Grab your cup of coffee or hot tea and sit down for a break and a story.
It’s cold outside! It’s the season for ‘sick’. I’ve got my grandson on the couch right now medicated, covered up, and watching Paw Patrol on television. We’re hoping his brother doesn’t get sick. Papa’s sick too. Lucky for you I’m still well enough to tell a story today. I love grandma’s. My grandparents all had this crazy ability to make me feel like I was their favorite grandchild. As an adult I realize they probably made all the grandkids feel this way but as a kid they made me feel really special. I try to make my grands feel the same way- like each of them is my very favorite because they are ALL my very favorite! But we’re not talking about my grandma today, we’re talking about Bart’s grandma, Esther. Before we begin though, I wanted you to know that the regularly scheduled Weekend Wrap-up will post later today. I wanted to give Esther her own blog post and then do a follow-up on everyone separately. So be on the lookout for that to post later today.
On this date in 1925, Esther was born in Sanilac County, Michigan to Theodor Hermann and Jennie Arelia SCHNEIDENBACH MOELLER. I’ve written about Theodor here (scroll down until you get to his section of that day’s post). You remember him- he was serious about his Pinochle!
ESTHER: DISASTER IN THE BEGINNING
Back before Christmas on that trip to Hawaii when I talked to Bart’s mom and dad for their memories about various family members I asked them about Esther. The memory that came to mind that day was one that I also heard from Bart’s Uncle Bob. They each remember it slightly differently which is perfectly normal. When I was an investigator I learned early on that two people can witness the exact same event and each person will tell a different story about the event. Each memory we have is shaped by all the other memories and life experiences we’ve had. The passing of time also tends to warp memory. (Just since November I’ve probably forgotten some of the story Joyce told me so I hope I get it mostly right.) Memory is such a complex thing. So even though two people witness the exact same event the memories and retelling are rarely the same. It just means we’re human! I’m sure if the other siblings told this story with no prompt or background as to what the others said there would be even more versions to the story!) So I’m going to give you Joyce’s version and then I’m going to give you Bob’s version.
When Esther was about 3 years old her family’s house caught on fire. The family was frantically trying to fight the fire but they had their toddler Esther on hand and well…(this is my addition to her story: you know how it is trying to do something with a toddler)! So they locked Esther in the well house for her safety while they tried to put out the fire and in all the busy-ness they forgot about her. Some time after the fire was out someone finally said, “Where’s Esther?!” They remembered they had locked her in the well and someone went out to get her.
There was a house fire when [Esther] was an infant. My grandmother, Jennie Schneidenbach Moeller (and other adults), began frantically throwing household “stuff” outside. They were breaking dishes, etc. in their haste to get them “safely” out of the flames. Someone threw the rocking chair outside, and they paused for a moment to remark, “At least we will be able to rock the baby!” At which point, someone screamed, “Aaahhhhh! the baby!”, suddenly remembering baby Esther, still in her bed. So, the rocking chair saved Mom’s life!
I would so love to hear the other siblings’ version of this story! How scary! And I’m so glad somebody remembered to take care of Esther! Without her there would be no Bart and without him- well, the entire trajectory of my life would be drastically altered starting all the way back in elementary school!
CALM AND STEADY IN MIDDLE LIFE
My all-time favorite picture of Esther and Carl:
Bob’s memories in his words:
Esther married Carl WOLF on 7 August 1943. A few years later, Esther’s sister Mildred married Carl’s brother Harold on 1 May 1948. Esther taught Sunday School for many, many years. She started when her oldest child, Judy, was of an age to attend Sunday School herself (probably 1947 or 1948). She continued teaching until about 1986, when Alzheimer’s began showing its ugly head. Esther worked “side-by-side” on the farm with Dad as long as her health and body would allow, along with the duties of a housewife and mother.
Joyce’s memories in her words:
Esther was a leader of the 4-H sewing club when her kids were young. Her daughter Judy really wanted her to do it. I think you had to be 10 years old to join, and Judy being the oldest really pushed for it. I think we started with 5 neighborhood girls. We met once a week and she taught us all to sew. Our first year project was an apron. 4-H said what our projects were to be based on how many years we were in. I feel like Judy and I were in until we graduated. She did it for years probably, but Betty got out of school which would probably have been close to 20 years. She was a perfectionist and always made us do it right. We won many blue ribbons. They named our 4-H club Palms Country Club.
