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.
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’…