A Century of Fatherhood

I changed my first flat today. On my way to see my dad, a few bits of rubber flew out from underneath the car, but I figured it was only something on the freeway, since the tires looked good when I stopped. And when the rearview window was shaking, both me and my dad thought it was just bad Wisconsin roads. But on the way back, outside Sentry, a great whoosh informed me that the tire had gone flat, and I had to get a big Sentry worker to loosen two of the lug nuts.

But earlier, I took a trip back in time with my dad, visiting Stone Bank, where he grew up. After a great BBQ at the Steinke's daughter's house, we stopped at the house my dad grew up in, which he rented from the Kutz's in the 50s. They were remodeling, but the Kutz grandson, now owner, was there, and we were able to see the room he grew up in. My dad had a good conversation with Kutz III catching up on those of the family he knew.

We drove down the road, with my dad pointing out where all his friends used to live, and where he used to play, in the small town of Stone Bank, where everyone knows your name.

Down the road was Kutz's itself, the corner store, pub, and general hangout. This is where my grandparents worked, when not at the goat farm, and my dad hung out a good deal. It was extensively changed as well, but where he is standing there was some semblance of how things used to look.

This was the way Kutz's used to look.

The small town of Stone Bank had five bars. Across from one of them was the two-room schoolhouse where my dad went to school with Mary Steinke. I knew they had gone to school together, but I had no idea it was a two-room schoolhouse. I had no idea that those things still existed in the 40s. Now it's a Teen Assistance Center.

But the highlight of the day was finding the cemetery where my grandfather and grandmother were buried. My aunt knew the location, and then we arrived at a cemetery in Ixonia, much larger than I'd envisioned. I was thinking perhaps 60 graves, and this was closer to 600- all flat, and none alphabetized.

I began a long trek, looking through grave after grave, and found many Jaegers, a family my dad had known, before I got to the Palosaari stone. There they were, Sarah and Jon Quincy. I'd not been to their funerals in '82 and '85. This was my first chance to pay respects.

Their stone is in the sheltering boughs of a small tree, and we laid two wreaths on the stone, perhaps the only living flowers in the cemetery. We stood for a moment, remembering. I thought of all my grandfather and grandmother had seen. My grandfather was born in 1901- he'd be 108 years old were he alive today. When he was born, there was no electricity, running water, or cars- certainly not his first few years in Russian-controlled Finland. I haven't considered it before, but as Finland wasn't independent until 1917, my family were Russian citizens until they came over in 1906- much as the Russians were viewed as imperialist oppressors.

It was good to remember. No grave should be unattended, with no memories to hang over it. Much as we might believe in eternal life today, we neglect at our own peril the Jewish interpretation of life after death- in the memories of our offspring, and the generations of descendants.


Lauren said…
This is well written! Happy Father's Day to your family!

Is your dad living in Wisconsin again?
@bdul muHib said…
Yeah- when the weather up here stopped being cold, he moved back :-)

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