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.
It seems impossible to me that my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg could be gone now for two years. She was such a fighter, when it came to her health. There were a number of times that we thought we had lost her, but she always bounced back…until she didn’t. The end of her days had come, and with it, there were no parents in our lives again. My parents, Al and Collene Spencer and my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg were gone, and now my mother-in-law had joined them in Heaven. It felt empty here on earth. The loss hit hard with each of my four parents, but with my mother-in-law, there was also the finality of it. We had no more parents. We, their children, are the matriarchs and patriarchs of our families now, but it feels like we are orphans. The knowledge that you have no parents, really brings that orphaned feeling home.
My mother-in-law, was a homemaker for most of her life, and very skilled in things like cooking, sewing, knitting, crocheting, and canning. These were things she passed down to her daughters, and to me. Of course, my own mother taught me part of these things too, but we didn’t can often, other than making jelly, and the things my mother-in-law cooked were different from my own mom, so that added variety to my abilities. My mother-in-law, was probably best known for her sewing, knitting, and crocheting. She sold many of her crafts at craft fairs over the years, adding to the family budget and to her craft budget as well. She also loved to bake, and her “Murder Cake” was a family favorite.
My in-laws lived in the country for most of the time I knew them, but they moved to town in the last years of their lives. While she preferred the quiet of the country, my mother-in-law did enjoy watching all the activity that took place near their home at the corner of two busy streets in In her later years, my mother-in-law developed Alzheimer’s Disease. Casper. After she had to be moved to Shepherd of the Valley nursing home, she enjoyed the activity there, especially at the nurses station, because she was a “people watcher” all her life. She liked to see what everyone around her was up to, and figure it all out, even wondering why they spoke to the people they did, or did the things they did. I was glad that her curiosity never left her. It made her time in the nursing home must more interesting. Finally, on January 4, 2018, she lost her health battle. Like most Alzheimer’s patients, it was not the disease that took her, but rather that her kidneys gave out. She passed peacefully that evening, after having her family around her earlier in the day. She simply went to sleep, and went home. While we were so sorry to see her go, we knew she was tired of fighting. We love and miss her very much.
I have four sisters, and three brothers-in-law. My husband Bob had four sisters and one brother. He still has three sisters, his brother, a sister-in-law, and two brothers-in-law. We are missing his sister, Marlyce, who died of cancer on August 13, 1989 at just 39 years old. Marlyce was the first sibling death any of us had experienced, and it left a large hole in our lives. It just seemed impossible, like a horrible nightmare. How could our sweet Marlyce be gone? I suppose that disbelief at her passing, showed the innocence we all had about life, even though we weren’t seriously young. There are just people you don’t expect to lose…at least not until much later in life, and siblings definitely fall into that category. When Marlyce passed away, she took with her a portion of the joy the family had always had. She was always so sweet, and filled with a desire to help others, and make people happy.
One of the greatest events in Marlyce’s life was the day she became an aunt. She always loved babies, and each new niece or nephew was a treasure. Of all the nieces and nephews, there was only one she did not get to meet, Eric Parmely. And of course, she never got to meet all the grand nieces and grand nephews, or her great grand niece…sadly, because she would have loved every one of them. Marlyce’s developmental disabilities didn’t keep her from being able to hold the babies, and play with the little ones. She loved them as if they were her own babies. I suppose that if her circumstances had been different, maybe she could have been a mom, but that was not to be.
Marlyce went to Wood’s School as a child. Wood’s was a school for the developmentally disabled back then. These days the school district tries to incorporate these students into the public school system. I like that, whenever it is possible, but Marlyce had a great education anyway, and then they helped her to find a job. Marlyce worked several places, and always liked going to work. She never wanted to miss work…not for illness, holidays, or vacations…except maybe Christmas. Marlyce loved being needed. Baking cookies, holding babies, working, and knitting were things that made her feel useful. What she never knew was that she was so much more than those things to us. We would have loved her even if she couldn’t make things, work, or even hold the babies. Marlyce holds a special place in our hearts, and she always will. Today would have been Marlyce’s 69th birthday. I can’t believe that she has been gone almost 30 years now, but I miss her like it was yesterday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Marlyce. We love and miss you.
