It’s always strange to look back and realize that a loved one has been in Heaven for a year. The subsequent years aren’t as shocking, at least until your reach the milestones like 5, 10, or more. That strange realization is where I find myself today, the one year anniversary on my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg’s passing.
Over the years, much changed with my mother-in-law. She was, from the time I first met her, a stubborn woman, and I suppose that many people might take that to mean annoying, but she wasn’t. People might disagree with me, but in my opinion, the type of stubbornness that she had is a good form, because it is more of an “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” type of stubbornness. In fact, she and I are probably very much alike in our stubbornness, and quite possibly, that is part of the reason we always got along so well. She was a wonderful mother-in-law. My mother-in-law taught herself to master many types of crafts, including quilting, crocheting, knitting, sewing, and canning. These things served her family well over the years. Her crafts proving them with things they needed, and she made money on them too.
As Alzheimer’s began to rob her of much of her recent memory, she became more confused, but I believe that she and we handled it well. She became quite funny. Never one to joke much, she suddenly had a kind of dry humor that I can really relate to. She would surprise me with her quick comebacks, at a time that I thought she didn’t know what was going on, or who I was. Fooled me every time!! Whether she knew she had fooled me, somehow did it on purpose, or simply stated a fact as she saw it at that moment, it was always funny.
In all of the 11 years that I took care of her, my mother-in-law was really a joy to be around, even when she fought with me periodically. The time I spent taking care of her was as rewarding as the time I spent taking care of the rest of the parents. End of life care is really what you make of it. The person is always so grateful to you for your help, and there is a bond with them that will forever change them both. You can’t spent that many hours with your mother-in-law, and not feel a closeness to her. She told me about things in the past, and really enriched my understanding of my husband’s genealogy. She may not have even realized the impact that our conversations had on me, but they were like pure gold. Priceless, and a gift that I will cherish forever. Joann Knox Schulenberg lived a very interesting life, and one that was very different from my own. She was the mother of my husband, Bob, and the way she raised her children, enriched my life too. She taught them to be loyal, hard working people, who had self esteem and were respectful to others. She taught them to be kind and helpful to those in need. She raised her family to be close friends, and to share their talents for the good of all. They have always worked together on things. What more could a daughter-in-law ask of her mother-in-law? Mom, most of all, you were a true friend to me, and I miss you very much. I can’t believe that it has already been a year since you left us.
In church today, our pastor talked about how moms can become invisible to their children. Of course, he was talking about how we can take them for granted, but there is another way that our mom can become invisible…at least to us here. When your mom goes to Heaven and you can no longer see her, or talk to her. While she is no longer with us here on earth, that doesn’t mean her love for us ends. Love will endure forever. She was the one who carried us in her womb for nine months, and then brought us into this world. She nurtured us through life, and helped us to become independent people, who can take charge of our own lives.
I’m sure there were many times when we took her for granted, and didn’t give her the respect she deserved, but she always forgave us for our thoughtlessness. In her wisdom, she knew that we really didn’t mean it. Still, our words must have hurt…our actions must have stung. Nevertheless, Mom forgave and didn’t hold it against us. I’m sure some of them us were much more of a challenge than others, and I place myself in that category, because I think I had the ability to be a trial sometimes…and I think I might be putting that somewhat mildly. Still, that doesn’t mean that I did not care about my mom, but rather that her daughter was stubborn. Mom always forgave me anyway, and for that I consider myself blessed. Our moms taught us what it meant to be parents…the need to forgive our kids for the stupid things we did. We learned parenting from our parents after all, and much of the nurturing qualities come from our mothers. Where would our kids be without our mothers to show us how to be mothers. We learned it from her.
Still, over those years, we have all taken our moms for granted. We didn’t really see them. They were a fixture in our lives. They performed a function, but we were seldom grateful. Then, when they are suddenly gone, we finally get it. We realize that they quietly took care of all the needs of our lives. They took a back seat so that we could shine. They cooked and cleaned, and received no thanks from us. We sassed them and disrespected them, and even though we may have said we were sorry, we could not take those things back. They were forever out there. Then, for some of us, the day came when they left this earth and we learned what it was like without that wonderful person that we had taken so much for granted…viewed as invisible…whether we realized it or not. For us, invisible took on a whole new meaning where our mother was concerned. I was blessed in this life to have a wonderful mom and mother-in-law, and both of them are invisible to me now. They are in Heaven, but they will never be forgotten. Happy Mother’s Day in Heaven to my two moms. I love and miss you both.
Having my daughter, Amy Royce live so far away, is something that will take a lot of getting used to. I am used to seeing her every day, and now that is not possible. I’m sure that I can count on one hand the number of times I have missed being with her on her birthday in her 39 years. In fact, I if I had to guess, it would be maybe two times. Even then, I saw her within a day or so of her birthday. We have always been a close family, and so this degree of distance between us seems very foreign to me.
