Traverse City Record-Eagle

Edna Shaffer: Grandma's Kitchen

May 18, 2009

Edna Shaffer: We can manage the unthinkable

Editor's note: This column was written by Molly Franks, Edna Shaffer's third-born daughter. Edna expects to be back writing next month.

We make the road by walking.

Paulo Freire

Our story begins like this: Our clever mom won our dad by smelling like barbecue.

He was a young soldier in the Air Force and she was a cook at the Pig's Den in Jonesboro, Ark. It helped that she was a beautiful young slip of a thing, quiet with dark soulful eyes. He was tall and handsome -- a curious mix of boxer and musician. They embarked on a love story that would cover six decades and many of life's most difficult changes. They walked and where they walked, they made a road.

My parents, in middle age, with three daughters (one newly married and a fourth hovering for a landing) agreed together to enter new territory. While I was occupied with playing, Dad was studying to become a minister. When most people are planning for a secure retirement, Dad forfeited his job as a well-paid construction superintendent for an unknown future. With Mom's support, we packed our belongings and moved to a rural community 300 miles north of our home. To my sister and me, this was a huge adventure. It is only in looking back that I can fully appreciate the sheer boldness they exhibited! They were not afraid to make a road.

Fifteen years ago, my parents agreed to move closer to my family. It was a big decision as they left the house "that love built" on Grandpa's Mountain. Dad was showing signs of dementia and their home in the woods was too isolated.

As Dad declined, Mom was devoted to his care. It was a fall that sent Dad to the hospital and he would not come home again. From there he entered a nursing home. It was the day before their 58th wedding anniversary. I will never forget the pain of that day nor the meager attempt to make the next day "special" as we celebrated their anniversary in Dad's new, shared room. How on earth, would we do this? We were making a road.

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