I first met my sister-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg when I was 18 years old, and she was 23 years old. She passed away when she was 39 years old. It has been 28 years since Marlyce passed away in 1989, so she has been gone 13 years longer than she was in my life. While that fact feels like a fact in some ways, it doesn’t in others. Marlyce had such a huge impact on my life. It wasn’t anything specific that she did, but rather it was everything about my sweet sister-in-law. Marlyce was developmentally disabled, and in some ways she remained a child all her life, but in other ways, she was an adult. She had a job, and she loved to bake and knit, and really she didn’t play. She understood that kids games were for kids, and she was an adult. She would play games intended for grownups though. One of her favorites was solitaire. She always had a deck of cards handy.
Still, it was not those things that made Marlyce so special to me. It was her personality. She was such a loving person. I suppose that I had an advantage over her siblings in that I was not her sibling. Coming into the family as an outsider, gave me the ability to be a friend to Marlyce before I became her sister-in-law. There never were the sibling rivalries or the sibling fights, because while Marlyce knew I was her sister-in-law, I don’t think she ever really thought of me that way, exactly. I was maybe more her permanent friend. Permanent in that I was a fixture within the family unit, and friend, in that I was not her blood sister. Of course, all of her siblings loved Marlyce too, but having grown up with her, they did all fight…like all siblings do.
One thing I recall about Marlyce that was kind of funny, is how protective she could be over her siblings. If she was mad at them…well, you knew it. She had no problem telling any one of them just what she thought, but if one of her siblings was getting into trouble…well, that was a different thing. I can’t tell you how many times I heard Marlyce telling her parents that they should be nice to her brother or sister. She was quite vocal about it. And even after the disciplinary action was over, she was still pretty mad at the offending parent. It was pretty comical, but I didn’t dare laugh about it, because Marlyce didn’t like being laughed at…and I would never hurt her feelings that way. Marlyce was so sweet. I couldn’t pick on her. When I think of all the years that Marlyce has been gone, I am saddened, because we are missing out on all the sweetness that was Marlyce. Everything about Marlyce was sweet, and I miss her very much. Today would have been Marlyce’s 67th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Marlyce. We love you very much.
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.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a thief…I’ll give you that, but as I’ve tried to convey to several people, it is not, in my opinion, the worst thing that could happen to a person. I know that sounds so odd, especially to those who feel that Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease that steals the mind/memory of their loved ones. It does do that, eventually, but if you take a moment to view it differently, you might be surprised, as I was, to learn that it is not as bad as you thought it was. Most people are stricken with Alzheimer’s Disease later in life…at a time when many of them feel that their life is over. They aren’t as active as they were. They have more aches and pains. They begin to lose loved ones, and eventually that brings grief to most of us. They might even feel depressed. I don’t say that Alzheimer’s Disease alleviates these things in all people, but it did for my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg. I know that in her later stages, much of her memory will be gone, but maybe it won’t either, because she has had Alzheimer’s Disease since 2004 that we are sure of. That’s twelve years, and those old memories are still there. It’s just the new memories that she doesn’t keep, and still, I don’t think that is a bad thing.
