walk

Bertha & Elsa SchumacherIt would be hard for most of us to imagine a world where we got to go to town only once a year, and yet that was the way of things back when my Great Aunt Bertie Schumacher was a little girl. The Schumacher family moved from Minnesota to a place 8 miles from Lisbon, North Dakota, and the school house was 3 miles from where they lived.  Bob and I, in our many evening walks have walked 8 miles at a time, but not in the winter, and since that walk takes us 2 hours, I can’t say that it would be feasible as a way to go to town for groceries, because then there is that walk back loaded down with groceries. Just the thought of 4 hours of walking in  the winter cold is enough to make me cringe.

Nevertheless, the children needed to be in school, so Great Grandpa Carl Schumacher got up early every morning, to get the horses out and break a trail, then hook up to the sleigh for the 3 mile drive in to the school with his older children, Anna (my grandmother), Albert, and Mina. Aunt Bertie remarks in her journal, that she and Elsa were very glad that they could stay home with their mother. The sleigh was nothing like the more romantic New England cutters we all think about, but was rather a grain wagon box placed on two heavy runners pulled by their sturdiest horses because of all the deep snow the area got. Great Grandma Henriette would bring the older 3 children out to the wagon, and place bricks she had heated by their feet. Then she would wrap them in blankets that even covered their faces to protect them from the bitter cold. In all the time the children went to that school, they were there everyday, unless they were sick. It was by far the best attendance record in the school, and the Schumacher family lived the furthest away from the school. When Aunt Bertie went to school, a place she was not very fond of, she had to force herself to do what she needed to. It was at this time that she met the only teacher that would remain in her memory for the rest of her life. She was beautiful, and well dressed, but it was her graciousness and her love for children that made her the best teacher little Bertie would ever have.

Not long after Bertie started school, the family moved closer to Lisbon, and the school was only a mile away, and much to Bertie’s delight, it had an indoor bathroom. No more running outside to the outhouse in the middle of a freezing cold day and then running back inside in Bertha & Elsa Schumacher a little olderthe cold again. Bertie felt like she was attending school in a palace, I’m sure. One day, when her mother had to drive the long distance into town on a very cold winter day, she decided to leave little 4 year old Elsa at the school with Bertie and their brother, Fred for the day. Elsa had never been away from her mother before, and they were very close, so she proceeded to cry. The older children could not console her, and finally a teacher came and took Elsa under her wing, calming her and allowing her and her siblings the peace of knowing that everything was going to be alright. Bertie recalls how it is funny that the memories that really stay in your memory are the ones where someone showed such love and kindness that the memory of it lingered on for years to come. What a lovely way to be remembered. That is something I think I should like to be remembered as. Loving and kind enough that the memory of my acts of kindness and love stay in the memories of those whose lives I might have touched.

The house my dad was born inMost of us today think very little about the place we were born, except the city and state, of course. That is because most of us are born in hospitals, these days, and while we may know about those, they carry little value, except the name itself. It isn’t a place we go to see out of curiosity, or a place that we generally have a picture of, because it just isn’t that big a part of our life history. I found this picture recently, and for me, it will now always carry a great value and significance in my life history. No, it isn’t the place where I was born. My own birth took place at Saint Joseph’s Hospital, in Superior, Wisconsin. That is all I know of the place, and it has never been something that carried any great importance to me to see. No, this is the house where my dad was born…a home birth.

Home births didn’t used to be such a novelty, in fact the very opposite was true. Women saw no need to rush off to the hospital to give birth to their children during the time when my dad was born. And yet, it is that relative novelty that exists today concerning home births, that made me look twice at the information my Uncle Bill had attached to this picture. While my dad was not the only one of my grandparents children to be born at home, he was the only one to be born in this house.

