By Doris Schroeder
How life has changed since you left us to go to heaven forty one years ago! I doubt if you would recognize the world you once lived in. It makes me wonder at the changes you saw in the 74 years you traveled down this road of life.
I know you had a hard-working life and I remember some of the things you shared with me about your earlier days. The fact that you achieved a college education that lacked only 3 hours to getting your Bachelor’s Degree is astounding for that time and age. Even after you and Mom married, you both taught in the two-room country schools until you lost all the money you had saved when the banks closed. Yet you continued on! Working at a filling station for 12 hour days is what you had to do to feed our little family and you did it with joy.
After your oldest daughter was killed, you spent a lot of time with me. You even let me climb on your back and gave me a horse-back ride. I enjoyed it when you took me to the Hutchinson Library in the evening so you could read the evening news, sometimes sharing a bit with me. Like the summer you read that the temperature was so hot (115 degrees) you could fry an egg on the sidewalk. I often wondered after that how you could scoop it up and eat it.
When you took me to the funeral home located on a dirt road in Hutch and took me inside. You lifted me up to see my almost six-year-old sister Luella sleeping in a casket. I just knew if I would reach down and touch her, she would wake up…but I was too chicken. I had dreams for awhile after that and sometimes felt fear. But you promised me she had gone to heaven and I wanted to go there, too!
Even in my day, when we lived on the farm, we enjoyed the summer evenings. We had no cooling system so sat on the screened in porch in the evenings, visiting with family, company or neighbors. Nowadays, everyone is too busy to visit, often not even knowing the names of their next-door neighbors. It’s also amazing if anyone stopped in around meal time, there was always enough food, even in our very hard up years.
Winter evenings were spent around the oil-cloth covered table lit by a kerosene lamp. No TV or radio. You had dreams even then that helped weave magic into our mundane existence. I say mundane now but we didn’t think it was at the time. The simple life was an adventure. We shared our dreams and enjoyed talking. I still like to dream, Dad, just like you did. You let me talk about anything and you never laughed at me.
How difficult it must have been to just make a living. You worked in Hutchinson and farmed your family’s 160 acres near Buhler. I know the farm work was not easy because I sure did try to help. You taught me to drive the old John Deere tractor with the lug wheels. You had to turn the fly wheel to get it started and we both breathed a sigh of relief when the engine took hold.
The cab on our tractor was non existent and the only air conditioning was the brazen Kansas breeze, as was the combine. You and I made quite a pair when harvest time came around with me, a green 12-year-old girl driving the tractor and you manning the combine.
I remember how you told me “ Do not put the clutch in on the tractor if it starts to tip when we’re in the slew on the bottom land, cutting the wheat. If you do, we will get stuck!” Sure enough, it happened. It scared me and I thought we would tip so I put my foot on the clutch and we were stuck! That was a time you yelled at me to go home and get the shovel and I did, crying all the way!
No wonder you enjoyed retirement so much when you turned 65. Life had finally slowed down to a normal pace. You could now do the things you had always dreamed of doing. That was neat that you tried to take a typing class at Adela Hale’s but your fingers were pretty stiff by then. I still have the notebook you wrote your notes in when you studied the Bible.
When John and I had our two children, John and Judy, you bought them each a bicycle when they were only three years old. You must have wished for one so strongly when you were a boy and determined that your grandchildren would not want for a bike. You did not let that make you bitter but instead turned it into getting something for others. They thought so much of you.
Of course, I, being your daughter had to learn the value of working for what I wanted, you gave me a pig to raise to get money to buy a used bike. I learned some good lessons from you.
I wish you could have done those things sooner, or lived longer. But then, that’s what made you into the wonderful father I needed, my earthly security, spiritual advisor and sounding board. You took life as it came and were an optimist. Your faith in God helped you weather the storms that threatened to consume us. It helped me to trust God. I understand you better than I ever have before and I thank you with all my heart, for being my Dad.
Your loving daughter,