Dreams Don’t Die (do they?)

Just this morning I was reading a friend’s blog post (Click here for a great read) about dreams that have come, gone away, and then reappeared later in life. (Dreams, as in things you would love to do someday, not the crazy stuff that happens when you sleep.) The post ended with “What revived dreams have surprised you lately?” And, wouldn’t you know it, I had a ready answer.

All my life I have loved to camp out. One of the first birthday surprises that I remember, when I was 7 or 8, was looking out the window and seeing that my dad had put up a tent in the front yard for me. It was an old army tent without a floor, but I spent a lot of time in it that summer.

Since then I’ve done some hiking and camping out with more sophisticated tents and equipment, always enjoying it, but with the thought that I would someday like to have a camper. A small house on wheels. Open the door and step in.

The dream was kind of on the back burner for years. A camper was not the most expedient thing financially, and my husband didn’t take time for vacations. I looked at tiny houses online, watched videos of women who built their own tiny houses on trailers, and rode my bike through Florida trailer parks checking out the campers regularly.

When my husband retired and got a diagnosis of dementia, I took the dream off the burner altogether and turned off the stove. Even getting up one or two steps into a camper was difficult for him, let alone moving around comfortably in a space the size of a closet. The dream cooled off considerably.

Since moving to Wisconsin, I have found myself living a short distance from an RV sales lot. The logical thought “you’re never going to have one of these” didn’t keep me from looking at them all multiple times during the summers. I had my favorites, a line called Vintage with cool retro colors inside and out. But they were a little bigger than I wanted to deal with by myself, and pretty soon they were all sold. Now, due to the shortages of the pandemic year, the lot is nearly empty.

These are soooo cute!

And then I saw a Scamp. A neighbor bought the cutest little pod I have ever seen, just perfect for two people to have a place to eat and sleep. I didn’t really feel envy, because I knew the whole idea would not work for me, but I had trouble keeping the lid on the dream. Yes, I did. That Scamp sat where I could see it all summer. I kept dreaming she was going to invite me to take it camping for a weekend. That didn’t happen and now it is winterized and in storage.

I don’t know why I look at Facebook Marketplace, but every now and then I go there. Last week, I nearly keeled over with surprise with what came up on that feed – an AIRSTREAM BAMBI!!! For $1200. No, I thought. That can’t be. You can’t even buy a piece of an Airstream for that price. So I sent an inquiry to find out what was going on. I emailed my daughter, who owns a couple Airstreams and asked what she thought. There was skepticism.

Nothing happened until two days later, after the weekend, when I got an email back. It was real. She was a woman, she had a reason for selling it cheap, she wrote like an American, and had all the facts. What if God had decided to give me the longing of my heart?!! It would be just like him to make it an Airstream! I emailed my daughter again, thinking that maybe I should jump on this. There was skepticism.

Airstream Bambi, these are absolutely the coolest (my opinion).

While I was thinking this over, I scrolled through Marketplace again. Oddly, there was another Airstream Bambi, from a different seller, same price. What a coincidence. When I found a third I couldn’t help but wonder why the market was being flooded with cheap Airstreams. I wrote the seller asking that question. I also suggested that she should get together with the other Bambi owners when she got to her station in Alaska. Maybe they would want to start a scammer club or something…

You know, it really is hard to kill a dream, even when I know it isn’t practical, feasible, or reasonable (or possible). It just won’t die, and I will probably keep giving it backward glances until my final day. Meanwhile, I still have a tent, and a backyard, and maybe that’s right where I belong. P.S. I’m not saying I would refuse if someone wanted to give me one. You know what I’m sayin?

The Wedding of 10/10/2020, post 2

The “process”, as one reader said it, of putting on a wedding concludes in this post. The post is long, but ends well, and we all need happy endings in this pandemic year. You will see the beginning of a love story in the video that closes out the post. Don’t miss it!

It’s not everyday you get to wear a “bride-to-be” banner!

Next up was the bridal shower. There’s just something so celebratory about a bridal shower that there has to be one. The groom’s family not only has an expert event host mom, but also three sisters-in-law so you know they have experience in bridal showers. Decorations, fancy (delicious) food, friends from different walks of life, and semi-embarrassing shower games to make the bride-to-be blush a bit. Perfect. I was glad to be on the scene for this.