After I read that this house was where my dad was born, I just felt an immediate connection to it. I could picture my dad…the baby, crying for the first time and then being handed to his mother so he could eat his first meal. I could picture him learning to sit, stand, and walk in this house. I could picture his siblings, Laura and William taking turns holding the new baby, and Laura helping her mother to care for her new baby brother. Aunt Laura had been such a great held with my Uncle Bill’s care when he was little, and how much she liked that job, as told by Uncle Bill, so I can imagine that she cared for my dad in much the same way.
Dad and Uncle Bill
I don’t know how long they lived in this house for sure, but I do know that it carried many precious memories of happy times. It is a house that my Uncle Bill spoke of often, and there are a number of pictures taken at this house too. Stories of their times playing with the Zenith Coaster wagon that is pictured in front of the house, also graced the pages of the family history, as very important pictures for Uncle Bill, He and my dad had many great times in that old wagon, and as an added blessing, their sister, Laura was there to pull them around in it, so they didn’t have to do a thing but sit back and enjoy the ride. I think I can see exactly why the house meant so much to the family.

scan0036 (2)As a young family, my in-laws lived in Montana, and my father-in-law worked for the railroad. Their family was growing, and now they had 3 children, Marlyce, Debbe, and my future husband, Bob. My father-in-law was working for the railroad, and the family was living on railroad property.Things were going well enough, but in 1956, the decision was made to move the family from Dalin, Montana to Martinsville, Montana…neither of which still exist today, as near as I can tell, so unfortunately, I can’t say how long the trip was. That doesn’t really matter, because, any trip with three children under the age of 7 years, had to seem like an eternity. Nevertheless, this trip was about to get a little bit longer. They loaded their belongings into a 1951 Ford pickup truck, which was the first vehicle my father-in-law had ever owned, and it had been purchased brand new in 1951, so it was a nice vehicle. Everything loaded, they set out for Martinsville.

Along the way to Martinsville, a pickup pulled out in front of the 1951 Ford. The accident destroyed all their furniture and totaled the pickup. I can only imagine how awful that was. In those days, seat belts and car seats were unheard of, so I’m sure my in-laws thought they were all about to die. It was a devastating event, but the family was all ok, but, now they were stuck waiting for the police and tow truck, and had to figure out what to do next. The trip took just about the worst possible turn. I can hear the kids now. The girls were most likely crying because they were cold or hungry, and Bob being only 2 years old was either scared, or more likely curious…if I know him. It would be my guess that both of my in-laws had a massive headache from the trauma and worry, both for their family and for their future.
scan0037 (2)
In the end, things turned out ok. The insurance money was enough to buy a 1953 Ford pickup and a 33 foot mobile home. I can’t imagine three kids in a 33 foot mobile home, but I’m sure they felt like it was practically a palace, considering the way things could have gone. Car accidents can conpletely devistate lives, but their little family was alive, and no one was hurt badly, so the rest of it was just stuff. If you can walk away from an accident like that in one piece, you thank the Lord, and count your many blessings.

Angry Jennifer age 3There’s just something about watching old home movies…I mean the really old ones…from when you were kids, that is not only funny, but enlightening. While watching some old home movies from Bob’s family, one thing that I have noticed is that there are lots of people who don’t know how to act when they are being filmed. Some of them get nervous or embarrassed. They try to hide from the camera. Some people even get mad about being filmed, and what I found really funny about that is that one of those people who got mad, was Bob’s sister, Jennifer!! And she was only about 3 years old at the time. Even at that young age, she didn’t like being filmed, and she was clearly telling the person behind the camera just that. She tried to go in the house, but couldn’t open the door, so she turned around and started shaking her finger at the camera, and the look on her face clearly told the story…”I am not in the mood to have you film me!!”

Brenda, on the other hand, at just 1 year old, didn’t mind being filmed at all, because she Jennifer 3 - Brenda 1was just too busy learning to walk. She toddles toward the camera with a great big smile on her face. Clearly she has no idea that she is being filmed. All she knows is that she love the camera’s operator. Like all kids who are learning to walk, Brenda takes a few unsteady steps and the plops down on the ground. The she gets back up and tries it again. At one point, Jennifer who has decided that helping her sister is more important than not wanting to be filmed, decides to help her little sister learn the walking ropes. She is learning that being filmed isn’t so bad after all, because she smiles and even poses for the camera.

