A highlight of our brief stay with Jeannie in Madison, Wisconsin, was visiting with a young man from our community and his family by the pool at our motel. In small towns and rural areas, kids in school and church together sometimes seem more like family than just friends, and that has always been the way it was between our kids and the Boyd kids a road or two over from us. But then everyone grows up and often moves away. As a result, opportunities to see the young people you felt close to become sparse. So Gerald and I were pleased when it was arranged for Jeff and Maggie, who live in a Madison suburb, to bring their son Caleb to come by for a visit.
I remember their Christmas newsletter from 1997 and still have it. Maggie, an English major, had written it with little news stories telling about their new home with lots of room for the boy toys. Their were sweet photos of Michael and Caleb born just over a year apart and stories of their doing all the fun things toddlers do. Jeff had settled into his new job in Minnesota. Maggie was happily mothering, serving on the regional library board, making new friends. I remember thinking what fun it would be to get this family’s Christmas letter each year. That was not to be. Instead their life became centered on a new word—autism. Time for such luxuries as newsletters did not exist. The new home was sold, the new job resigned, and they relocated to an apartment in Madison, where the best services and help for Caleb might be found at that time.
In 2007 at Christmas, we did receive photos of two dark-haired good looking boys. You would never know from Caleb’s smile that he was limited to sign language and his special school, which he still is attending at age 19. We were told he spoke twice—both times with multiple words which seemed significant to me—but then he stopped. Perhaps it was a change in meds, Jeff felt. They only know his ability to continue speaking did not develop despite all the help they secured for him. It was obvious that Maggie had become an expert not only in helping their son but also in maneuvering the systems necessary for their son’s benefit. His brother Michael, 20 is in community college, and both are tall and big young men now. Caleb loves the water; and although Maggie changed and got him settled in the pool, he swam and played alone with the water contentedly while we had a nice long visit poolside. He never acted bored or discontented. And neither did Jeff and Maggie, who after a lifetime of challenges have many more ahead of them. It was good to visit with such an impressive couple.
We have just completed graduation week for our grandson Sam, our only local grandchild now. I realized that I had grown to care for his friends too even though I did not know them as well as our children’s friends in the old days. I will hope to hear about their lives as they complete college and go into their chosen fields. We attended his baccalaureate on Wednesday night and his commencement on Thursday at Rent One Park—the ball park for our local professional baseball team called the Miners after the coal mining industry in our region.
Thanks to a wonderful aide, her sister Mary Ellen for using her brief cosmetology training (her one-time ambition in life) and to Katherine’s church friends, she was ready to go when David came to put her in the van and take her to join the enormous crowd filling the stadium, which I think is indicative of how supportive the Marion community is toward its students. While Mary Ellen parked our car, we started through the maze of people, and I was not sure we would even see Katherine and David. But we had barely
reached the first seats, and there they were. There was one extra seat with them, and Gerald and Mary Ellen insisted I take it while they searched for seats. I was even able to see Katherine’s special friend Terri from her high school days, who came up to visit with her. Terri and Frank’s daughter Bethany was also graduating.
We had been warned that the service would be there with or without rain. So I carried two raincoats—one for me and one for Katherine—and Mary Ellen brought umbrellas and towels. We had just arrived and felt the first sprinkles—and the last! Everything went perfectly. Students did an outstanding job with their choir numbers. The valedictorian and salutatorian gave excellent speeches. Known as an outstanding class, the graduates validated that with their behavior and dignity. Finally the caps were thrown in the air, and then the park provided beautiful fireworks, and the Class of 2015 was on its way.
Despite all the rains this spring, son-in-law Brian’s corn and soybeans are up and looking good at the farm on the Pittsburg highway, Gerald tells me. Brian and Mary Ellen also have a field on the corner near us, and I have watched with pleasure the neat rows of tiny corn growing as I drive to town. She posted a photo of the “baby corn” on Facebook and got some neat responses. When your livelihood depends on it, it has always seemed natural to personalize your crop. Our niece Leah assured Mary Ellen they would be in college before she knew it.
Although Gerald claims he will be cutting back, he has the garden all ready and planted tomato plants today. He is making plans for the rest of the garden, and I am kind of excited about his consideration of strawberries and maybe an asparagus patch. The trees Gerald planted 14 years ago are tall and strong now. It will be fun to see something new to look forward to watching.
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