It is so hard for me to believe that as of today, it has been three years since Walter Schulenberg, my father-in-law, left us to go to Heaven. For 38 years he had been such an integral part of my life. From the first time I met him, he made me feel welcome. It was as if I had been a part of this family all my life. My father-in-law had such a gentle, kind way about him. I really don’t think that there was a single person that ever considered him anything but a friend. He just wasn’t the kind of man to create enemies…just more and more friends. His laugh alone was a friend making machine.
My father-in-law worked assorted jobs over the years, but his last job before retiring was with Casper College, where he was officially in maintanence, but in reality he was a jack of all trades. I have to think that one of the jobs he did at the College, if you could call it a job, was to drive the bus for the T-Birds. He went on a number of trips with them, and saw some great places. He got to see the ocean again. It was not the first time by any means, but he did love the ocean, and really enjoyed walking in the sand with his bare feet, something you seldom saw anywhere else. He almost always had shoes on.
He was the kind of man who would go out of his way to help others, and did his best not to ask for anythng in return. Nevertheless, in his last few years, he and my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg needed help. He had Emphesyma and she had Alzheimer’s disease. The family stepped in to help, and I had the ability to be the main caregiver. I say ability, but in reality, it was a blessing to me. We became so close over those last years, and it is a time that, even though it was the ending days of his life, I still cherish. I wish those hadn’t been the last years of his life, but I am thankful for the close relationship my being over at their house so much created. He said I was a blessing to him, but I think it was the other way around. Dad, I can’t believe you have been gone for three years already. We love and miss you very much.
When Rachel married my brother-in-law, Ron, it was the beginning of a new life for her…many changes were coming, including some that were impossible to prepare for. As you begin married life, you expect certain changes, such as moving, having children, or as is the case in this marriage, adding a step-dad to a family in which the children are already there, and down the road, becoming grandparents. Still, some changes are very unexpected.
Ron is the youngest of my in-law’s children…in fact, he was born 18 years after their first child, his sister Marlyce. That said, when he married Rachel, she was instantly moved into an ongoing family caregiving situation, due to her new mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s Disease, and her new father-in-laws, COPD and Emphysema. That is a lot to walk into for a 35 year old woman. Of course, she wasn’t the first line caregiver, but as we all know, when it comes to caregiving…it takes a village, and every person is important, right down to the children. The great thing about Rachel is that she can be counted on to come and help out with anything I ask, whenever he job allows. She also has a tendency to stop by, out of the blue, with lunch and just to visit our in-laws. It is a very sweet thing for her to do, and one for which we are all grateful.
Rachel has a daughter, that she had early in her adulthood. Cassie is quite a bit older that her two half-brothers, Riley and Tucker. Cassie actually got married on June 2, 2010, 10 days before Rachel and Ron. Before long Cassie would find out that she was pregnant, and due on August 3, 2011. Early on in the pregnancy, the doctors found out that something was wrong. This is a time when a girl really needs her mom. While Rachel lived in Casper, and Cassie in Powell, Rachel quickly went into action. Prayers were requested from anyone who knew how to pray, and Rachel immediately began to encourage Cassie and her husband, Chris. On July 3, 2011, one month prematurely, little Lucas Rae was born. While he dose have Down’s Syndrome, and had to have heart surgery, he is now a healthy 8 month old baby boy, who is as sweet as he can be, and who definitely loves his grandma.
Rachel’s life has taken many twists and turns, but because of the awesome person she is, it has all turned out to be a wonderful life. Happy birthday Rachel!! I’m so happy to have you for my sister-in-law. Love you!!
When you are caring for an Alzheimer’s patient, you need all the help you can get. Because of the necessity for extreme hands on care, one person simply cannot do it alone. Our family understands that all too well. It takes a village as my sister, Alena would say to take care of any ill family member, but all too often it is hard to put that village together. This last year, the village involved in caring for my mother-in-law, who has Alzheimer’s, grew by one very important member. My mother-in-law’s sister, Margee retired from her job and offered to help when we needed to leave my mother-in-law home for any reason. Margee sits with my mother-in-law when I need to take my father-in-law to the doctor or if he needs time to get away for a little bit. And when he was in the hospital for a few days recently, Margee played a major role in her sister’s care. We would have been in a very serious situation without her help.
Margee is no stranger to stepping up when she is needed. Her own daughter-in-law died a little over 13 years ago, leaving behind a grieving husband, Margee’s son Dan and two small children, Zech and Stasi, who needed care. Margee stepped up and cared for them all. It was a terribly sad time in their lives. Margee was virtually alone for parts of it, while Dan worked in another state. The kids are almost grown up now, and Dan is working back here in Casper, but they still need each other very much.
Caregiving or helping to raise one’s grandchildren, can be very challenging, and it takes a special kind of person to do it. Margee has been such a blessing to us. As my mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s has progressed, I don’t know how we could manage the needs of both her and my father-in-law, who has Emphysema, if we didn’t have Margee’s help. She is free during the day, when the doctors appointments are, and she doesn’t mind helping out. I know my mother-in-law enjoys the time with her sister too, though she doesn’t remember the visits once they are over. Still, we know, and we remind my mother-in-law…and we appreciate it very much.
Today is Margee’s birthday. I want to thank her for her dedicated service to her sister and brother-in-law at a time in their lives when they truly needed her help. That is love. I don’t know what we would have done without Margee…and I can’t say enough about how wonderful she has been. Thank you Margee for all you do and who you are. You mean so much to all of us. Happy birthday!! We love you!!
All too often, there are people in our lives who work hard, help others, and sadly, get very little appreciation. They just do what they do, because they are needed. My sister-in-law, Brenda is one of those people. She has a job that requires her to put in many more hours than most people work…sometimes from 8 in the morning to 10 at night. That in itself would be enough to exhaust most people, and it exhausts her too, but when she gets off work, her first concern is her aging parents. She also calls them several times throughout the day to make sure they are ok.
Her mother, my mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s Disease and Chronic Bronchitis, and her dad, my father-in-law has Emphysema. They still live at home, and my father-in-law is my mother-in-law’s primary caregiver. With his own problems, he cannot do this alone, nor would we want him to. We have a great group of family members who help out, but today I want to talk about Brenda. She spends as much time as possible helping them, and I know that they greatly appreciate it.
With her busy schedule, trying to find the extra time for caregiving can be a huge struggle, and that is just the time struggle. There is also the emotional struggle…wanting to be there and yet needing to have your own time too. How do you live with yourself, for needing that time? It is the question that every caregiver lives with every day, because every moment used on self makes you feel guilty, even if you desperately need it. And yet, your body and mind are screaming for a few moments to just stop.
When the times occur that require extra time, it is even more tearing because you know that you are giving all you have, and somehow you will need to dig deeper, to find more. And…you want to because you love them. So the struggle comes when you need to give more time, but there simply is no more time to give. Sometimes, no solution exists. We just have to keep on keeping on. And that is what Brenda does. In the face of the hardest struggles, and the total exhaustion, the guilt over time for self, she just keeps on keeping on.