When I met my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg for the first time, I wonder what she thought of me. It’s not that my mother-in-law was a snob or anything, because she certainly wasn’t. Nevertheless, I was just 17 years old, so I could have seemed like a frivolous teenager. As I got to know her better, she would say things like, “You have never canned vegetables?” or “You don’t make your own clothes?” Well, the reality was that I was a teenaged city girl, and she was a country girl. In addition, I was from a completely different generation than she was. She had lives through the depression era, when food was scarce, as were many other things. People did what they had to in order to survive. An experience like that is not something people forget easily. It wasn’t that I had never cooked or even helped make jelly, but living in town, we didn’t have the space for a garden, and so didn’t have the vegetables to can. I also knew how to sew, but I have never liked it. Hmmm…maybe I was a frivolous teenaged girl.

Nevertheless, my mother-in-law never looked down on me, but rather I think she had found a “new student” to teach. When I married into the family, I was introduced many new things. I learned canning, some gardening, and even raising cows for family use. Still, you really can’t take the city out of the girl, even if, for a time, you take the girl out of the city. Just like moving her to the city, didn’t take the country out of her. While I can do those things, I can’t say that I love doing those things. Sorry Mom!! Nevertheless, I loved reaping the benefits of her many talents, like knitting, crocheting, canning, baking (from scratch), sewing, and cooking.

When my mother-in-law began to develop Alzheimer’s Disease, we were all saddened. So much of who she was in the past, began to drift away. Still, some of the best memories of her life stayed with her, and for that we were blessed. True, most of the memories were from her distant past, but those were the ones that we didn’t know about. Her life as a girl, things her parents did, places she lived, horses she loved, and stories about her children’s past too. We found a new part of her and a new way to be blessed by her. Mom changed with Alzheimer’s Disease, but she did not get irritable like many people did. She was sweet and accommodating…if you didn’t ask her to get up and walk. She did require a lot of care and eventually we had no choice, but to place her in a nursing home. She didn’t mind. She was a “people watcher” and so it was a good fit. She didn’t walk the last 4½ years of her life, which might have contributed to her good mood. I think, in the end, she appreciated me more, because as her caregiver, I honestly did my best for her…as did our whole team. Today would have been my mother-in-law’s 93rd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Mom. We love and miss you very much.

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