Joyce still has her apron. What a treasure!
Joyce’s apron from her mom’s sewing class.
One last memory about Bart’s childhood. He has great memories about going to visit his grandparents in Michigan in the summer. He sometimes recalls an incident where he was riding a bike up and down the dirt road in front of his grandparents’ home. Somewhere along the way a neighbor’s dog began chasing him and bit him. I hear the neighbor got quite an earful from Esther. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be on the receiving end of an angry German grandma!! I’m thinking the neighbor probably changed his ways and tied up that dog quick, fast, and in a hurry!!
WELL…CALM AND STEADY EXCEPT FOR A COUPLE OF BLIPS…
My mother-in-law has told me the following story a few times in my life and I wish I’d written it down because she tells the story with varying degrees of detail but I’m afraid to tell you from memory because I don’t want to get it wrong. I think this version will do.
When I was about 3, mom ran over me with the family car. Story I have always heard was Judy said “Mom, the car is on Joyce.” Mom handled it until help arrived and then she passed out. (This is Lisa talking now. I love that last sentence because everybody here knows if you’re bleeding or badly injured don’t go to Joyce first! She’s a trooper when she’s the one hurting but it’s a whole other story when someone she loves is hurting!)
Esther was in the car with two of her girls (Joyce and Judy) and her son who was 2 years old at the time. As Esther was backing out Joyce fell against the handle of the door causing the door to come open. Joyce fell out of the open door and under the car. The front wheel of the car passed over the entire length of Joyce’s body. Joyce was treated by a local Deckerville doctor and then transported to St. Luke’s Hospital in Saginaw, Michigan. The accident happened about 7:30 on a Wednesday evening. The second news report stated that Joyce had a partially collapsed lung and possible head injuries.
Esther’s uncle, Otto MOELLER, farmed with Esther’s dad, Theodor MOELLER. One night Esther had a dream that uncle Otto was sitting in the back seat of his car, dead. No one that she told this to gave any credence to it. “That’s just plain stupid, why would he be in the back seat?” Some time later (19 June 1946), in the evening,when they were milking cows, Otto got kicked in the chest by an uncooperative cow. He was obviously severely wounded, and they put him in the backseat of his car to take him to the doctor. Before they could leave, he had passed away. For a long time this weighed heavy on Esther. She felt there must have been something more she could have done or said to warn others of this tragedy.
ALZHEIMER’S: THE DISASTER AT THE END
Esther once told Bob that when she was preparing a Sunday School lesson, if she turned the page, she couldn’t remember what she had just read. That little brain glitch ended up being Alzheimer’s. A truly tragic ending for a beautiful, independent, and strong woman like Esther. From my own memories of what I was told through the years about Esther and from what I’ve experienced with my own family members who had Alzheimer’s, I know that that place in the middle- where you have periods of clarity interrupted by periods of not remembering- that’s a terrifying place to be. You know that something is not right. You’re losing control and there’s nothing you can do about it. Those around you may not realize at first what’s happening to you and so it causes some anger and friction in some families in the beginning. In the end, the person with Alzheimer’s lives in a place from long ago where no one they remember is still living. The people who are still living? The Alzheimer’s patient most likely doesn’t recognize them. Where once the Alzheimer’s patient was so independent, now their keys are being taken away and they have people all day every day telling them where to go and what to do. It’s a truly tragic ending to a beautiful life. So I vote we don’t focus on the tragedy of the final battle of Esther’s life. I vote we remember her as a mom, grandma, helpmate to Carl, excellent cook, dressmaker, sewing instructor, Sunday School teacher, devout believer in Christ. A strong, independent woman who handled what life gave her and loved with all her heart. I think she’d like that.
Esther’s cookie recipe in her handwriting.
Sending each of you all my love and prayers for strength for whatever you’re going through in this moment.
Lisa @ Days of Our Lives blog