A little later in the movies, the youngest child, Bob’s brother, Ron arrives. Everyone is so excited about having a baby in the family again, and everyone wants to hold him. He is passed back and forth from sibling to sibling, being a good sport about it all. Maybe that is where he got the nickname he carried for all the years I have known him…Sport. I suppose, being the youngest child, and having four older sisters, Debbie and baby Ronone might have to be a good sport just to survive, because as we all know, big sisters can be very bossy.

The children aren’t the only ones who don’t know exactly how to take the whole filming event either. Moms and dads, aunts and uncles, and even grandparents, dodge the camera, tying to hide behind anything form the house to the clothesline pole, and one person even slapped at the person trying to get her into the picture. How funny that these days we take self portraits with our cell phones, and when someone is filming a video, we start everything from posing to dancing to making faces. I guess we have come a long way since those early old home movies days.

The Pools_editedEvery year, usually around the first of March, but a little later this year because of spring break, Bob and I take a three day weekend and spend it in Thermopolis to celebrate our wedding anniversary, which is March 1st. It is our way of renewing our relationship. We renewed our vows on our 25th anniversary, when we took a cruise, and that was a beautiful time, but these mini renewing events are very much a blessing too. There is no real itinerary, other than a lovely prime rib dinner and multiple relaxing sessions in tho hot tub. If the weather if nice we go for long walks along the river and up to the hot springs, but if not, we might just relax around the motel room. We usually drive through the buffalo reserve before leaving, but rarely see what we saw this time…6 buffalo right on the road. We thought for a moment they were going to ram our car, but they decided that was too much work

We did take one walk this year, but it was pretty cold, so it wasn’t really the highlight of
the trip, but then we were both pretty tired this year, so relaxing in the room BuffaloDeerwatching television was ok too. When we went to dinner, the deer came out to eat the corn provided for them right by the windows of the restaurant…always a highlight of the trip. It is always amazing to me that the deer are unafraid of the people in the restaurant…even when they are close enough to touch each other were it not for the glass. This year too, we got to watch a couple of little girls get to feed the deer their corn. I’m sure that was a once in a lifetime event for the girls, and we enjoyed watching it too. Dinner was wonderful as usual, and we always enjoy the Safari Club. The animals on display there were mostly shot by the owner, some before they were listed as endangered. Most Wind River Canyon_editedof his hunting now involves shooting the animals with a tranquilizer gun. Taking pictures of his kill, having a veterinarian check them over and treat anything that needs treating, and then he releases them back into the wild. I think that is an awesome thing to do.

All too soon, our anniversary trip is over for another year, but we always come away from these trip closer together than we were before. I think every couple needs those little romantic trips periodically. It reminds you why you are in this marriage, after all. It puts you in tune with each other, and for us it confirms the love we always knew we had.

RonIrish SetterWhen my brother-in-law, Ron was about 10 years old, he had an Irish Setter dog named, what else…Red. Ron loved that dog, and they were pretty much inseparable. Ron was trying very hard to teach his dog as many trick as he thought the dog could learn. It doesn’t seem to me that he was having a lot of success with most of them, but when he patted his own shoulders, the dog knew it meant to stand on his hind legs and put his front paws on Ron’s shoulders. It soon became their favorite form of play. Red loved Ron, and wanted to be with him all the time, but sometimes Ron had chores to do.

About that time Bob and I were living on the same property as his parents, while we got our land ready to move onto. Corrie was 2 years old, and Amy was 1 year old. Ron was always playing with Red in the yard, and that was also where the girls played. That was just how it had to be, the yard was a shared space. The girls never minded playing out there, because when Ron was out there, they had a great time. Of course, the girls were interested in the play with the new dog, and they watched intently. But as little girls do, they lost interest pretty fast.