Of course, my dear Amy, you have been on my mind a great degree lately, and when I think of you, I find my mind flooded with visions of you at every stage of your life. You were my teeny little girl who always felt the need to defend yourself from the other little kids who thought you were a baby doll to be played with. Wow, did they have a shock when they tried to pick you up. You could make it very clear with your ability to scream at the top of your lungs, that carrying you around, would not be tolerated. When you where still very small, with your small amount of blond hair, and your great big eyes, we called you Tweety Bird, because you reminded us so much of the bird in the cartoon. And you were Strawberry Shortcake, because at that time, the currently back in the popular zone toy, first came out, and the term fit you so very well. Of course to your dad, you will always be Squirt. You were such a sweet little girl, and yet you had a stubborn streak that came out when you didn’t get your way or you felt like someone didn’t give you the proper degree of respect in any given situation. Then your little face would set in anger and determination to win, and pretty much everyone knew to give you some space. You had a funny way of pronouncing some of your words, and somehow, my little Wyoming Girl, sounded just like a Texan…which we always found pretty funny, unless you were trying to explain that you had “dirt” in your eye by saying the you had “dot” in your eye. Boy you could sure get irritated whenever you were misunderstood.
As you grew up, at least in every way but in height, you learned to have a sense of humor about things, especially when it came to reaching things in high places. I remember the time you bought a t-shirt at school that was marked in such a way as to explain to a blond, the proper way to get dressed, because of the blond jokes that have persisted over the years. I found myself shocked, because as a blond, who was almost always not a blond in the intellectual sense of the word, you had decided to embrace that joke. You used to get so angry about being called a blond, so I couldn’t believe that you would buy such a shirt. I guess that you decided that if you couldn’t beat ’em, you might as well join ’em. Because of your small stature, no one could ever really believe your age either. Upon receiving your first traffic ticket, the officer first questioned not if you had you license, but rather if you were old enough to have one at all. And I often wondered if you would need a booster chair to see over the steering wheel in your first car, a Camaro, because back when they were a pretty big car. In fact, I went so far as to give you one that I came across, only to find that you did not agree with my logic concerning this matter. Go figure!!
While you have always seemed younger than your years in looks and size, you have proven yourself to be a wise and very talented girl when it comes to most things in your life. You are a very capable insurance agent, and one that I have been not only proud and happy to work with, but upon your move, an agent that I have been proud to send to your new agency, because they have received a great asset to their company. Your ability to learn the nuances of insurance is amazing. Sadly, our loss is their gain, and we miss you every day…especially your mom. Today in Amy’s birthday. Happy birthday Amy!! Have a great day!! We love you very much!! And ET, don’t forget to call home often. We really need that.
From the time she was a little girl, I knew that my daughter, Amy Schulenberg Royce could take care of herself. She was always a tiny little girl, and finally grew to the great height of 4′ 11″…or so I thought. Her husband kept telling her that she was only 4’10” and when she got tired of arguing with him she had him measure her, and sure enough she is 4’10”. Nevertheless, height isn’t everything. My little girl has always been feisty, and she let any poor soul who messed with her know that she was in charge. Don’t get me wrong here, because Amy is very much the peacemaker, and she really dislikes confrontation, but that doesn’t mean that she will let people push her around. It simply means that when she is done putting up with something…she is done, and you would do well to get out of the way.
I think that in many ways, that feisty determination has been something that has served her well. Many people think that stubbornness is a bad thing, but being a stubborn person myself, I know the value of stubbornness. A stubborn person really hates failure. They will set their sights on something, and against all odds, they will achieve that goal. That is exactly the kind of person Amy is. She is a never give up type of person, just like her mom. We are stubborn, but it is stubborn in a good way. Stubborn in a determined way.
Amy is a successful insurance agent now, and it has been my pleasure to work with her for the past several years. It’s not always easy to work with your child, but with Amy it has been easy. She has a great work ethic and would never put me in a position of needing to take her aside and chew her out for her work habits. Yes, we are both stubborn and determined, but we also work well together.
Amy’s life is changing now, with her children growing up. Amy has found a new passion…travel. She and her family went on their first cruise, to the Caribbean, and had so much fun that she can’t wait to go on another one. At this point, she and her husband, Travis are planning a cruise through the Panama Canal. They are so excited about it, and I am very excited for them. Today is Amy’s birthday. Amy, I am so proud of the person you have become. Happy birthday Amy!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!
While I was still in high school, I met the man who would be the love of my life. Since that day, I know that no other man would have ever measured up to him. Bob is my soul mate…the half that makes me whole. What would I be without him in my life. He is the father of my children and my confidant, but most of all, he is my best friend. I can’t imagine my life without Bob.