The next week was busy for me. It was the week that I finished the alterations on the wedding gown and broke my wrist, thankfully in that order. It was also the week we started watching Hurricane Delta head toward Louisiana. The beautiful fall weather we had been having was predicted to turn into a tropical depression and pass over the wedding venue on the day of the wedding. I got a little nervous since we had no plan for an indoor ceremony. I added another small tent (the only one available) to our order and the rental company brought them both out a day early. They didn’t want to risk putting them up in the rain.

It might have made a good photo prop, but we were thankful for the friends who got it started and out of there.

Thursday and Friday were bordering on hectic. Pop up tents had been borrowed and the decision was made to keep all the smaller shelters bordering the main tent where the reception would be held. The ceremony was still going to be planned for the open field. I didn’t count, but all the tents got moved at least twice as the configuration changed from one moment to the next. People were arriving to help trim trees, hang lights, and set up tables. The large diesel tractor, doing some landscaping work, stalled and quit right next to the proposed buffet serving area. So in the midst of this, the bride and several of her girlfriends who had arrived early for the rehearsal that night, did what girls in bridal parties do – they escaped to high tea at the O’Henry Hotel in Greensboro. What a nice relief!

The rehearsal in the late afternoon and the dinner following got a couple more rituals checked off our list. We all met the minister with the Scottish brogue, and got put in our places, including the baby donkey chosen as the ring bearer. As he was pulled down the aisle, resisting all the way, another layer of risk seemed obvious. The weather might not be the only wild card.

So cute, but he had no idea what was expected of him. He behaved fairly well during the ceremony though.

Saturday dawned, the day of the wedding. At this point, there were so many details yet to be decided and attended to that it could have been frightening. It was raining lightly. I can only tell you that I had an unreasonable peace and trust that it would all come together, because the concerns had been given to God and I knew he meant to give Julia a good wedding. I left to get myself and the father of the bride dressed.

I couldn’t have imagined the changes that took place – all the beautiful flowers that arrived, and the astounding transformation in the reception tent and the field where the ceremony was to be. Family and friends had pitched in to create a miracle. And the rain had let up, giving us a brief window of dryness.

As we watched the weather radar, the ceremony started. At one point, a song was omitted from the program to speed things along. During the last five minutes we began to feel an occasional raindrop. But it wasn’t until we were dismissed and headed to the safety of the reception tent that the rain really began in earnest. By that time we were so in awe of the beauty of the ceremony and the happiness of the bride and groom, and the timing of it all, that no one cared. Let it rain.

Again, an amazing video captured most of the best moments for us and I share it with you here. You will see us dancing, which was one of the bride’s “must have” features of this celebration. We feasted and danced as the North Carolina rain ran under the edges of the big white tent and met the red clay soil of River Bend Farm. It was wonderful.

Click this link. Video is 3:35 minutes. The Wedding of Julia Dietz and Kevin Shanahan

And the next day, I relived it as I spent a lot of time washing red mud out of the hem of a beautiful white dress. Just sayin’…

A Wedding 10/10/2020

It’s been fifteen days since the wedding and I haven’t written a single word about it. I’ve been waiting for the pictures from the photographer because, for once, I didn’t take any of my own. Well, maybe one or two…

I’m not kidding. Weddings have become such productions these days, and the expectations… no wonder people take six months or more to plan (and save) for them. The six weeks or so that we had to prepare were short and sweet. And this is how it was done.

First, teamwork! What came to be called the Wedding Swat Team, met every Sunday for the first few weeks to brainstorm ideas and keep the bride on track. It was kind of like having seven wedding planners – not always the easiest way to proceed but we had a lot to get done. Lists, assignments, research, debate… It was interesting to me as I listened to my daughter reveal her dreams of how things would unfold. Some of those dreams were specific and she attended to making them happen. Some of them were less specific but she was gracious and flexible in letting others help her. I came to see how wedding details can be important to someone who has waited patiently, for a long time.

One of the main goals of all the planning was to make the bride (yeah, the groom too) feel really special. After all, the hope is that the memories will be unforgettable, in a good way, and last a lifetime. Let the rituals begin!

See all those white dresses? She tried them all on. (Kidding) Seriously, these girls were so patient, and so masked…

The first was the visits to the bridal shops. I didn’t get in on this but the soon to be “new family” took over and proved to be a great audience. It was so much fun, and Julia liked so many of the dresses that absolutely nothing was decided. Except that perhaps she should have been a wedding dress model instead of a horse vet. Girls like to try on dresses that cost a fortune and make them look like Disney princesses.