Eventually, they started going out in the yard playing their own games, and this too, would have been fine, except for one thing. Red, had been learning the best way to play with people. As Corrie walked out into the yard, he bounded over to her and…you guessed it, put his paws on her shoulders, knocking her down immediately. As her high pitched screams hit the air, Red retreated…in a big hurry. I think I might have done the same thing if I were Red, because Corrie could really scream.

Amy had a little bit different encounter with Red, because the dog seemed to understand that a crawling child was very different from a walking child. Amy could crawl Amy at 2 years oldCorrie Sue Schulenberg 2 years 3 months old_editedaround under Red’s feet, and was very careful. He never stepped on her or scared her in any way, but with Corrie, he just didn’t get it. Walking kids should be big enough to do Red’s favorite trick. He was bewildered by this problem. Finally he quit trying, because I’m sure those screams were scary. Unfortunately it took Corrie a number of years to trust dogs again…any dogs. I can’t blame Red for this, because after all, he was just playing.

As a little girl, my mom was always on the go. She had long slender legs that she though were too skinny at the time. Don’t most of us wish we had such a problem these days.  Of course, most kids, especially back then were in pretty good shape. Kids didn’t sit in front of the television set…probably because they didn’t have one, but even if they had, they probably wouldn’t have watched it much. It just wasn’t what kids did back then.

Mom didn’t really change very much over the years. She was still slender even after having 5 children. I have looked at pictures of her over the years, and I always notice her tiny shoulders…which are so unlike my own, not huge, but square shoulders. She looked like a little kid in our family pictures while I was in high school. I just couldn’t believe just how tiny she was. She didn’t look like she could possibly be the mom.

One thing I will never forget about my mom is how fast she could walk. When she was working at Kmart, she was over a huge department. When we would go over to take her breaks with her, she was really hard to keep up with. She was walking, but we practically had to run to keep up with her. Talk about power walking, my mom was an expert at it. If we showed up for her break and she was getting something for a customer, or to stock the shelves…well, good luck trying to catch her.. She was a woman on a mission, and you were going to have to run to let her know you were there.

Of course, time, knee problems, and age have take their toll now, and mom can no longer walk so fast. She still gets around pretty well, but the days of the power walk are over for her. It’s funny that in our minds we still think we could do it…at least for a while, but in reality, we don’t realize the ability is gone until it is long gone, and then we can only look back sadly, and wish we could get those days back…somehow.

Every kid goes through times when they wish they were bigger…grown up. They do everything they can think of to look more grown up. It’s just normal I guess…but the funniest thing is when they try on the shoes of the adults in their lives…especially the boots of their dad or grandpa. I’m not sure what it is about those boots, but they just seem to love wearing them. And it isn’t just limited to the boys. The girls want in on the action too. They just love walking around in those shoes that are huge on them.

They stagger around the room trying not to fall…trying to see if they can really make these big boots keep going in the same direction, because usually they want to go in opposite directions, making it very difficult to walk…and very funny. Trying to stand back up after falling down is even funnier. In boots that cover almost the entire leg sometimes, standing back up is really a bit of a trick…especially if the child happens to be a bit younger, and therefore shorter.

This fascination with Dad’s or Grandpa’s boots is one of the sweetest things kids try to mimic, because it shows how much they love their dad or grandpa. They say “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, and that is exactly what they are doing. There is very little that kids miss, and they want to be just like those people the love so much…all the more reason to watch what we say or do, because we might be a negative influence if we don’t, and wouldn’t you rather be the kind of person that you are proud to watch your children or grandchildren become.

Is I watched these little ones over the years learning to walk and then trying new things, it was like those boots, when they first tried something new, they weren’t experts at it by any means. Still, with the same perseverance that they used in trying to learn to walk in those big boots, they kept at the new thing they were trying, until they became experts. All of these kids are either grown up or almost there, and I must say that each is very different from the others, which is not unusual in that Jessie is my niece, Barry is my nephew, and Chris is my grandson, but each of them knows how to succeed in whatever they try. I don’t think that it was those boots that have made them a success, but rather the fact that they had in themselves, the drive to succeed that made them master those boots, before they were old enough to have the boots fit them.

