While lying awake the other night and thinking about turning 60 next year, I thought about major events in my life as I turned 20 through 50. I would like to share these reflections with you, which also include other memories I’ve recalled since that night.
The biggest event in my life before I turned 20 was the death of my father on June 9, 1961. We were living in Stoughton, WI at the time and moved back to Brainerd, where my mother’s parents, mother in law, and lots of relatives lived.
In 1974 I turned 20 and the most significant event was meeting the woman who would eventually be my wife. We met on January 18th, which coincidentally was my grandmother’s birthday. Since getting married on July 10, 1976, we have remembered January 18th as an anniversary and will be celebrating 40 years this January.
The other treasured events in my 20’s were the birth of our daughters in December 1978, December 1980, and May 1983. There was also tragedy during this time period, when Denise and our oldest daughter were in a car accident on April 4, 1980, and our 16-month old daughter received a depressed skull fracture that caused a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). She was in a nearly coma like condition for nearly eight weeks, and had to learn to sit up, crawl, and walk again, which took a long time to achieve.
In 1984 I turned 30 and in May of that year, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, at the age of 50. The doctors had given her three to five years, but because of some complicating factors, she died from a stroke on June 5, 1985. Prior to her becoming sick, she was the primary caregiver for her mother, a role I took on after her death. My grandmother was in good health for nearly all her remaining years.
My 30’s weren’t all filled up with different tragedies. When I was 34, I felt called by the Lord to become a Catholic. I was raised as a Lutheran, but was practicing that faith for many years. Attending my daughter’s classes for First Reconciliation and First Communion, helped prepare me for becoming Catholic. I began taking classes the fall of 1989 and joined the Church at the Easter Vigil the following Spring. In my late 30’s I began to sense a calling to be a Catholic Deacon, and began the initial process to discern if that was truly what I was called to be.
In 1994 I turned 40, and shortly after my birthday that year, began the formation program to become a deacon. The program consisted of one weekend a month, September through May, along with a Monday through Friday study week in June. The weekends in Duluth started at supper time on Friday and concluded at noon on Sunday. Saturdays were devoted to six hours of lecture, along with some follow up time that evening. We did a lot of reading and writing during the first three years, and spent the fourth year learning how to function as a deacon at mass, as well as performing baptisms and weddings. The program isn’t like what people experience in attaining a degree. The classes were taught at a Master’s level and you were only in the program for one year at a time. During the study week there was an evaluation and at that time you were asked to come back for the next year. After the third year, you are told, God willing, that the Church believes you are called to be a deacon. I was ordained on November 23, 1997.
Though I had hoped my grandmother would live to see me ordained a deacon, that didn’t happen. She died on December 21, 1994 at the age of 96. A few weeks before her death, I was able to video tape her telling some of her favorite stories. That tape has many treasured memories of hearing those stories while growing up.
In 2004 I turned 50 and it was quite an eventful year. I had applied for promotion and got the job, which meant moving to Madison, Wisconsin, where the corporate headquarters are for my company.
2006 was a challenging year. First, I had surgery in June for precancerous polyps, and the test results were negative for cancer. In December, Denise was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent chemotherapy in Madison until August of 2007. I arranged a little surprise to cheer her up for Mother’s Day in 2007. I secretly arranged for our daughter who was living in Dallas at the time to fly into Madison to surprise her. You should have seen the look on Denise’s face as I announced her Mother’s Day gift had arrived, and our daughter walked through the door She has been cancer free for seven years.
Her diagnosis with cancer and the subsequent chemotherapy with its side effects, really drove home the fragile nature of our lives. I decided that it would be a good idea to take a trip to celebrate life, and gave Denise a few destinations to choose from. She decided we should go to Italy, and so Cassy and I started planning the trip. Cassy and her older sister graduated from the University of Dallas, a small Catholic college, and the college had a campus outside of Rome, where students would typically spend one semester of their Sophmore year at this campus. Cassy was able to spend her Spring semester there, which made her an ideal travel guide while we were there. We spent about 10 days in Italy, first in Florence, and then in Rome. It was truly the trip of a lifetime, and gave us many great memories.
We had planned to be in Madison for about 10 years, and then retire back to the Brainerd area to be around the grandchildren. But, our plans weren’t God’s, and as a result of some downsizing in the management group I was with, ended up moving back from where we came in March 2008, when I took a different position with the same company. Fortunately, Denise still had her job back here, and was very excited when I told her about the chance to us to move back. We ended up buying a house about 1/2 mile from the one we sold while living in Madison.
In June of 2012, our oldest daughter was married, the one mentioned above who was injured in the car accident. She and her husband live nearby and are doing well.
God’s hand was definitely in our move back, as we have been able to really help out our grandchildren and their parents. In September 2012, our daughter and husband separated, and she started living with us. The kids are with her at least half the time, so the house we bought with four bedrooms has really helped out during this time. If we were in Madison, the situation would have been much more difficult.
In 2014 I will turn 60 and it looks to be a year with lots of changes. The department I’m part of is undergoing another round of downsizing, the second in about three years, and I’ve decided it’s time to leave and take an early retirement in April. I will have to find another line of work and am already working on a few options. I’m hoping to have some time off to expand where I garden, work on the landscaping, install some fencing, and dig a couple of ponds. In August we’ll have a big party for my 60th birthday, and hopefully all will be well at that time.
I will be adding to this posting from time to time, as other past events come to mind that I think would be interesting for my readers.
August 16, 2014 update
I made it to 60 and the party was a big hit. A lot of work happened in the months prior to the big day, but it was all worth it.
My youngest daughter got a new job, on the faculty of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. The Monday after the party, we flew back to New Orleans to get her packed up and moved to Athens. I will put out a separate post detailing our big adventure.
After I returned from moving her, a 16 hour “adventure”, I was delighted to see ripe tomatoes in the garden, so now my attention will be turned to preserving the food coming out of the garden, so we have high quality food to eat over the winter.