we needed her, she was there. She worked for most of her adult life, but when her sister, Joann, my mother-in-law, having been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, began to need someone to stay with her when my father-in-law had appointments, we might have had a big problem, but Margee, by that time retired, agreed to come and sit with her sister. I truly don’t know what we would have done had she not been able to do that. There were times when my father-in-law was in the hospital, and we all worked. There was no way to just find someone to take a week off to go and stay with her, but once again, Margee stepped in and bailed us out. She spent the days, and we took care of the nights. I hope she knows just what a relief that was to us. It was a debt we can never repay. Today is Margee’s birthday. Happy birthday Margee!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
One of the things about family history that especially holds my interest is locating the house where someone was born. It isn’t that I always set out to locate the house, but when one falls in my lap, I am especially excited…and that seems to happen a lot. There is a feeling of almost wonder when I find the exact place where one of my ancestors was born…especially when it is someone very dear to me. I don’t know exactly why that is exciting to me, except that it’s not every day that you find your self looking at the exact place that your parent or grandparent was born.
Home births are making a comeback these days, and I suppose that more and more people will be able to say that one specific house is where they were born. I very seldom feel the same way about the hospital where someone was born. Maybe that is because it is not very unique. Many other babies were born there too. I do think that I would feel that way about the hospital I was born in, because that is personal, but the one my kids and grandkids were born in, is also the place where a number of my loved ones passed away, and that feels different to me. I believe that my kids and grandkids will feel a closeness to the Wyoming Medical Center, because it is their birthplace, and that will make it special to them.
The house where someone was born, however, will always hold a special interest to me. I have to wonder what those walls to tell if they could talk. How did the family feel as each child joined the family? This house was where my Great Aunt Mina Schumacher, my Great Uncle Fred Schumacher, and my great aunts, Bertha and Elsa Schumacher were born. It’s also possible that my Great Aunt Marie Schumacher, who passed away at three years of age, could have been born in this house. My guess is that there was much happiness there, as well as some sadness. That is the way it is in any home…life happens there. That house saw the children playing and growing up, and the new births, one by one, and the family grew to it’s full size.
Before they would move to North Dakota, I’m sure there were many memories made there, but by the time Bertha and Elsa would return to the area for a visit, they no longer remembered the home where they were born, nor the wonderful times the family had there. Bertha wrote about that in her journal, so I have a feeling that those lost memories made her feel a bit sad, just like they would for me. I have a feeling that Aunt Bertha and I were quite a bit alike, and so the things that she thought were important to remember are the same kinds of things that I think are important. I am always very saddened by memories lost. Even if it is about people that I never knew, because everyone has a story, and someone, somewhere feels like their story is important, and once it is lost, it is very hard to find again. If no one ever wrote it down or told it, no one remembers. I guess that is why finding the house where someone was born is so important…it is where their story started.
Yesterday, I attended the funeral of Casper firefighter, Captain Jeffrey Atkinson. The service was beautiful and filled with all the pomp and circumstance befitting a hero. The ceremony included bag pipes, the Shriner’s Calliope Band, the sounding of the last bell, and the presentation of the helmet, badge, and flag to his widow, Kristen and his sons Eddie and Christopf. There were tributes about his bravery, his humor, and his caring ways. He was a firefighter, but more than that he was a husband, father, son, brother, nephew, uncle, cousin, and friend. His family loved him so much, and now cancer had taken him from them. It was a terribly sad time for a lot of people, in the firefighting community and the entire city too.
As I sat there listening to the ceremony, my mind drifted back over the last nine years, and my own encounters with Jeff and the other firefighters. As a caregiver for my parents and my in-laws over the past nine years, there have been more occasions than I care to think about when I would have to call for an ambulance for my loved ones. As most of you know, the fire department is often the first responder on those occasions. Since my husband Bob had been the fire department mechanic for many years, the firefighters knew me, but it wouldn’t have mattered. They weren’t just there because they knew Bob and me, they were there because they care about the people of Casper…or anyone in need.
Jeff and a number of other firefighters came to my rescue on more occasions than I want to think back on. In nine years of caregiving, there have been dozens of times when I had no other choice but to seek help in emergency situations. The firefighters and ambulance personnel were always professional, caring, and gentle with my parents and in-laws, but the firemen always seemed to look beyond just the patient. They saw me…standing there in the middle of it all, trying desperately to stay in control of my emotions long enough to be able to give them the information they needed in order to help their patient…my loved one.
