Monday, March 4, 2013

March 4th

March 4th, 1973: We did go to Macomb today. Aunt Betty went too. And when it isn't one thing, it's another. Uncle Ray has a malignant growth too. I don't know any other details. We took two cars because Aunt Betty had to come back to bowl. 

I don't know what was said in our car, but I guess dad got a little emotional. But dad and Uncle Ray both said they'd fight the hell out of cancer. 

We came back home and dad rested. Because dad is going to open the store tomorrow. 

March 4th, 2013: Wow! One the more lengthy entries in the original diary. And a lot to digest. 

More bad news! This time, for Uncle Ray. Ray was technically my "great uncle," or something like that. His wife Erma, was my dad's aunt. Erma was a sister to dad's mother, Frieda. Erma and Frieda looked a little alike, based on photos I've seen. 

I only knew one of my grandparents. Dad's father, Charles Kriegshauser. And though I have a few memories of him, he died when I was four. My mom's parents were long gone. My mom lost her mother to breast cancer when mom was only six years old. Her dad was gone before I was born. On dad's side, his mother, Frieda, died of diabetes. Grandpa Charlie of a heart attack in the hardware store. 

As the story goes. Dad and his friend, Bob Groom, were standing and talking near the front of the store when they heard a crash of broken glass. "Well, we better go back and see what Charlie has broken now," Groom said to dad. Grandpa had collapsed just inside the warehouse. Dad said he thinks Grandpa was dead before he hit the ground. 

So. Dad was tight with Ray and Erma Poler. All of us were. They were the last link to dad's immediate family, other than Aunt Betty, dad's sister, and two aunts in Quincy. We all loved the Polers. They had two sons. Jay and Jon. Those boys were a few years older than me. Twelve years or so. They had Triumph Bonneville motorcycles in the 60's, and were instrumental in turning me onto the love of riding on two wheels. When we visited, if they were around, I'd beg for a ride. I usually got one, while my mom held her breath. 

Uncle Ray was born in 1896. He would have been 76 at this time. A World War I veteran. Very slender, and a pipe smoker. He had that demeanor that is stereotypical of pipe smokers. Calm, cool, quiet, and collected. Uncle Ray was a guy who could look at you with more of a "gaze" than the "glare" my dad exhibited, if I was misbehaving. In a way, the "gaze" was more frightening than the "glare." He too, had been a hardware man in Macomb. Later on, he sold cars for Wayne Woodrum's dealership.

Aunt Erma was really sweet. Dark, curly hair. Always bit of a curious look on her face. I have told Jay and Jon she reminded me of Edith Bunker. Not a "dingbat." Just very naive' for an adult. A very innocent lady. She had been a secretary/receptionist for a Macomb doctor. 

We took at least two vacations to Colorado with Ray and Erma. Each time was a blast. Those two, and mom and dad, got along so well. And, even as a kid with different interests, they were fun to be around.

Dad, Aunt Erma, Uncle Ray. Estes Park, CO. 1972
So now, out of nowhere. Uncle Ray had apparently been ailing, went to the doctor, and got bad news. I do not know whether this information came out during the visit to Macomb that day. Or if we'd already been informed, and drove up to see them. If we had known earlier, I think it would have been entered in my diary. 

They lived at 1350 Parkview Drive. One of only two families on the street not involved with the university. Jay and Jon were old enough to be out on their own by 1973. And they were. Usually, the adults played a card game called "Crazy 8's" and drank beer. Uncle Ray liked his bourbon. When I was younger, I'd ride my bicycle all over the WIU campus. Later, I was old enough to be invited to join them in the card game. Pennies and nickels were at stake. I was warned that the game was real. Money could be lost. I won the first hand I played!

I can't imagine them not playing cards that day. Carrying on the way they normally did. 

Judging by my original diary entry, I must have ridden to Macomb with Aunt Betty, and home with mom and dad. Aunt Betty liked adventure. She was always coming up with cool ideas for road trips when I was younger. We were good together. Her driving, me, riding shotgun, barely tall enough to see over the dash. Apparently, I overheard a conversation in Macomb, or learned from Aunt Betty later on, that dad  had some "moments" during the drive up. Aunt Betty was always direct. Just like dad. 

Dad took me to my first Indianapolis 500 in 1970. We skipped two years, then had tickets for the 1973 race. When dad died, Aunt Betty stepped up and took me. She wanted to, enjoyed it. That year, and that race, is a whole other story to write about. 

I've rambled long enough. Dad was sick. Uncle Ray was sick. There were bound to have been some laughs that day. But now we had two people to worry about, and pray for. 

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