A number of years ago, the local paper in Casper, Wyoming ran an article about my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg. The article was about his hobby turned business, and was entitled, “Another Kind of Chairman”. My father-in-law took old lawn chairs that had damaged seats, and used cord to re-weave them into new chairs. The seats and seat backs of his chairs had designs in them for football team logos to musical notes. He also made tin men that hang from a hook and wind decorations for fences. He was known throughout Casper, and everyone knew his house, because of all the yard decorations he had up. It looked really cool.
Recently, my father-in-law was in the hospital for several days. At 83 years of age, this is a periodic occurrence. After a few days, he was released, and when we got home, he checked the messages at the house, and found that a woman had called about having him make some chairs for her. He told me that he couldn’t do them anymore. He had some to do already that he couldn’t get finished. You see, his vision isn’t so good right now, and he is weaker than he has been in the past. He had known this was coming for a while, but I hadn’t realized it. I take care of my in-laws, but I was too focused on health care issues to notice the unfinished chair in the living room hadn’t really changed over the past few months. And, since I’m not there every minute of the day, I was unaware that he was no longer making tin men, and in fact had given the last one he made to his sister, Esther…something she was very thankful for, because it is a treasure to her.
As I called the woman back to tell her that my father-in-law wouldn’t be able to make the chairs she wanted, I decided that we needed to take down the sign he has on the outside of his house, advertising the chairs. Later, when I mentioned to Bob that we needed to down the sign, it occurred to me that this was the end of an era. He had been making those different things for so long that I couldn’t really recall just when he started. I do remember him making a stick pony for my girls when they were little. That would have to be more than 30 years ago. So many people have been thrilled with their chairs, but sadly, as people age there are things they can’t do anymore, I know that, but this didn’t seem like something that he wouldn’t be able to do, and the fact that it is makes me very sad. Sad for him, and for the people who will not get to enjoy the things he made. Sad that this is the end of an era.