We were thinking my dad would make it to 100, maybe 107, like his great-uncle Jake. He didn’t. But, hey, 95 years is a long time to circle the sun. And, now, my father’s journey on earth ends and his eternal life with my mom begins.
I’m sure it was a happy reunion with his older brother, Art. It was when Art married my mom’s sister, Gertrude, that he met my mom. As they say, the rest is history.
I was fortunate enough to have spent a large part of Sunday with my Dad and brother, Curt. Dad passed on Monday around supper time. When I think of supper time, I can see him make that face where he sticks out his tongue and says, “I can’t taste anything, I don’t know why I eat.” But he does anyway. It is the German-Russian way.
So, today, two days before the funeral, I’m making food – buns, sloppy Joe’s and kuchen for the immediate family. I also have to think about the rest of my farmers markets and so there was Plum Crazy jelly and salsas to be canned.
My opinion of my dad growing up was his gruff discipline. Later, my relationship with my mother formed my opinion of my dad. But when my mom died, Aunt Arlene (mom’s youngest sister) said, “your mother dies first so you can get to know your dad.” She was absolutely correct.
In the eight years that passed between the two funerals, Curt cared for my dad in every way possible. Being 100 miles to the west, I tried to stop down there every time we drove by and this past year, stepped up a wee bit more to assist with his care. We sorted, we moved, we moved again, we went to the hospital during covid and argued with the staff to allow us to see him. I’m not going to sugar-coat this, “It was brutal.” My brother did for my dad what I cannot even imagine doing. So this is a shout-out to the guy who walked my parents through the toughest time of life.
Getting back to my dad, however, I found out about his childhood and was able to ask about a few gray areas in my brain. You know things you hear about when are young but don’t get the whole story ‘cause we were “kits.” That’s my mom speaking there.
Both parents and all my aunts and uncles spoke German growing up and it affect the way they spoke their whole lives. I missed out on that, much to my disappointment.
Dad was born in 1927, shortly before the “Dirty 30s.” According to North Dakota history websites, someone estimated that 70 percent of the population of the state required some form of assistance to make it through those years. Most of them left.
But not my relatives. Germans from Russia are a special breed for sure. Very few people outside my culture really “get” our love of work. We work when we are sad, we work when are happy, we work to show love, we work when we are angry. We just love to work. Okay, there are exceptions to the rule, but not my brother and me. We just love to work,or keep busy. We seek out knowledge about how things were done, how to make things, how to cook things. I guess we could be called preppers or recyclers to some degree.
And, now we are it. I’m sure there are many things I could have found out about my dad as he grew up and raised a family. It’s a little too late now. So, I have to cherish what I do know and thank God for the opportunity to spend the little time I did with him after Mom died. My last day with him was so good. He showed emotion. He asked about my family. He said he wished he would have given me his car (I’m shopping for one at the moment). He didn’t want me to leave. But it was getting late and I had to drive home alone. So, I rubbed his shoulders and said a little prayer to God – for peace. One way or another, peace as he recovered or peace as in his parting.
When Curt called about 5:30ish on Monday. I knew. I just knew he got his wish to go to heaven. I’m so very sad, empty and grateful at the same time.
Dad, until we meet again in heaven, I have to go back to work.
Sue B. Balcom
Writing, or maybe talking, comes naturally to me and under the guidance of a great newspaper editor I have acquired skills that led me to author four books.