Bob and I married young. I was almost 19 and he was 20, and I’m sure many people would say that we were lucky, but I have to say that with hard work, we beat the odds. Marriage is not an easy undertaking. When we are young, we tend to think it is all hearts and flowers, but if you can’t weather the hard times, you will not keep the hearts and flowers moments for very long. We are stubborn people, who hate to lose a battle and I suppose that is what carried us through the tough times, and after a while, it just became second nature…we knew that our love would outlast the tough times, and endure through the years.
I can’t begin to imagine how different my life would have been if we had never met, and I’m glad I have never had to find out. While there have been times that were hard in our lives, such as the hard work of the caregiving we are now working through, I think that we are both right where God wanted us to be. If we were not together, I can’t imagine where those we care for would be. You don’t know what kind of help your spouse will be in the care of your parents, until that time comes, and not all spouses are able to handle that job for their own parents, much less for their in-laws. I was thankful that Bob was there for me, and I was there for him through those tough times.
So much has changed as we have grown from love struck kids, through being parents, and then grandparents. I look back on all that our lives have been and realize that while it was hard work at times, the richness that has been our lives, was well worth the teeny seconds in time that were harder, and I wouldn’t trade one moment of what I have for any other kind of life. I have taken this journey with the man I love, and I am so thankful that God brought us together. He knew what was best for us, and He knew that this would be the love of our lives. Happy Valentine’s Day my love!! Thank you for my life’s richest journey. I love you very much!!
Some people have such a way with children…a gentleness really. They are so soft hearted…maybe a little too soft hearted, but you find yourself unable to be upset with them, even if they let kids get away with too much. That is always how Bob was with our girls, and in fact, if I hadn’t been much more on the strict side, they would have been completely spoiled. Bob always had a hard time with disciplining the girls. I think he always thought he would hurt them, so he either left it up to me, or he yelled at them a little, and I do mean little, bit. He wasn’t a scary guy at all, and in fact Amy, my more stubborn child, even laughed at him after a spanking he gave her when she was 5 years old, if you could call it that. He just didn’t have the heart for it.
I can’t say that his soft heart was a bad thing, exactly. I mean, did the girls get away with a little more than they should have when they were little? Yes. Is he still a sucker for his little girls? Yes. All they have to do is say, “I love you, Daddy” and he knows he has already lost. Does that fact bother Bob? Not at all. It is simply who he is. He might try to tell people he isn’t a softy around kids, but everyone knows that isn’t so.
Everywhere Bob goes, little kids seem to come out of the woodwork. No, I don’t mean strangers, I mean the children of friends, people he bowls with, or people he works with, and of course, family members children. They are just drawn to Bob. I think that soft heart shows on his face, personally. And if you think you can hide that from a kid…well, get over it. They can read you like a book. Those little kids instinctively knew that Bob was a friend.
Not much has changed over the years, and the grandchildren know that their grandpa is going to help out in any way he can. He is the second call, after their parents, when they have car trouble or any other such problem, because if their parents can’t fix it, or can’t get there right now, their grandparents will find a way…yes, I’m a bit of a softy too. And they know that he will most likely let them get away with a little more than their parents might, simply because he hasn’t changed since their mothers were little. Once a soft heart, always a soft heart.
When a kid gets a baby sister or brother, they are usually so excited…especially if they had been the only child. My sister, Cheryl felt that way when I came along. She finally had a baby sibling of her own. I can’t say that she felt that way through put adolescent years, but it was great while it lasted…in those early years.
While we were little, we got along great and loved being sisters. I saw a movie my parents had taken of us when we were little. I had learned to crawl, and Cheryl was pretty hard pressed to keep up with me. In the movie, Cheryl would crawl beside me for a few minutes, but when she started to get behind, she got up and began to walk to catch up. Then she would try crawling again…but it didn’t do her any good. I was too fast for her.
During our adolescent years, we fought like cats and dogs. I’m sure I was always in the way, because Cheryl seemed so grown up and sophisticated to me, and I just wanted to hang out with her and her friends. She on the other hand didn’t want to hang out this her nerdy kid sister. Those days it just didn’t matter what we did, we couldn’t get along. We were too different. And we were both very strong willed. The two things didn’t add up to a comfortable relationship. Thankfully those awkward years don’t last forever.
After Cheryl was married, we still fought, mostly because I was still young and again, we were very different. Shortly after her second child, Toni was born, we had our worst fight…and our last. Yes, it was physical, and…there was no winner. The next day, with both of us feeling a little sore, we decided that we were too old for such fighting. We have been close friends and even closer sisters since that day. Not many people who have been at odds so much of their lives can turn around and be very loyal friends. We were and still are very blessed.
I can’t tell you that we never fought again, because we did…but never physical. Our arguments were small and unimportant, and never lasted long. Mostly though, we were very good friends. My life has been so much better because of our friendship. My sister is the amazing person I thought she was when I was a kid. She is strong and yet, kind. She is beautiful in every way. She has a sweet spirit, that is a blessing to all who know her.