My mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg lived a long life. The last five years were spent in Shepherd of the Valley Care Center with Alzheimer’s Disease. Her time at Shepherd was far from sad and miserable, as many people would have expected. Mom lived in her own little world, as Alzheimer’s patients do toward the end of the disease, and I’m here to tell you that her world was quite interesting. Her stories and her life in the past were very vivid in her mind, and she would happily tell those who would listen, all about it. I was one of the privileged few who got to hear all or most of her stories.
Mom did live an interesting life for sure. From her early childhood living in a sheep wagon in Montana, while her dad, Robert Knox tended the sheep; to her married years in Wyoming, raising her six children, Marlyce Schulenberg (who passed away in 1989), Debbie Cook, Bob Schulenberg, Jennifer Parmely, Brenda Schulenberg, and Ron Schulenberg; there was never a dull moment. She kept busy knitting, crocheting, sewing, canning, or in her later years, thinking she was still doing these things. There were certain things that she always thought were very cool in her life. Birthdays were always an important thing, and she loved the fact that she shared her with her first great grandson, Chris Petersen. Just like her mother before her got to share her birthday with her great granddaughter, Corrie Petersen, who is Chris’ mom. Those things were considered a “big deal” to her.
While she was at the nursing home, my mother-in-law was really quite the comedian. She would tell us things like she made the dinner, and that she did the laundry and the dishes. She was completely convinced that these things were true. Of course, no one argued the point with her either. What good would that have done? Her Alzheimer’s convinced her that she was right, and that was ok. She felt useful, and that was all she ever wanted. My mother-in-law always loved doing things for people. Her sweaters and afghans were stunning and meticulous. She spent so many years knitting and crocheting, that I’m sure she could do both in her sleep. I think if she made a mistake, she would know it for sure. She could probably locate the mistake and fix it without waking up. She just knew every stitch that well. It makes me sad that her hands are stilled now, but I know that she is in a better place, and she has her full memory now too. Today would have been my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Mom. We love and miss you very much.
Just when you think you know someone, you find out that maybe you didn’t know them at all. I have always known that my Aunt Bonnie McDaniels is a great lady. She has made many, many wedding cakes for her friends and family, and then gives them as gifts, so that the bride and groom don’t have to pay the price she could easily charge for them. Yes I always knew that she was a great lady, but I didn’t know the true extent of her giving…until now.
Aunt Bonnie has always had a special love for children. I remember attending activities at Grant Elementary School with my grandchildren, Shai and Caalab Royce, to find Aunt Bonnie there too, watching the her grandson, Anthony McDaniels participate in the same events. Of course, that was just one of the many times Aunt Bonnie attended for her kids ad grandkids, and now great grandkids. She was instrumental in the lives of three generations of her family’s lives. Her family was her true delight. She is selfless and gives to her family with endless joy and love.
That is a part of Aunt Bonnie that I also knew, and I’m sure that like Aunt Bonnie and me, this is something that many grandparents do for their family, but Aunt Bonnie didn’t stop there. And that is truly where the similarities between most moms, grandmothers, and great grandmothers, and my aunt end. Aunt Bonnie loves crocheting and sewing. It is a talent she has shared and taught to her family. These days, the family often shares gifts of yarn and pom-pom makers for birthdays! Each of them feels a very special bond with her through crocheting and sewing, but even that still doesn’t tell you the most amazing things that Aunt Bonnie does.
Aunt Bonnie’s love of babies and children has brought her to a place of giving to the babies in our community. Along with a couple of her friends, Aunt Bonnie sews and crochets for the new babies at the hospital and at Family Practice. She provides all of the supplies she needs for her projects…that’s a part of the gift…just like her cakes always were. She meets with her friends every other Thursday to cut out material and prepare for the week’s work. Over the years Bonnie has made baby gowns, hats, fleece blankets, quilts, onesies, crocheted caps, socks and bibs. Every other Thursday they meet to deliver the items they have created for the new babies. Aunt Bonnie is a giver, but I just never knew just what a great giver she is. Today is Aunt Bonnie’s 79th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Bonnie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Every year since 1907 (or 1914, if you go by the day that Congress designated the day) children have celebrated a day of remembering all the wonderful things their mom has done for them. Being a mom is often a thankless job. It involves long hours, filled with worries, headaches, weariness, and work…and it’s an all volunteer job. Of course, if we had to pay our mother for all the things she did for us, we would all be broke, and the moms would have all the money in the world…or a good chunk of it. The job of Mom, is a highly skilled job, encompassing many different careers. Moms are nurses, teachers, chefs, nannies, coaches, maids, chauffeurs, financial advisors, tutors, counselors, advisor, judge, and jury, just to name a few. Most of her training is on the job training, because motherhood is a career that starts the instant your first child arrives, and lasts for the rest of your life. There are no days off, no passing the torch, and no retirement. And the funny thing is that no mother ever wants to retire, in fact, they wish their babies would stay little forever.