It was time to make the wedding website (who knew?) and get the invitations out! These days it can be done with email invites, which was all we had time for anyway. Of course, an invitation kind of has to tell guests where the wedding will be. Although the date 10/10/2020 sounds really cool, pandemic restrictions ruled out a lot of the venues. Being out of their minds by this time anyway, the couple decided to have the whole celebration outside, at the “farm”, recently purchased, where the groom was living. It would take more time on their part to prepare it, but they had more time than money. No, wait, maybe there wasn’t a lot of either time or money, but whatever… I ordered a tent. It was my first job

Tent is going somewhere in here. You just wait…

Before the invitations went out there was a fun photo shoot. One of the groom’s friends did this for them. It pays to have good friends who are willing to make things happen. I loved it and hope you’ll give him some good comments on his website. It’s how I’m finishing this post. There’s so much more to tell though, and I’m finally able to type without too much pain (see previous post “I Blame the Washing Machine”). Post 2 coming up soon… Click the link below for a happy video!

Kevin and Julia’s Engagement Photo Shoot

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I Blame the Washing Machine

Preparing a wedding in six weeks seemed possible but a bit scary, given all that has come to be expected of weddings these days. All of the bride’s women, Wedding Swat Team was our label, were meeting weekly on Zoom, from our locations all over the country. The important elements were gradually falling into place. I am the proud and excited mother of the bride.

A week ago, the husband and I traveled two days by car to the wedding city. The final two weeks before the big day kicked off with a bridal shower given by the groom’s family, and things started getting real. We jumped into the world of final decisions, last minute invitations, wedding gifts coming in the mail, and my job which was customizing the wedding dress.

The beautiful, expensive gown was a gift from the bride’s sister. I had only seen it in pictures. I was asked if I could help save costs by hemming it, fixing a bustle for the train and lining the bodice. To many, those sewing terms are like a foreign language and I was somewhat fuzzy on them myself but, eh, sure. I agreed to do the work.

My first look at the dress made me wonder if that had been a wise decision. There was a complex lace outer fabric over three layers of tulle and two taffeta linings, all needing to be shortened four or five inches. For some strange reason wedding dresses often have a long skirt that drags on the ground in the back, aptly called a “train”. The train has to get hiked up out of the way at some point so the bride can dance without tripping over it – that process is called “bustling the train”. And most puzzling to me is why any dress would be made with a top that is pretty much transparent and in need of a lining. But there you have it.

I spent a couple days watching tutorials on bridal sewing and shopping for things I didn’t know existed. Then came the scary cutting parts and all the stitching. It was with great relief that the final fitting yesterday morning showed it to be quite right. The bride will be lovely.

But wait, you’re thinking. When does it get ruined in the bad washing machine? This is not the end of the story, clearly.

The beautiful prospective venue

Yesterday, after taste testing the reception menu, I went out to work on the venue – the groom’s farm and barn. I love to dig into dirt and dust where I can really see I’ve made a difference. There was an area of the barn that met this description so I started dragging things out to be washed and de-spidered. Here’s where the washing machine enters the story.

It was there for washing horsey things. It was dirty and heavy but I wrangled it out on the lawn and sprayed it off. Later, I was again wrestling it in, inch by inch, back and forth. I distinctly remember the groom’s eight year old daughter looking at me, watching intently, as I muscled the machine around for the last time. And then my wet, gloved hand slipped on a backward pull and I fell on the concrete floor. In retrospect I should not have broken my fall by breaking my wrist. Surgery tomorrow with a nice doctor and maybe, by Friday, a splint small enough to fit through the sleeve of my beautiful, mother of the bride dress.

Now, instead of helping, I need people to take care of me and that’s awkward. It’s kind of fitting though, for a wedding in an already awkward pandemic year. There are reasons for all of this, but I’m blaming the broken wrist on the washing machine, just sayin’…. That’s my story.

More pics of me in splints and casts….

Four Women, One Dress

Tonight I am at the sewing machine. I’m remodeling a dress for North Carolina daughter. I can’t be sure it will fit her but I have a fair idea of what is needed. I’m praying with every seam that it will turn out well. I think the prayer will be answered and I’m sewing with confidence.

