When Bob and I arrived at the nursing home where his mother lives, she immediately asked us if we had our guns. We usually go with the flow when talking to her, because with Alzheimer’s Disease, you just never know what she will say. She gets an idea into her head, and she goes with it. Things like telling us she cooked dinner, or asking what time she has to be to school are common topics, but she hasn’t talked about guns very much, so I wasn’t really sure what direction this conversation was going to take. When I told her we didn’t have our guns, she gave me a sideways glance, and I knew this was a serious conversation. She then told me that when “those guys” get here, we are going to start shooting at them. I told her that it was against the law to shoot at people, and she informed me that it wasn’t if they shot at us first. You just can’t argue with that logic, so we tried to change the subject. She was having none of it.
She told us that we needed to close all the windows and turn off all the lights before “those guys” got here…and that when the shooting started…it was going to be really bad. It was very clear to me that she was anticipating a real shoot out. It isn’t very often that she is impossible to move off of a conversation and on to something else, so we knew that we were going to have to play this one out. I told her that no one told us that we were supposed to bring our gun, and once again, I received a sideways glance that told me that she really did not approve of our severe lack of preparation for this upcoming battle. I’m not sure how I was supposed to know that we needed to bring our gun, but I can say that since she had informed us that “the boys” called and told her about “those guys” who were coming to have this shoot out, It seems to me that she had a definite advantage over us. If “the boys” took the time to call her, maybe they should have called us too, since it was to be our job to protect Mom from “those guys” after all. Shouldn’t we have been told this responsibility was coming before “those guys” were on their way…with guns!!
When we took Mom into the dining room for dinner…again trying to get her mind off of the upcoming battle, she still would not be moved. She made Bob close the blinds in the room, in case “those guys” showed up before she was done eating. When Bob told her that he was pretty sure they wouldn’t be there before we could get done, she didn’t look very convinced. Bob had to tell her that as soon as she was done eating, we would go out of the dining room and sit in a room with no windows, so she would be safe. She ate her dinner quickly and without any arguments, and when she was done, we went into the TV room. We were sure that it was a protected room without any problems, but she immediately noticed that the blinds across that room were open too, so we had to close those as well. We assured her that she was safe now. Then she said that pretty soon, they would be getting ready to call out the numbers. Suddenly, it became crystal clear that the shoot out was over, and…we were on to Bingo.
As I was looking through some old pictures, I came across one of a house. It was old, with it’s windows and doors boarded up. At first I thought that it was sad that so many houses around our country are left to fall apart, right in a town where people are using the homes all around it. I couldn’t figure out why this house had some significance, when so many others don’t. Then I looked at the back of the picture and I was surprised at what I found. First of all, so many of the pictures I have looked at, were not written on at all, leaving so much of the family history to the imagination…frustrating to say the least, and I know too that I have been guilty of that myself. We think that we will know the people in the picture, and we will, but what of the people in years to come…our children and grandchildren or even, great grandchildren…what will they know of the people or places in the picture.
So, what of the house in the picture I found…well, it was the house that Bob’s grandmother, Vina Nona Leary Schulenberg Hein was born in, 105 years ago today. It’s strange to think that you are looking at a house that was the specific location of a specific event over a century earlier, but that is exactly the case. Most births took place in the home back then, and this one was no different, in fact, it was probably completely routine…to them. To most of us today, that seems incredible, even though home births are making a comeback.
Grandma Hein’s birthday was always easy for me to remember, because it came on Groundhog’s Day. I’m sure that was always something her whole family thought was a cool thing too. Having a birthday on a special day or holiday can be fun, with the possible exception of Christmas. I have heard that a Christmas birthday, or even close to it, can be a real bummer with the whole gift thing and all, but any other special day is a cool thing. Grandma’s birthday being on Groundhogs Day, marked the day of either the promise of an early spring or 6 more weeks of a dreary winter. I don’t know, that one might depend on the outcome, as to whether it was a cool birthday or not. Nevertheless, being able to look at the very house that was aflutter with activity on this Groundhog’s Day 105 years ago is a cool thing to me. I have to wonder what the walls of this old house could tell us of that day. Quite a bit I expect. It’s a bit sad to think that no little children run and play in it’s rooms, no wonderful smells fill it’s rooms, no family enjoys the warmth of it’s rooms, but rather it has become a sad empty structure left to fall apart. Still, it was an important place in it’s day…Grandma’s day of birth 105 years ago today. Happy birthday Grandma!! We love and miss you very much.
Can 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 remember 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 always 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 good 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.