At the time of those calls, I didn’t know if my loved one was going to make it through this. I felt like I was falling into a bottomless pit. Those were the worst moments of my life, and they saw me at my absolute worst. It didn’t matter to them. They saw that I was scared and trying desperately to hold myself together. It was at that point, as the EMTs were taking my loved one out to the ambulance that the firefighters turned their attention to me, asking if I was ok. Of course, that was the breaking point for me, and the tears flowed. Several of the firefighters, including Jeff took it upon themselves to give me the hug I really needed, and the encouragement to go forward and make my way to the hospital to give the information needed to the hospital staff too. I don’t think I could have made it without that hug. A hug might seem like such a small thing, but when your parents are sick and you have to be the one to make all the decisions about their care, it can feel so overwhelming. I felt lost and alone. They showed me that I wasn’t alone after all. With Jeff’s passing, the city of Casper has lost a great firefighter.
As my father-in-law’s life was winding down, we spent a lot of time together. It wasn’t always the perfect moments of his life that we shared, because he was in the hospital off and on during that time. He hated going into the hospital…hated the equipment he had to be hooked up to, food they wanted him to eat, and the constant waiting to get up, because he had to have help, but he liked the nurses and aides, and that made it tolerable, I guess. Nevertheless, he hated to be there, because life just seemed to pass him by when he was in the hospital. Still, since I needed to be there to talk to the doctors, and since I worked nearby, I went up several times a day. I know it meant a lot to him.
When we would first go to the hospital emergency room, my father-in-law would always ask me to take care of his watch and pocket knife. They were so important to him. That almost seems strange, because he normally didn’t have to be anywhere at any certain time, and he very seldom ever used the pocket knife. Nevertheless, they were very important to him, and I was always entrusted with their care, and because it was so important to him, it became important to me. When he passed away, the watch and pocket knife were not claimed by any of his children, so once again, I have been entrusted with their care. They are a treasure to me, and each time I look at them, I can see his sweet face, a little worried about what this hospital visit was going to bring, and yet still so protective of those two prized possessions.
I don’t know if they were given to him, or if they were just something he liked and bought for himself, but in his last days, and probably even longer than that, I know that they meant a lot to him. The knife is an Old Timer Knife. Old Timer Knives were manufactured by the Imperial Schrade Corporation, who closed their doors July 30, 2004, after 100 years of business. They were something he looked on as being of great value. It might have been just a guy thing to have a pocket knife or something, because it does seem that a lot of guys have and keep good track of their pocket knives. I don’t know the story on his watch either, except to say that the only time he was without it was when he was in the hospital, in bed, or the shower. That says that it was something he treasured too. Neither of these were very expensive items. The watch may have come from Walmart, for all I know. It’s monetary value isn’t important to me. It’s real value is in what it meant to my father-in-law. Today would have been my father-in-law’s 85th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Dad. We love and miss you very much.
Not everyone is so blessed, as I am, to be married to the love of their life…and I have been for nearly 40 years now. Bob and I met when I was still in high school, and married in March after I had graduated. He stole my heart the day I met him, and he didn’t even know it for a while. That’s how Bob is though. He really doesn’t know what a great guy he is. There is no conceit in him at all. That’s ok though, I know how great he is, so I’ll take care of that part for both of us. Bob has always been a hard working man, who never was one to act proud or arrogant. I suppose that is a big part of his charm.
As a dad, Bob was so sweet, but he was a little out of his league when it came to discipline with the girls…in reality, it is a well known fact that the girls had him wrapped around their little finger…at least a little bit. No, a lot. A little batting their eyelashes, and a little “I love you Daddy” and he was in a lot of trouble. Thankfully, I was a pretty strict disciplinarian, and I think it might have been easier for me to discipline the girls than for him. Maybe if they had been boys he could have done better. I’m not so sure. He is pretty soft hearted…but really, that is a big part of his charm too. I suppose some people might not think it is charming for him to be a softy, but to me it is.