The material is satin. It’s creamy white and soft and surprisingly different from today’s satin, because it is 70 years old. Seventy years ago, my grandmother sat sewing with this same fabric. She was a skilled seamstress, making a wedding dress for her daughter. Her daughter was a different size than my daughter so I have taken the dress apart to resize and change the design a bit. I have to admire her work. She was careful, and gave attention to details. It was a beautiful dress. I have seen it in the pictures of my mother’s wedding.

Grandmother Clementine Warner Boone

Expectations of what wedding dresses should look like have changed so much from 1950. I don’t know what they are making them out of these days that they should cost thousands of dollars, but I know the one my grandmother worked on was made out of love (and satin, and lace).

The work on this project has been an emotional experience for me. I take apart a seam and realize that was thread put there by her machine. Her hands touched the fabric in this very place as she guided it under the needle. She probably peered closely at that button as she sewed it on, just as I am as I remove it. We are linked, she and I, by many things that aren’t tangible, but this dress can be touched and felt. The whole idea is kind of eerie, almost sacred, to me.

And our daughters, the one who wore it so long ago and the one who will wear it next month, they are also linked by the same dress. Mothers and daughters, four women, seventy years, one dress. I love it. It has specialness that can’t be bought.

But as I said, we will see if it fits and seems appropriate for the ceremony. At the least, it will be in a picture. And to some of us, it will look beautiful. Just sayin’…

Remembering Dad

It’s been five years since my Dad died. His was a rather sudden departure, and although it was traumatic for those who were with him, most of us agree that it was a pretty good way to die. He was comfortable in his living room chair, talking with Mom… and then he wasn’t.

It hasn’t been every year that we’ve celebrated his memory but somehow it seemed fitting to do it in 2020. Earlier in the week I had asked Mom if she wanted to do something special to help her get through the day. It was a couple days later that she said she’d thought of something we could do. She wanted us to remember Dad as we ate a bowl of his favorite ice cream – maple nut.

Dad ate a lot of ice cream. Dad shared a lot of ice cream with others. His ice cream legacy will be the story of one of his grandchildren finding him late at night, sitting on the steps inside the garage (where the freezer was), eating ice cream from the pail. Of course, she sat down and had some with him.

So we shared the plan with family members and asked them to join us, wherever they were, at a convenient time for them. “Get some maple nut ice cream, and remember Grandpa Owen as you eat it. Take a picture and post it.” Some were able to do it, and others who couldn’t will be able to enjoy the pictures. I’m 100% sure that Dad would have liked to be remembered this way.

Death is strange. Memories are a gift.

There are some things we’ll never figure out. But, it’s okay.

The Shadow, Renamed…

Most people my age have had numerous pets of their own, and also have had their children’s pets to contend with. In addition to that, I have a soft heart for strays of all kinds and have successfully passed the gene on to my daughters. I have grandpets. I truly know the joys and sorrows of pet ownership. Most people my age could live very well without any more pets, thank you.

But there was this small cat, barely out of its kitten hood, that my brother and his wife found. It was under their car as they were leaving a graduation party this spring, mewing pitifully. It was skinny, wet and cold, probably hungry. And it was black. For some reason, being black is a strike against a cat. They are least likely to get adopted once they are abandoned. My brother tried but could not find the owner and since the cat was overwhelmingly friendly, they took it home.

More than that, they had their vet look the little creature over and give it some drops for its eyes and an appointment to be spayed. It was litter trained already and acted grateful for a warm bed, food and people petting it.

This is where I came in, thinking that the husband might enjoy having a cat to pet and take care of. He’s retired and spending a lot of time at home without much to do. He’s gotten attached to cats in the past. It seemed reasonable. And the first few days, when the cat was tired and half starved, were peaceful days. And then it got frisky.

Now, several months later, I am very much reminded of what cats do. I have wiped up mounds of semi-digested cat food from the carpet. I have awakened in the middle of the night to find the cat sleeping on my chest. I have taken to smelling any pile of laundry left on the floor for the all too familiar odor of cat pee. I frequently walk around the house feeling like the cat is tied to my leg with string, trying not to trip over it. I sneak to doors and try to get through them before the cat hears me. I could go on – you’ve all heard about cats, if not experienced them yourselves.

So Shadow, as my niece named her before I took her, finally got well enough to keep her surgery appointment. We thought she might be in heat because of the way she kept running to open windows and trying to get through the screens. It was hard keeping her inside. I was glad she was getting spayed.