With all the negative aspects of Alzheimer’s Disease, there are a few aspects that stand out to me, as very good things. My mother-in-law was always busy doing things. She had a routine. She wasn’t super active, but she knitted, sewed, crocheted, canned, cooked, and baked. These were the things that gave her a feeling of self worth, and oddly they aren’t gone now. If you ask the nurses and aides at the nursing home where she lives, you will find that when it is time for dinner, she tells them that she will be cooking it. She will pick up the blanket on her lap and begin “working” on her crocheting…often using her oxygen tubing as her crochet hook. She tells me about her grocery shopping trips to town, and the things she buys there. She feels no grief for loved ones now in Heaven, because to her they are still right here. She informs me that she will wait to eat dinner until Walt (my father-in-law, who passed away May 5, 2013) gets home. Dinner can’t wait that long obviously, so I just tell her he is at Walmart, in the garage, or at the neighbors, and said for her to eat without him. He might even be at work, although he retired many, many years ago. She talks of her parents, her daughter, Marlyce, and family members who live too far away for visits, as if they are still here, and yet when her daughter, Brenda visits in the morning, she doesn’t remember it later that day. Still, Brenda knows she was there, and that is what is important. She made her mom happy.
I know too, that when Bob and I, or my daughter, Corrie Petersen and I leave her side, she doesn’t remember that we were there either, but we know that we were there, and while we are there, she knows that we are there. And that is really what matters anyway. I guess it’s all in how you look at Alzheimer’s Disease. You can grieve the changes, or be thankful for her, that she is missing nothing. All the memories she needs are still in there, and they peek out once in a while…and it’s good enough. Is it really necessary for her to remember all the sad things? I just don’t think so, and I will keep them from her for the rest of her life, by telling her what she really needs to hear that day. It makes her happy, and happiness is all that matters.
After 27 years, one might think that I would be used to the fact that my sister-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg is no longer with us, but somehow, I’m not. Oh, I suppose that most of the time my mind has accepted that fact, but…well, Marlyce was such a unique person. She was special in every way. She had a heart of gold, and she loved everyone. That didn’t mean that she didn’t have a temper at all, but then, I think that when she got mad…at least at her siblings, it was because they teased her…or picked a fight with her. I suppose it was a kid thing or a sibling thing, but whatever it was, it drove Marlyce crazy sometimes. And every time Marlyce got mad at her siblings, they were moved to try it again. I suppose that’s just how kids are.
Marlyce’s life was cut short at the tender age of just 39 years, when cancer took her life away from her. Gone were that precious moments we all had with my sweet sister-in-law. It was so hard to believe. She was only 39 years old, younger than my own children are now, and yet she was gone. No more of her smiling face telling me that she had made my favorite chocolate chip cookies, or showing me the latest things she had knitted. Her giggle was now silent. That was 27 years ago, and yet, I can still hear her voice…filled with excitement about those cookies, and I can still hear her annoyed voice telling her littlest brother, Ron to stop picking on her.
It’s strange that the voices of the past still exist in our minds to the degree that it almost seems like we are still hearing them out loud. Harder for me to believe than the fact that Marlyce has been gone for 27 years, is the fact that she would have been 66 years old today. She was the oldest child, and with her passing there was a hole left in our lives. Because Marlyce was a special needs child, my in-laws were always concerned about what would happen to her if they passed away. Of course, we would have take care of her, but they needn’t have worried, because she preceded both of them. Today would have been Marlyce’s 66th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Marlyce. We love and miss you very much.
Kids have a tendency to pick on the child who is most bothered by it…especially siblings. In Bob’s family, the child most bothered by it was, none other than Marlyce. She was the oldest child, but with her developmental disabilities, she would never really be the oldest child mentally. Nevertheless, she was able to do most things for herself, and she excelled at knitting and cookie baking. While Marlyce was great at these things, she did not respond well to the normal teasing that kids do with their siblings. That didn’t stop her three sisters and two brothers from teasing her anyway. In fact, for as long as I knew Marlyce, they picked on her rather unmercifully. They weren’t mean about it, but she was sensitive, so she took it wrong. In reality, much of the teasing was funny, and I think especially for the younger siblings, it was all done in pure fun.
When she wasn’t being teased, Marlyce was very loving to her siblings, and if someone else was picking on them… look out, because Marlyce was their biggest protector. In reality, Marlyce had a very soft heart. Not only did she not like to be teased, but in her opinion, it was simply not right to pick on her siblings either. She might get really mad at them, but she loved each of them dearly.