As our family has grown up and moved into their own homes, Bob and I find ourselves in the couple time of our life again, but that doesn’t mean that we are without responsibilities. We take care of parents, and that is a big job, but it is one I would not want to tackle without the love and support of my man. There are times that I have to go to the hospital in the middle of the evening, and I’m there most of the night. Bob is so understanding about this situation. It frees me up to do the things I need to do to care for our moms.
I couldn’t ask for a more wonderful man than Bob. The last 40 years have been amazing. I look forward to each new day with him, because it just gets better and better. Today is Bob’s 60th birthday. Bob it has been such an amazing life. I am so happy that we have taken this journey together. Happy birthday Sweetie!! I hope yours is a wonderful day!! I love you with all my heart!!
Time flies by so fast sometimes, and suddenly we find ourselves a year out from an event that shook our world…the death of a loved one. It was one year ago today that my father-in-law, Walter Schulenberg passed away. He was a quiet, gentle man who loved his family more than anything else in the world. He hated the years when his job took him away from the family, because watching his children grow up was so important to him. From the time they were dating, he talked about when they would start having children. He knew that he wanted a little girl, just like his soon to be sister-in-law, Margee, who was just six months old when they got married. Of course, he wanted sons too, but he was smitten with those girls, and while his boys were his helpers, and he was very proud of both of them; his little girls were always his little princesses. That seems to be the way life is for daddies of daughters, and he was no exception to that rule.
I never met someone who was more excited to be a grandfather. When I was pregnant with Corrie, his first grandchild, he seemed to have been transferred back all those years to when his children were little. He often asked me how I was doing. He wanted to be sure I was comfortable…because I was carrying his first little grandbaby. He made it such an honor, both times I was pregnant. His children and grandchildren were so important in his life. In fact they were the most important things in his life…with one exception…the love of his life, my mother-in-law, Joann Knox Schulenberg.
From the time they started dating, he knew that there was no other girl for him. I have had the opportunity to read some of the letters they wrote back and forth while they were dating, and he was working in another town. He wanted nothing more than to marry her and take care of her for the rest of his life…and that was exactly what he did. All those years that they were together, he made sure she had what she needed. When she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, he gave up much of what he would like to have done, so he could take care of her. She was his world, and to him, giving up a few little things to make sure she was going to be alright, was only natural. As the years flew by, he devoted more and more time to taking care of her, and did more than he should have in those later years…I couldn’t get him to stop overdoing it. To him, it was so important that she was always going to be ok.
The hardest thing I think he ever had to do was when we had to put her in the nursing home. It had become obvious that we couldn’t keep her safe at home, and there was no other option. He really took that hard. He was so lonely. We did our best to take him to see her, but that was hard on him too. Then he went through a series of hospital stays in a short period of time, and they left him very weak. The hospital suggested that he go into a nursing home, and he was very much against it…at first. Then I talked to the nursing home my mother-in-law was in, and they said they could take him too and they could share a room. It was a perfect plan. He could see her, stay with her, and make sure she was alright, all while he was taken care of too. It seemed the perfect plan, and in a way, I guess it was…except for the fact that he just couldn’t bounce back from those bouts in the hospital, and would return 3 more times before it was over. The thing that was good for him was the fact that, not only could he be near the love of his life, but before he left us, he was able to see that she would be alright. He could see that the staff took good care of her. That last year was a really hard one for my father-in-law. He was getting tired of fighting COPD. It was a fight for every breath, and he knew he was losing that fight. Still, he could not go, without knowing that those he loved…especially the love of his life, were going to be ok. Dad left us a year ago today, and while we know that he isn’t suffering anymore, we still miss him very much. We love you Dad.
Few things can bring a parent to their knees in prayer faster than a sick child…especially when the situation is very serious. This was the position my niece, Susan Griffith and her husband, Josh found themselves in when their younger daughter, Kaytlyn became ill when she was just 18 months old. Kaytlyn was running a fever of 104.5° for most of the morning, nothing Susan did seemed to have much effect on the fever. Susan knew she had to get more help, so she took her to Urgent Care. The physician at Urgent Care, sent them to the Emergency Room at the hospital immediately. The doctors took blood, ran tests, gave her something to bring down the fever, and told Susan to keep a close eye on Kaytlyn, and bring her back if anything got worse. When they left the hospital, Kaytlyn’s fever was at 103°.