The vet called later that morning. “You have a very lively cat”, he told me. “She’s unusually active (which made me wonder what kind of fun they had anesthetizing her) and it took a little longer than we had anticipated. Oh, and by the way, we couldn’t find any female organs. She must have been spayed already. We looked extensively to make sure so she’s going to be pretty sore for a while.”

She was. There were a few more peaceful days until she had recovered somewhat. I cautiously let her go outside to sit in the sun. That’s what I would have liked to do if I were a cat. I would leave the sliding doors to the patio open just enough for her to squeeze through. She was definitely an indoor/outdoor kind of cat, who loved both worlds. She came running when I called her and loved to nap inside, but was just as eager to get out again.

It wasn’t long after that when I realized what she was doing outside. She was hunting. One morning I found a mostly dead mole, inside the house. I found him by following the trail of blood spatters on the floor and wall. It had to have been a tortuous way to go. This was followed in short order by several frogs who also bled and lost body parts. I got suspicious of her antics any time she seemed to be having fun “playing” with something.

I knew her skill was increasing one day when she brought in a bird. She had it cornered under a bookshelf and I was able to rescue it. It was so tiny and had a numb, dazed look in its eyes. I took it outside, wondering what to do with it, when it flew away!! I had saved it! I wish I could have done the same for the next two she caught. But I had to wonder… how is she catching birds?

We were having dinner on the patio one pleasant evening. The cat was also out and we were watching her tear around the lawn. Without hesitating she aimed at a tree and went up it like a squirrel to a fairly high branch. Hugging the dark branch, with leaves all around her, she was hard to see. I think that’s why the large flock of sparrows flew into the tree all around her and perched – poor unsuspecting things. So now we know she doesn’t wait for them to come down. She goes up and gets them.

This brings me to today. This morning Shadow brought in a small grey mouse and let it get away. She was waiting patiently by the couch where it had fled for shelter, waiting for it to come out and play again. I got down on the floor with the flashlight and witnessed it scurrying back and forth, trying to find a safe escape route. Definite mouse panic. I felt sorry for it, but what could I do? I couldn’t get under the couch either.

I don’t know where the mouse is. I came in the living room this afternoon to find the recliner upside down – the one the husband usually sits in. He’s doesn’t know where the mouse is now either, but he’s pretty sure it was in/under the chair. I think we now have two house pets.

Do I hope the cat will catch the mouse? I can’t quite decide. But I am renaming her. I’m calling her Shadow of Death because it fits her very well. Just sayin’…

Being Independent on Independence Day

7-5-2019

It was Independence Day, a holiday, and somehow I had forgotten to plan any memorable activity. Everyone I encountered was meeting up with family, going to the beach, cooking summer food – they had a plan. I didn’t, which was very unlike me. I’ve just had other things on my mind and well, I forgot.

Fortunately I did find someone else with no plan. My mom was sitting in her living room trying to feel good about a day in front of the TV or reading her book. She claimed not to mind, but I knew differently. Being in the same predicament, we decided to do as all strong, independent women do – we made our own plan for our memorable 4th of July.

This is a hotdog to die for, so good.

Since food is a prime feature of all our fun, memorable times, we started with food. Hot dogs. We both love a good hot dog and Mom, especially, has to have some texture and crunch in hers. We made some coleslaw and loaded the dog up real good. And watermelon, the perfect summer food. I always remember the gorilla who could sign words and decided to call watermelon “candy water”, which is so true.

We wanted something a little more active than eating to balance out our day and, you’re not going to believe this, we decided to go up to Lake Namekagon, a picturesque place with a favorite resort and restaurant that we like to visit – called Garmisch.

We go several times a year to the restaurant but I had never been out on the water there, so we decided that would be an appropriately adventurous thing to do, maybe a jaunt on a wave runner or kayak? You would be surprised at what my mom will do given the right amount of encouragement.

Wave runners are machines – the kind that I would normally avoid because they malfunction regularly. But they can be rented and presumed to be reliable. They can actually be rented at a marina fairly close to our location. They even can be rented with a trailer and transported to the lake of your choice. Let’s just say we did that.

Did you know that there are police on lakes, especially on holidays like the 4th of July? There are also rules about which lakes allow different kinds of boating and which do not. These rules are good things to know. We know them now.

