Aunt Esther’s Winning Recipe for Life

 

Life with Larry took me to the Schuerr reunion in Fox Lake, IL on a warm, Sunday afternoon.. Larry greeted his  90 year old Aunt Esther by kissing and tickling her neck. He has greeted Aunt Esther in this manner over the past 30 years. She smacked him and said, “Stop it, Skip.” Skip was Larry’s boyhood nickname. Aunt Esther was always Larry’s favorite aunt even if she was instructed by his mother to shave his head completely bald every summer.

Here’s Aunt Esther at 96 with her niece Mary Schuerr Donnellan

We soon noticed that smiling Aunt Esther was proudly holding hands with her 91 year old boyfriend, Emil. The lovebirds reminded us of high school sweethearts. Yes, Aunt Esther could easily write the recipe for life. Her laughter and teasing personality lightens up any room. She and Emil arrived in an orange, convertible Prowler like Cinderella going to the ball only accompanied by the prince. Emil sports two hearing aids and his sight isn’t great, but Aunt Esther is his eyes and ears. When Emil was no longer able to drive, he would pick up Aunt Esther in a riding lawn mover and set her on his knee.

As late as last summer, she road on the back of John’s Harley like a true motorcycle mama wearing only a scarf on her head. But now, Emil consumes most of her time. “I’ve been jilted by another man,” laughs John while flipping burgers.

On Friday’s her son, Jim, picks Emil and Esther up for a fish dinner.      “I sneak peeks from my rear view mirror and catch them smooching. What a role reversal,”  said Jim.

Watching Esther and Emil hold hands at the family reunion brought smiles to all our faces. Her recipe for life is simple. “You’re never too old to love and be loved.”. Regardless of ailments, the couple may well live to see their 100th birthday. Now that’s an occasion for another Schuerr reunion, for sure.

Now for an update: October 2017

I visited Aunt Esther last week. Regardless of her aches and pains, Aunt Esther’s twinkly blue eyes and big smile brings a warmth to anyone who visits her.  She is now 96 and Emil 97. They still care for one another but see  each other less. She recently attended her 1939 reunion at Grant High School in Fox Lake as the honored guest.  Her children have created adventure opportunities for Esther such as down-hill skiing for the first time at 70, skydiving, horseback riding and tubing behind a boat, last year. Esther’s great sense of humor, her zest for life and  her love for others is unique. She is my role model as a woman who knows how to face the future.

A brief biography of Esther Janseen Schuerr

 Aunt Esther had six children. Her fifth child, Bobby, lived until 21 years old with cerebral palsy. Normally, a child in his condition would live  no longer than seven years.  But the whole family was trained to help Bobby who had to be hand fed and diaper changed. After his death, Aunt Esther and her husband took in an older gentleman who had no one.   He stayed with them until his death five years later. She also has helped raise many of her grandchildren and you can always catch her making a batch of chocolate chip cookies even at 96. 

 

What To Do When Your Goal Is Just Around The Corner

We signed up early for the Oct. 7th/8th Hilly Hundred Bicycle Ride near Bloomington, IN knowing that having a goal in the summer would motivate us to build endurance through exercise and good nutrition.  The huge hills were no surprise to us since we have been doing this ride most years since 1992.  As seasoned seniors, we knew that without training, we would never succeed.  When setting a goal, expect interferences.  Larry was having problems with his shoulder and an MRI confirmed that surgery was needed. The surgeon Larry trusted the most had an opening Oct. 9th. “What,” I said. “That is cutting it close.” To do 50 miles on Sunday and then turn around and drive 5 hours home for a Monday surgery was a super human goal. But we booked the surgery. 

Day one arrived with hot temperatures in the mid-80’s.  We encountered some difficulties such as the chain coming off twice and getting a flat tire.   We biked 53.7 miles with an elevation gain of 3229 ft. while sweating profusely.  I was pleased that my training rides with my good friend, Cleora, had paid off. Unfortunately, Larry and I did not get as much training on the tandem we ride for the Hilly.

Day 2 arrived with the promise of cooler temperatures.   I had a good night’s  sleep and was ready to tackle another day; but my tandem partner had a bad night with his sore shoulder and was not in any condition to ride. Instead of reaching our goal, we drove the 5 hours home with a sense of wisdom and disappointment as well. We  talked about what we could have done differently. We could have lost more weight with less to carry up the huge hills. We could have possibly rescheduled the shoulder surgery. But that didn’t seem like a wise option.

So what did we learn from this experience? We learned the importance of setting goals.   “Without a vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). We learned to be satisfied with  reaching the half way mark. We learned that we are a team and we need to respect the needs of one another. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up, (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)  There will be other opportunities to press on. In the words of Martin Luther King, JR. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience , but where he stands at times of challenge. “