My own mom, Collene Spencer was a most amazing woman. She raised five daughters, teaching us to cook, clean, take care of a home, and how to be moms. She taught us that we could do anything we set our minds to. As our lives progressed and we took on our adulthood, she became our cheerleader…even if what we were doing was a hobby, she always had faith that we could do it. I remember when I started writing, she wanted to have me read the stories to her. She missed so many of them, because I didn’t see her that day, so I finally made sure she got them on her Kindle. She read every single one. She was my biggest fan, and I miss having her tell me how much she loved this story or that one. And I miss calling Mom to ask her about a detail from her childhood. Her information enriched my stories, because she knew all the little details of the events. Many times, while I’m working on a story, I think, “I need to ask Mom about that”…then, I realized once again…that I can’t. It would be nice to have a phone to Heaven, because I have questions for my mom…and my dad too. And I miss them, and just saying hello again would be wonderful.
When I got married, I assumed that I had learned everything I needed to know, but that was not so. My mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg had been raised on a farm, and had a very different take on life and caring for a family. So, once again, I had things to learn. Having a vegetable garden meant that rather than buying vegetables at the store, you got them out of the cupboard, and that was because you had picked them from the garden, and canned them. It wasn’t that my mom didn’t know how to do that, but we didn’t have a garden, so we didn’t can. My mother-in-law sewed, knitted, and crocheted, and while I knew how to crochet, I hadn’t been exactly willing to learn much about sewing from my mom. I learned how to do these things, but unlike my mother-in-law, they would not become a big part of my life. Some things just simply are, what they are. Nevertheless, I am thankful for the things I learned from my mother-in-law, who also taught me that you never really know it all. My mom is in Heaven now, but we still have my mother-in-law for a while longer. Happy Mother’s Day to my Moms!! I love you both very much.
Every year…these days anyway, we have to let my mother-in-law, Joann Knox Schulenberg know when her birthday is. Even then, she won’t remember it. That’s what Alzheimer’s Disease has done to her. I suppose many people would think that is terrible, but really for her, it ok. Yes, there are things that Alzheimer’s has taken from her, but there are things it has given her too. She often tells us that she is 65 years old, when in reality, she is 85 years old today. Just think of how nice it would be to be ageless. She can pick whatever age she chooses, and that’s how old she is that day. Wouldn’t we all love to be able to do that sometimes?
Mom has lived a full life. While she had some health issues that we all expected would take her first, she has nevertheless, outlived my parents and my father-in-law. Many people would think that she has no real quality of life, but if you knew her, you would know that she always was a people watcher. That makes the activity around at the nursing home ideal for her. She doesn’t like to go outside when it’s cold, so now she doesn’t have to. She spends her days watching television, and often with her imaginary crocheting…which isn’t so different than when she was at home, except that she really did crochet then. Still, she thinks she is, and that makes her happy.
Speaking of happiness, there is one other thing that Alzheimer’s stole from her…grief. She has lost her parents, a daughter, and her husband, but to her, they are in the other room, at Walmart, or at the neighbor’s house visiting. She never experiences sorrow. To me, that’s not a bad thing.
I know that none of us want to have Alzheimer’s Disease, or have a loved one who does, but in reality, at least in this case, there could be a good side to it. When you can live a life free of burdens, responsibilities, and sorrow, life could be considered good. As long as her needs are met, I’m ok with it. It is my wish for her to be happy for the rest of her days. And if she’s happy…I’m happy. Today is my mother-in-law’s 85th birthday. Happy birthday Mom!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Through the 38 years of my marriage to Bob, I can’t begin to count the number of knitted, crocheted, and sewn gifts our family has been blessed with. My mother-in-law had such talent and creativity. I had a heavy sweater with my favorite activity at the time, bowling on it. My kids had everything from Strawberry Shortcake to skating to unicorns on theirs. And of course, each time they outgrew one, they got a new one. Bob had one with a sports car on it. These sweaters are warm enough to be a coat. In fact, I didn’t buy a coat for any of us for years. She made afghans, dish cloths, pot holders, and so much more. We were so blessed to have all the things she made.
For many years, my sisters-in-law, Debbie and Brenda, my mother-in-law, my father-in-law, put their crafts in the multiple craft fairs around town and did quite well on sales with them. Everyone of them made things that were different from the others. And we have all benefited from all of them. It is always such a blessing when you don’t have to buy the things you need, because someone loves you enough to just give you the things you need.