Taking Kaytlyn home proved to be a very bad idea. By the time they got home, Kaytlyn’s tongue was swelling, making it difficult to breathe. Susan immediately took her back to the Emergency Room. The doctors gave her an anti-swelling medication and said more tests were needed to determine the problem. They did a spinal tap, which is among one of the scariest test imaginable for a worried mom. Then they took X-rays and more blood. Still they had no answers. Kaytlyn’s fever was still fluctuating between 103° and 104°. They decided to keep her overnight, and it was going to be a long night for Susan…especially since Josh was working in North Dakota.
Because the hospital in Powell is small, Susan and Josh decided that they wanted to take Kaytlyn to Billings, Montana. The doctors were very much against the idea, but after a while, they consented, provided they went by ambulance. Susan rode with Kaytlyn in the ambulance, and Josh left North Dakota, headed for Billings. Josh’s mother went to their house to get some clothes for Susan and Kaytlyn. Susan’s sister, my niece, Machelle Moore, picked Susan’s other daughter, Jala up from school, and kept her overnight…unheard of for Jala on a school night, probably causing her to worry too.
The ride to Billings seemed to take hours, but finally, Kaytlyn was admitted to the Pediatric Unit at Saint Vincent’s Health Care…it was 11pm…a horribly long day. Josh’s mother made sure Susan and Kaytlyn got to the room, and then had to head back to Powell. Josh was still en route to Billings from North Dakota, but Kaytlyn seemed to be doing better now, and her fever had dropped to 102°. She was finally able to sleep, but for Susan, there was nothing to do but sit and think. It occurred to her how blessed they had been, that they had never had to bring their children to a hospital before. Still, they were there now, and she didn’t know what was wrong yet.
Nothing is worse for a parent than sitting in a hospital, wondering if they are going to lose their child. Susan finally dozed off at some point before Josh arrived…from pure exhaustion. She awoke to the phone ringing. It was Josh. He had made it to Billings, but his truck broke down on the interstate. Someone helped him get it off the road, and a highway patrolman gave him a ride to the hospital. I can imagine how Susan felt when Josh arrived…like falling to pieces. She needed someone to hold her together, and thankfully, Josh was finally able to be there. Pure relief rained over her. The morning brought more relief, when the doctor said it was Tonsillitis. They recommended that her tonsils be removed in a month or so, and sent them home. They went home with thankful hearts. Their baby girl was still with them, and they knew just how blessed they were. They would never forget their miracle. Today Kaytlyn is 6 years old. Happy birthday Kaytlyn!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!
When my daughters had their first children one day apart, almost 18 years who, I thought that was the coolest thing, and it was, but sometimes, sisters get to have their babies on the same day, and that it very rare indeed. Nevertheless, that is the case for my Aunt Dixie and my Aunt Bonnie. Their sons, James and Michael were born 49 years ago today. As a grandmother, I can imagine how busy things were for my grandma and grandpa. Of course, back then they couldn’t be in the room when the baby was born, nor could the father…which seems very odd to us now, but they were definitely in the waiting room pacing the floor. And the excitement must have been very high. Just think, to get two grandchildren on the same day, and they weren’t twins. That doesn’t happen very often. Now, top that off with both babies being born in the same town, in the same hospital, and you have real excitement.
It must have been interesting to the hospital staff too, because they had sisters in hospital with newborns for several days. Back then, the mom and baby stayed in the hospital for 5 days or so. I’ll bet it was the talk of the nursing staff. And for the sisters, they got to share the experience on a much closer basis than sisters usually do. They didn’t have to wait for visiting hours to see their sister’s baby, and in fact, I believe that only the dad and grandparents were allowed to visit back then, so they would have had to wait until their sister and the baby came home. Nevertheless, for the sisters, like their own son, they could easily go and see their nephew anytime they wanted to because he was probably right next to their own son, unless he was having his dinner, which would mean that their own son was doing the same.
Babies arriving in this world is always such a special day, and when you double that…without having twins, the day becomes even more special for the family. How wonderfully unique to be able to share the birth of your child with your sister. It adds a bond to the sisters and their families that might not have existed otherwise. Today is my cousin, Jim’s birthday and also my cousin, Michael’s birthday. I’m not sure who is the oldest, but I’m sure they will let me know as they read their story. Happy birthday Jim and Michael!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you both!!