In March of this year, my mother-in-law was in the hospital twice. The second hospital stay was followed by a little more than a two week stay in a nursing home…supposedly for rehab/physical therapy. That stay in a skilled nursing facility nearly killed her. After taking her out of the nursing home, she would have two more hospital stays. After the first one, they wanted to put her in a skilled nursing facility. After I told them about the horrible care she received and what we could do for her, her case worker agreed that we could do a better job of caring for her than any nursing facility could. Now I know that you are thinking you might be reading the first negative post from me, but that is as far from the truth as it gets.

Yes, my mother-in-law has been very sick and even close to death a couple of times, but as of this writing, she is doing well. I have been so pleased with her progress. She has Alzheimer’s Disease, as most of you know, and she doesn’t always understand the importance of some of the things she needs to do to recover, like wearing oxygen and walking to get stronger. She also doesn’t understand why she feels so weak…mostly because she doesn’t know that she had Bronchitis twice, Pneumonia twice, and Pleurisy twice since February 21st.

Today my mother-in-law was such a trooper. I have been making her get up and move 4 times a day…with the help of my wonderful husband, daughters, sister-in-law, and father-in-law. She didn’t want to do it, and sometimes we had to make her do it. She is one big sore muscle, truth be told. Even with all that, today that sweet woman who has been through so much over the last 2 1/2 months, got up every time I asked her to, walked further than she had in 2 months, cleaned up her plate at each meal (she hasn’t had much appetite in the last two months either), smiled like she used to, and talked with my father-in-law (another thing she hasn’t done much of lately). She worked so hard, through the pain and shortness of breath. I was so proud of her for all her hard work.

The last 2 1/2 months have been long and hard on her, but she is a fighter, and I know she has it in her to come back from this. We will not give up, and I will fight hard to keep her out of a nursing home, because she deserves every opportunity to live at home for as long as possible. Now, as I write this I hear from my daughter that she fought her so hard tonight that she had to have her husband come to help make her get up for bed…aw well, tomorrow is another day.

As a little boy, just learning to walk, my grandson, Caalab reminded me so much of his mom. Amy took those first teetering steps…about two of them, and from that point on, she ran. She didn’t have time to walk…she had places to go. Caalab was just like that, with one small exception. When Amy started walking/running, I found that getting those cute pictures of the baby plopping down on the ground because they couldn’t balance very well yet, were next to impossible. Amy just didn’t fall.

Caalab on the other hand was a fall waiting to happen. It wasn’t because his balance was off or anything, but rather because he simply got ahead of himself…or should I say, ahead of his own feet. When Caalab wanted to get from point A to point B, he always felt that doing so as fast as possible was the way to go, and in his mind it seemed like a good plan. But, as is often the way with plans…they just don’t work out quite like we saw them in our heads.

When Caalab would start across the room, his upper body was always way ahead of his feet. So much so, in fact, that it wasn’t that it was so far to fall that concerned us, but rather what was going to hit first. As you might have guessed, it was usually his head that hit first, and with uncanny accuracy, as if he was aiming for the sharpest corner in the room, or the decorative handle that might do the most damage.

It wasn’t that Caalab was clumsy, because he definitely isn’t, and really never was. Caalab was just in a hurry. He wanted to see everything, go everywhere, and do everything…now!! He would get so excited, and even though he had run into things head first before, he would still take off at break neck speed, and the next thing you knew, there he was…sporting a new bruise or cut…usually on his forehead. These little boo boo’s were the direct result of head meeting stationary object…always followed by very loud screaming and crying from little boy. Every time there was a new boo boo, I could almost feel the pain, but once his little boo boo was bandaged and/or kissed, Caalab was all better, and off again.

Thankfully those early walking years gave way to the years of far fewer bruises. Caalab learned how to keep his feet caught up with his head. He is still in a hurry a lot of the time, but we don’t have to consider a full time football helmet for him anymore.

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