My mother-in-law has been doing these things for most of her married life of 63 years, and in reality, still does them…but now it is in her memory. If you ask her what she did today, she will tell you that she made a few dish cloths. You might as well not argue with her, because in reality she did. She may not have used a crochet hook and yarn, but she did crochet the dish cloths. She uses the end of her shirt, and the oxygen tubing that she is holding. You might have to look closely, but if you do, you can see that she is wrapping the yarn around an imaginary hook, and she is very careful not to lose a stitch. If you ask her to do something with her hands, she really can’t, because letting go of her crocheting would result in lost stitches. The only solution is t o remove the crocheting from her hands, while reassuring her that you will make sure you don’t lose any stitches, and then she will do what you are asking…at least until her crocheting miraculously comes back into her hands again.
It is somewhat rare to be able to take pictures of five generations of a family. Many people are able to take four generation pictures, but five is not always possible. When my two oldest grandchildren were just babies, we were able to get that picture that so many people would love to have. The pictures we took were and are pictures we will always treasure.
Many people think that five generation pictures represent the ability to live long lives, and that is true, but so much more is represented in those treasured pictures. Five generations represents the wisdom of age being passed down from generation to generation, and that is exactly what we did have in our family. Things like the ability to grow your own food in a garden or raise cattle, chickens, and horses. The ability to knit, sew, embroider, and crochet things like clothing, blankets, table cloths, pillow cases, and so much more. It was these abilities being taught by the older generation to the next, and the next, and the next generation. What a blessing to have these things taught to a great grandchild, who can then teach it to their child, grand child, and great grandchild. A child learning from its parent, who learned from their parents, and grandparents.
So much wisdom and knowledge has been passed down this way. In fact, we would not know how to do many things that we know, were it not for the generations the came before us. When I look at these pictures, I remember the things we learned for Bob’s grandparents. From card games played out between ruthless partners, to recipes like Grandma’s Strawberry Rhubarb Jam…which was the best jam I have ever tasted. It’s almost as if the wisdom and knowledge of the prior generation has been entrusted to the next generation to pass on to the future generations. Our grandparents and great grandparents have given us the best that was in them, in the hope that through us, they might live on. It is almost a sacred trust.
Since the time of these pictures, the babies have reached the age of 16, and Grandma has since passed away. Her words, stories, wisdom, knowledge, and especially her love continue to live on in my memory. She was a very special lady, and I only wish my grandchildren could have known her…not just have been in a picture with her. She lived so much of the history they only know from books, and she could have taught them so much. Unfortunately, the miles that separated us from her, made any real relationship with her impossible during their early years, and before they were old enough to remember her much, she was gone. She passed away on March 28, 1998, just 2 years and one month after the birth of those babies. I just hope that the things she taught her son, my father-in-law, who taught his son, my husband, can be remembered by his children, my daughters, to pass on to their children, my grandchildren, and to their children, and their children, and on into the generations beyond.
Growing up on ranches and around horses, my mother-in-law felt very at home on the back of a horse. She loved them, and really still does today. Western shows are her favorite shows, other than game shows and of course, the rodeo. In her mind, the drama of a cop show, or the laughs of a comedy, can’t even begin to measure up.
For me, it is very hard to imagine her in that type of life. I have been her daughter-in-law for almost 37 years now. That was all after the years that she had and rode horses. She was a skilled seamstress, could knit and crochet with the skill of a professional. She supplemented the family income with the clothing she made and the sewing repairs she did. She also grew a garden and canned vegetables. That is the person I knew as my mother-in-law for many years. She was a capable homemaker and mother.
So much has changed since those years. Alzheimer’s Disease has take most of what she once was. These days, the knitting needles lay quietly in a box somewhere, as do the crochet hooks. They have moved to town now, so there is no more garden or canning, and she would not remember how to do those things anyway. She often talks about sewing on a button or making a shirt, but I’m sure she would not remember how to do those things anymore. She doesn’t remember how to drive, and would not know where to go if she did try to drive.
So much confuses her these days. She remembers her family on most days, but thinks that my grown daughters, who have both been married for more than 16 years and have teenaged children, should still be in high school. In fact, all of her grandchildren should be too young to be married, although most of them are married and have been for some time.
Age changes us all, but when Alzheimer’s Disease comes into the picture, the changes are so cruel. The person knows things aren’t right, but they are powerless to change the situation. It scares them sometimes, because they suddenly don’t know where they are…and they are in their own house. They don’t feel safe going places, because they no longer know where they are going, and as time goes on, they aren’t sure who is taking them, and it is their own family. Yes, everyone changes as they age, but for some people, it can be traumatic. Alzheimer’s Disease is an ugly thief…it steals it’s victims mind and eventually every other part of their body. I hope someday they will find a cure.