Evening out the bumpy roads


by Frances Edstrom

There isn't a day that goes by that I am not reminded of the resiliency of human beings, and the importance of family and friends to help us even out the bumpy roads of our lives. But sometimes the reminders come on so strongly that I have to remark upon it.

Last weekend was a difficult one for us. Both my brother and my sister were hospitalized. My brother is actually in a nursing home setting, receiving Hospice care, as his brain tumors have won the battle over modern medicine. My sister was sent to the hospital with an infection, which some Chicken-Little-sky-is-falling doctor told her might be necrotizing fascitis, or, more colloquially, flesh-eating disease. I found out on Monday that it is not, and she is being treated and will be sent home.

With all of this weighing on my mind, in Saturday's mail came a letter with a couple of photos in it. The letter read: "Dear friends, Enclosed you will find pictures of you or a loved one. These pictures were taken by Margaret Rolbiecki Lilla Kowalski. I found them while sorting through her pictures. You will see changes in yourself or loved ones. I hope you enjoy the pictures and the memories. Sincerely, Lori Datta"

The pictures were of me back in the eighties, and the occasion was a Jail and Bail fund-raiser for the local Cancer Society. In one, I am being escorted by an officer of the law, and in the other, Mike DeBolt and I are mugging it up behind bars.

What a thoughtful thing to do with old photos found in people's effects. At almost the same time, Jackie Anderson brought in a couple of family photo Christmas cards that had been in things belonging to the late Frank Kolter.

Too often in this hurry-up world, when we die our effects are poured down a chute into a dumpster and taken away to rot. It is remarkable that people will take the time to sort out things that may be meaningful to someone else and send it to them.

I remember that fund-raiser. The idea was that a policeman came to your office or home and took you away, in this case to the Winona Mall, where a bank of phones was set up, surrounded by pretend jail bars. The "prisoners" were then supposed to call people to get pledges for the Cancer Society and thereby earn their "bail" to be released back to the office or home.

This was well before I or my brother and sister had cancer, but it was an event that I would not easily forget. I called a friend, whose wife had cancer at the time. He told me the event made him mad, because he felt that he and his family were in a real jail, prisoners of the disease of cancer. As you can imagine, I was brought up short by that thought. But I never forgot it, especially when I experienced firsthand the powerlessness of dealing with cancer.

On Sunday, we attended a fortieth wedding anniversary party for Al and Carole Nelson, given by their children, with lots of grandchildren present. It was a joyous occasion, of course, a celebration of how love and commitment create more love and commitment.

But as always, human joy is interwoven with sadness. Among the photos of Al and Carole in their wedding duds, looking too young to be making such a huge step, and others with their young family, was a portrait of their son Craig, who was killed in an auto accident the same year that our son, Jake, died. Next to that was a picture of their daughter Cammie, a classmate of Jake, who could not be there because she and her husband, Kyle Murphy, are expecting a baby in September.

Amidst all this emotion, I was able to eat a huge piece of wonderful chocolate cake. I did say that our resiliencey is remarkable, didn't I?


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