All of us know that every moment of every day is precious. But we feel the depth of this reality when someone we love and respect dies. My Aunt Myrtle Lutterbein died this week. On Sunday, her children Carol, Ruth, Bill, Alice along with their spouses and children will host a celebration of her life in Edgerton, Ohio.
Myrtle’s death leaves my father, Frank, as the last living child of Floyd and Mary Ella Rowe.
Several months ago, my Dad suffered a serious stroke and remains challenged when speaking. In keeping with his life long habit, I am sure he will have a few words to say this Sunday. But just in case those words are a tad jumbled, I would like to speak for Frank and Beverly’s side of the family in this post.
Myrtle, you are a saint! When our beloved Grandma Rowe, who all of us adored, moved back home to Edgerton, you and your generous husband, John, provided a home for her. Now, I have always speculated that the small one floor home was a spec property of the The Lutterbein Lumber Company that never made it to market as its completion date may well have coincided with Grandma’s need for a home. She stayed for a very long time in the loving care of you and your family. When Grandma moved to a nursing home, none of us worried because we knew Grandma was safe and loved every day of her life because you were her rock. Your love and care kept her alive until she was 102.
When my brother John and I were young, we knew Christmas was going to be at your house. We loved staying upstairs with all the cousins where chaos ruled the dark of night. We knew we would spend Christmas in a home filled with family and fun.
Only years later have I come to appreciate how much work you did in preparing to make all of us feel so welcome. I was inspired to start my blog because my Dad began to write his life stories to present as a gift to his great grandchildren. I have searched those stories and would like to share a story of his as a tribute to you, his wonderful sister.
Frank writes, “The Sleep Walker”
I used to talk in my sleep, and if that’s not bad enough, I also walked in my sleep. If that sounds kinda creepy and crazy it probably is and it can also be dangerous. One night I woke up to find myself sitting on the edge of the porch roof. It was just outside the bedroom window, which was at the Pennock’s house in Zanesfield, Ohio.
I loved staying over at their house on the farm. Every night they popped popcorn and we had a party and played games. Then we ate the left over popcorn the next morning for breakfast like cereal with cream and sugar. I thought that was special though popcorn for breakfast never became my favorite meal. At the Pennock’s house, my bedroom was this tiny room upstairs at the front of the house with the window. Mrs. Pennock believed you should sleep with the windows open because fresh air was good for you. And that was even when it was freezing cold outside. If it seemed too cold, you just took a couple irons off the old kitchen stove and that would keep your feet warm until you fell asleep.
I also like the big feather-down blanket they had to cover up with. I guess the open window was too much temptation even in my sleep. Maybe it was a good place to look at the stars. It was, however, a little scary when I woke up sitting on the edge of that slanting roof, freezing my little behind off. I don’t know what kept me from walking or sliding off that roof top. Mrs. Pennock had told me one day while helping me make my bed and when I started to climb out that window. “ Ellis, please don’t ever do that, it could be dangerous.”
The thing is…I’m not recommending this philosophy of life even though we must all have guardian angels watching out for us.
Another time my mother woke me up, “Frank, What are you doing?” That’s a question I’ve been asked numerous times during my life. “What are you doing?” That night in the middle of the hot summer, I had gone around the house, gathered up all the blankets I could find, and piled them on top of my sister Myrtle while she slept. “What are you doing?” Before I actually woke up, my mother said that I simply said: “Myrtle is cold.”
The thing is…I still haven’t figured out why I do some of the things I do, sleeping or wide awake. Then there was the time my sister Myrtle asked me one morning at breakfast, right in front of our parents and everybody, ”Frank, do you curse a lot when you are not at home?” Where did that come from? Red faced, I swallowed deeply and replied, “Why?” “Well you were talking in your sleep” she said “and you were cursing up a blue streak!”
Caught again, the truth was, while in high school, working at the foundry after school and summer, I had enlarged my vocabulary with words spoken in our home only in a religious context. The truth was I had taken to cursing a bit (maybe alot) around my peers. Caught and embarrassed as I was, seeing the disappointment, if not shock on my parents face, I decided right then and there that I had best clean up my “bad mouth”. At a younger age, I had had my mouth washed out with soap for far less foul language. Now that I was a “man”, I decided I didn’t have to talk like the men at the foundry or like the guys in the locker room and, that I would stop cursing and taking God’s name in vain. Figuratively speaking, it took lots soapy mouth scrubbing and considerable tongue biting to break that bad habit. To help me break that habit I decided to bite my tongue when I said a bad word. Generally speaking, I’ve done pretty well at cleaning up my bad mouth.
The thing is…talking and walking in your sleep may be a dangerous thing to do, but with the help of loving friends and family, and with the help of God, there may be in the revealed sub-conscious mind, that about ourselves which we can change for the better. Myrtle, thanks for holding your little brother accountable and loving him. A now share my father’s acknowledgment which concludes his writing.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS FROM FRANK
I want to thank all those who have lived and survived with me all these stories. First, my wife Beverly June and all my family and friends. For years your Great Grandma and our sons, Steven Douglas and John Michael have been the wonderful characters in my sermon illustrations. They’ve borne the brunt of my warped humor, but also have been the heroes of my life’s stories. Thank you for your patience with me. I pray that never did I tell personal stories without the clear inflection of my love for you. No person, at 84 years of age, would have memorable stories to tell, without the loved persons who are part and parcel of the stories they have recalled. I thank my adult mentors and role models, like the Gills, the Pennocks, Mr. Wooden, my vo-ag teacher, principal, Mr. Hartsook, parents, Floyd and Mary Ella, and numerous others from whom I learned the meaning and the value of unconditional love. I thank my sister, Myrtle Irene, who was 7 years my elder and whom I called “Myrtle the Turtle”. And for baby sister Mary Lois, who was 7 years younger than I for putting up with my sometimes ferocious teasing. The thing is…memorable life’s stories just keep happening until the day we die. We keep meeting new friends and new daily events expand our repertoire of memorable stories. So keep those stories coming, good friends, old and new, because even on the day I die, I pray I’ve got a smile on my face and experience a story worth telling. The Bible says: “I have not stopped giving thanks to God for all of you. I remember you in my prayers.” Ephesians 1:16 Myrtle, I give thanks to God for your life.