Another part of Marlyce’s life that held high importance to her was her nieces and nephews. In her opinion they could do almost no wrong…except for that pesky teasing that they embarked on every now and then too. Funny thing though, the nieces and nephews got away with a little bit more when it came to teasing than the rest of the siblings.
As for me, well normally, I am really into teasing too, but somehow, with Marlyce, I didn’t have the heart for it much. Don’t get me wrong, I could see the humor in the teasing that was done, but I somehow ended up being her protector, I guess. Marlyce was one of the most special people in my life, and I loved her very much. There never was a kinder, sweeter, more loving person on earth. She has been gone from us now for almost 25 years, but in my memory files, I can picture her so vividly telling me that she made her wonderful chocolate chip cookies. I miss her very much, and I look forward to seeing her again. Today would have been Marlyce’s 64th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Marlyce. We love you.
Since time began, mothers have been trying to find a way to quiet a fussy baby, when there is work that needs to be done. Women have tried just about everything, probably even ear plugs in an effort to get some peace and quiet when they can’t just stop everything to hold the baby. From the need for peace, there came many inventions, such as the baby sling or the back/front pack, which we can credit to the Indians, who made one to hold their baby, or papoose. Yes, they have been modified but no one can claim the actual invention, except the Indians. This way of carrying your baby while you went about your daily chores has worked well for many a mother, myself included. With two daughters, 11 months apart in age, going to the store was hard, but with a front pack for my youngest, and a back pack for my oldest, I could go by myself to the store or anywhere else I wanted to go, and go I did. Those packs saved my days.
Of course, not all of our work can be easily done in a standing position. Scrubbing, making beds, and lots of other housework requires bending over…something that is difficult with a baby strapped to you. Cradles required someone to rock them, meaning that you have to be sitting. That is fine if you are reading or knitting, but doesn’t work very well if you need to be moving around. Something else would have to be done. Years ago, people used baby swings…of the outdoor version in an attempt to entertain and quiet their baby, but while that worked pretty well, and people could safely leave their babies outside for short amounts of time, it still didn’t work very well if the work that needed to be done, happened to be indoors. From the need to have a babysitter that could rock our babies to sleep, indoors, while we went about our work, came the invention of the modern wind up swing. Aw yes, necessity is the mother of invention.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a mind thief, and when your loved one has been diagnosed with it, you find yourself thinking often of all that they have lost. You have to remind yourself to look at what they still have, which is hard sometimes. My mother-in-law is really a shell of what she used to be, and even though she seems happy with her life, I remember the things she used to do, such as knitting, crocheting, sewing, cake decorating, canning, baking, and raising her family. In her lifetime she made many people happy with the various things she made, and it is sad to think that she won’t be making those things anymore, even though she thinks she still does.
One thing that I have had to look back on, even though she will never do that again either, is her horses. My mother-in-law would have lived on a horse if she could have figured out a way. If she could have figured out a way to never get off, she would have done it. She owned horses with names like Molly and her colt Pie Face, Danny, and Twinkles. I don’t know who named the horses, but my guess is that it was her. There are a number of pictures of her with and on horses. And of course, her favorite shows are Westerns. I’m quite sure she can picture herself on the horses they are riding, galloping across the prairie. I don’t think she ever liked driving a car much, and she only did it when she absolutely had to, but a horse, she would had taken everywhere, if only she could have.
I agree with the research I have done concerning Alzheimer’s patients, in the you need to forget what they can no longer do, and focus on what they can, but I also think that sometimes it helps in their care, to remember what they used to be, because in so many ways, they think they still are that person from the past and they still do the things they used to do. They don’t know that they no longer do those things. I wish she could still be that person from the past, but since she can’t, I’ll just remind her of the days when she was a horsewoman…and a very good one.