It is hard to imagine a more normal family life than ours — a Mom, a Dad and two children, a Daughter and a Son.  We chose to live frugally so that Mary Ann could stay home with the kids at least until they were both going to school full days.  We had one car, a fairly small house payment, and we were very careful how we spent what we had (I was the Ogre in that regard).   Having  only one car actually increased the time our family was together.  We could not all go different directions.  We did not get a second car until Lisa was driving age. 

Mary Ann was very creative, able to create good times with very simple things.  (I am hoping Lisa and Micah will write some of their memories of their Mom for me to include in a subsequent post.)  She quickly developed a neighborhood babysitting coop.  One Mom had three other Mom’s kids while they went out.  The next Thursday (not sure of the day) a different Mom would have the kids. 

There was a wading pool at a nearby vest pocket park that they often walked to.  There were summer activities there.   There was a YMCA with an outdoor pool not much farther away.  That was a favorite spot.  We went for walks in the neighborhood. 

There were the usual interesting times that come with having children.  Lisa and Chris down the block decided to cut each other’s hair one time.  Lisa got the worst of that one.  Micah was getting a push on his three-wheeled “Green Machine” by a neighbor girl who didn’t see that his toes were scraping on the cement.  The toes survived, but they looked pretty bad at the time.  Lisa ran away one time.  She told us she was doing so.  She came back shortly since when she got to the end of the block she stopped and turned around since she was not yet allowed to cross the street.  Micah, who was (is) very good at drawing, took a ball point pen to the wing back chair in the living room, making indelible circles around the two decorative buttons on it. 

We all have often remembered the time the snow was so deep that there was no school.  The four of us trudged a number of blocks to Leonard’s Restaurant that we had discovered managed to stay open.  We had a great breakfast there, as always.  Then there was the year that the ice and snow took out the power for a number of days.  We camped out in front of the fireplace. 

Then came the bees!  I got a call from Mary Ann that there were bees coming down the chimney.  As I raced home, she opened the flue and lit some papers on fire to get them out.  The papers went out and the bees came in through the open flue and started gathering on the sheer curtains in the Living Room.  When I got home, I saw a huge swarm of bees that looked like thick blanket, hanging from the outside of the chimney.  I put on a trenchcoat, jeans, boots, a hat, scarf around my face, and with spray cans and badminton rackets made a frontal assault on them.  Finally, we called a beekeeper who came with his smoker and a cardboard box, coaxed them into the box and put them in the trunk.  It took a couple of weeks for them all to leave, but since he had gotten the queen bee, they finally left completely.

We vacationed at Estes Park in Colorado one summer.  The kids road horses and played during the day.  I hiked, Mary Ann read.  We enjoyed watching a species of Prairie Dogs that had their home in an open area surrounded by cabins. 

We went on a couple of ski trips with families from the congregation.  We took sleeper busses out, skiied three days and then returned over night.  The skiing was great fun.  The first year, Mary Ann and I were still on the bunny slope the afternoon of the first day as we looked up to see our young children riding the lift up the mountain.  It was embarrassing. 

On that first trip, I watched blind skiers, handicapped skiers, snake-like strings of three year old skiers with no poles in hand pass me by.  I did gather speed once near the bottom of that run, ski over the front of a blind skier’s skis and ski at full speed straight into a very tall wall of snow at the side of the run at the very bottom.  The impact pushed the snow through the hairs of my beard to the skin beneath.  I became the butt of many jokes. 

On our last day of skiing the second year, the shuttle bus we were on in the morning slid off the road and tilted on to its side.  We all exited through the emergency door at the back of the bus.  No one was hurt.  What we did not know was that the morning bus accident was an omen of things to come. 

As all of us were sitting in the sleeper bus with the benches facing one another so that we could play cards and talk, as we were driving out of the mountains, with snow falling.  The bus began to shift and we realized it was out of control, passing between cars.  Then for a moment, time seemed to stop completely as we moved into a sort of eerie slow motion spin.  We looked at each other as the bus began to go around, back end to the front, front end to the back.  Finally, after an eternity, it came to rest against the guard rail overlooking a steep drop.  Just under our window, a car slammed into the side of the bus, injuring the driveras his head hit the windshield.  His injuries did not appear to be serious. 

That was our last ski trip.  Mary Ann always had trouble getting off the lift.  She would fall every time and could not get up without help.  She spent the last trip in the lodge drinking hot chocolate.  With hindsight, it seems likely that the symptoms were beginning to appear before we had any idea there was a problem.  The general wisdom is that a person has Parkinson’s Disease for at least five years before the symptoms become obvious enough for it to be diagnosed. 

Then there was the notorious Colorado Vacation that never happened.  We started out heading for Colorado.  We barely got out of the city and the two kids were arguing with one another (one probably dared to put a finger across the imaginary line between each one’s side).  Both Mary Ann and I were fed up with it, so we told them we were not going to Colorado.  Their punishment was Des Moines.  That is where we ended up instead of Colorado.   Lest you from Des Moines be offended, we enjoyed the Living History Farm and a Science Museum that was great for the kids.  We did the Amana Colonies afterward. 

Mary Ann had a bit of a rebellious streak as far as church was concerned.  She certainly had no interest in being a “Pastor’s Wife.”  The way we talked about it when the subject came up was that she and I were husband and wife.  I was a Pastor.  She was who she was, not an attachment to someone else.  (That is where Lisa gets it, Denis.)  She participated at church in lots of ways that were meaningful to her.  She did not, however, seek to meet some set of expectations placed on her by others.  The kids mentioned to me recently that she would always stop with them at Daylight Donuts on State line before coming to church, often making them late for church.  I, of course, was oblivious to it since I was immersed in the Sunday morning tasks. 

One Christmas Eve, Micah had been sick for a few days.  He was having strong stomach pain as the 11pm worship service at which I was preaching approached.  Finally, Mary Ann had to get him to the Emergency Room to be checked out as I was preaching the sermon.  I had lost one brother to peritonitis from a burst appendix and another brother and I had had emergency appendectomies, mine when I was seven years old.   It turned out to be dehydration, but it certainly scared me. 

Enough for now.  The family track will continue on course, but the church track will soon be impacted by the national level controversy. 

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