I hitched up the trailer to my truck and we made the half hour trip to Lake Namekagon without incident. There is always a bit of a rush when I’m doing something I haven’t done before, something adventurous that I’m hoping will go off without a hitch. I was definitely feeling it.

Unloading a wave runner into the water is really simple. I’ve watched it done several times and had no trouble with it. Getting on is not too hard. Even operating it is fairly intuitive, especially for people who don’t want to go fast or do tricks. That describes me and mom perfectly. We like to stay close to shore and look at houses and people. Maybe that’s what made us look peculiar to the water police, I don’t know.

So, I will always be thankful that we did this before having dinner at Garmisch restaurant because there was not a trace of alcohol anywhere on us. There are also rules about that. We were just two white haired ladies trolling the lakeshore on a lake where power boats are prohibited, a fairly minor offense to my way of thinking. And the man questioning us kind of thought so too, as his warning was given gently and his fine was small (in comparison to other fines, I guess…).

We had enough of our adventure at that point anyway. After loading up the wave runner and taking it back to the marina, we went home and pretended we’d been doing jigsaw puzzle and watching TV all afternoon. Nobody had to know. Just sayin’…

I’m thinking about and practicing writing fiction these days. There might be some parts of this story which are fictionalized.

More Reasons

September 5, 2018

Here we sit, early on Wednesday evening, at the local Perkins. Hayward is not a big city. It has been a town of about 2300, give or take a few, ever since I was living here as a child. Of all the common chain restaurants, only Perkins, Subway, McDonalds and Dairy Queen have survived. Because Perkins runs a special on Wednesdays, allowing seniors half price off select meals, we have been here every week since our move. It is Lois and Wendell night.

Meet some more of my “up north” family. Mom was blessed with siblings Pearl, Donald, Olive, Ervin, Wendell and John. They were spread out over enough time that the younger ones, Wendell, Mom and John were almost like a separate family. Their brothers and sisters were out of the house and married, leaving the threesome to be companions to each other. They are the survivors in the family and strangely enough, they all three have ended up here in the communities they know and love.

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On Wednesdays, Wendell and his wife Lois drive into Hayward for shopping and appointments. They are usually done around 5 pm and give Mom a call to join them for dinner at Perkins. They have become overly familiar with everything on the senior menu. The waiter jokes with them like they are old buddies and seats them at the same table most every time. Even the husband and I have entered into the rituals. I know to close the blinds so light from the setting sun doesn’t shine in Lois’s eyes and we all know not to order the grilled asparagus and that the blue cheese dressing is homemade and really good.

Wendell has been a schoolteacher for much of his life, which would explain his love for books. As he neared retirement he went into the paperback bookstore business and actually built a store next to his retirement home in the nearby town of Stone Lake. Stone Lake is even smaller than Hayward – you can drive through it in less than 30 seconds.

However, I have always thought of my Uncle Wendell as having a secret love for farming.  I remember him coming to help my mom and dad on their farm when I was a child. I think he would have sought this line of work had it provided enough for a living. As evidence of this secret love, my uncle of 80+ years still has a tractor, which he enjoys driving, that is, up until a couple of months ago.

Thin, wiry, agile for his age and indomitable of spirit, Uncle Wendell was out with the tractor one day when his daughter and granddaughter were visiting. I have heard them say they felt guilty for what happened since it was because they were there that the tractor was being demonstrated. On the other hand, had they not been there, it might have happened anyway and the outcome could have been much worse.

Although I have seen semi-demonstrations of what happened, it’s difficult to visualize and has an aura of the near miraculous about it. Standing on the tractor, near the one who was operating it, my uncle reached forward for one of the levers, lost balance and tumbled off – under the moving machine. He was, however, on the roll and managed to somersault through and out the other side. He got up, dusted himself off and with help, walked to his brother’s house where he was whisked off to the Emergency Room. Consensus was that it was better not to give details to Lois, who did not witness the event.

Of course, she eventually got filled in since it was hard to hide the broken shoulder, bruised ribs and back brace that he wore for weeks. He was not allowed to drive during this convalescence which was quite an irritation to him, and when the brace was no longer needed he joked about being released from prison. Now that he is better, he is again driving the 20 miles into Hayward for our Wednesday rituals. Did I mention that he is indomitable?

Nevertheless, Uncle Wendell does not drive long distances and even last winter when I visited I was “hired” to drive them to a doctor appointment in Ashland. Aunt Lois is a good match for him in spirit but she has vision problems and relies on him in many ways. The two of them are looking ahead at what difficulties winter might give them and asking God for wisdom.

Well, it seems perfectly clear to me that I am “up north” to help mom, but also to help the whole family in whatever way I can. God puts us in family groups because there is safety in numbers and how wonderful it is when we can help each other in practical ways. And because it is the way God works, there is benefit for both the helpee and the helper. I get a bit protective of the elderly people I love and don’t mind sounding bossy. I’m encouraging them to move closer for the winter and let me drive for them on the longer trips. We will see what they decide.

Concluding, this seems like one more good reason why I am supposed to be where I am. It seems wonderful to me and I’m glad to I have a part to play, just sayin’…

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Another reason for being here, someone has to use all these coupons we’re collecting.

 

 

One Reason for Being Here

20180904_1813045661508336183345620.jpgSeptember 4, 2018

This is not the first time I’ve come in Mom’s room and found her horizontal surfaces covered with stacks of old letters, poems, pictures and memorabilia that she’s sorting through. She puts items that go together in zip lock bags ready to be offered to the person most likely to be interested in them.

 

“Do you think anyone will want to read these letters? They have a lot of family history in them, but I don’t know how to contact any of the people anymore.” 

It’s habit with me to think of Google for anything I don’t know and I suggest she plug in some names and try it. She pulls out some faded black and white photos on thick cardboard with finely scalloped edges. They are Christmas cards from three different years picturing a family.  In one, parents, four children and dog are sitting, close together, on the floor in front of a fireplace. The room is darkened and light from the fire is glowing on their faces and casting shadows behind them. The father and his son are wearing suits and two of the girls have matching dresses. The mother is in shadow except for the top of her face and she is smiling. She wears glasses. They all look peaceful, happy as they gaze at the flames.  Handwritten below is “A Merry Christmas from the G. Wesches”.  I wonder who was taking such artful pictures back in 1950. 

Another one has the children lined up in order of height and age and this one is signed by the parents and the names of the children are listed. They are Harold, Geraldine, Patricia and Alice Jean. I pick up my smartphone and plug the name Harold Wesche into the search bar. Mom explains that these people were not relatives but the family of a local doctor in her hometown. The doctor made house calls and impressed her as being such a kind man – and one who sent cards to his patients at holiday time.

 The search engine comes up with over 100 records of this name and as I look at them I find one who is 82 years old – that would be about right. The website gets to work collecting and verifying information on Harold. I know they are going to charge something at the end, and that we are not going to buy anything from them, but the small paragraph they give us for free does help Mom remember. He is the Harold in the Christmas picture. She remembers more.

There was one summer that this family vacationed at Meyer’s Log Cabin Resort on Round Lake. Mom’s friend Donna was asked to come with the family to help entertain the children. They let Gwen (Mom) come along to keep Donna company. This was quite a treat for both Gwen and Donna to have a week at the lake. The Wesche children were cute kids too, so it was not an undesirable responsibility.

One day the parents took the children with them on an outing. Donna and Gwen were given the day off to do whatever they liked at the resort. They decided they would take a boat ride. They went out into the middle of this fairly large lake and felt very adventurous.

This story interests me because Meyers Log Cabins was less than a mile from the farm where Mom and Dad went to live after they were married six years later. I grew up visiting my friend Barbara Meyer and swimming in Round Lake at that resort. I have never heard of Mom’s experience there and she said she would not have thought to tell me of it if the Christmas pictures had not been found. She is still trying to pull out the end of the story from the memory bank. 

“I don’t know what we did but it might have been something that made us feel a little guilty. I think it had something to do with hot dogs. Maybe we took more of them than we should have…” I laugh, because Mom still loves hot dogs.

“Do you think it might not be good to dig through all this stuff, all these memories from so long ago?” she asks.

I tell her I think it’s okay, and the truth is I think it’s a gift to remember stories from the past. It’s an opportunity to think of people, to wonder about them, and especially to mention them in prayer. It is never too late to care, to look for someone, to possibly even get in touch with them and tell them a story.

So, if Harold Wesche or any of his family reads this story, Mom wants to know if you’d like to have these pictures of your younger self.  If not, I will keep them to remind myself of one of the reasons I am glad to have come back to Wisconsin to do life with Mom. I want to hear more stories that I’ve never heard before.   

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