Looking for blue skies

Susan Manzke
Susan Manzke's daughters Rachel, left, and Rebecca join their mother on the first anniversary of Bob's passing. While blue skies eluded them, they enjoyed memories and laughter instead.

It has been a year since our family lost Bob. Neighbors had visited with Bob at the end of 2019 when we went to the town hall to pay our real estate taxes. To them, Bob was his old self, joking and laughing. No one knew except family that things were not good. It was just ten days later that Bob was gone.

For me and my family, it seems like it has only been a week since he slipped away. Of course, we miss him. One thing I especially miss is his sense of humor. That’s why I want to share a column from my archives with you today.

I submitted this column in January 1981, the first anniversary of my weekly writings.

Here’s misery in perspective

Days don't come much more miserable than this. Outside, the wind howled, whipping snow and sleet into a cold lather.

I anxiously waited for my husband to return home. I expected him to be equally as miserable as the weather—cold, wet, and disgusted. So, thinking of him, I warmed some hot chocolate and turned up the thermostat.

Finally, he came in the door. But instead of stomps, groans, and grumbling about the weather, I heard laughter.

"What's so funny?" I asked. I figured I could use a good laugh to brighten my day, too.

"I blew the van’s radiator hose," he giggled as he shook the snow off his jacket.

"Oh, that's too bad—but what are you laughing at?"

"The radiator hose, on the van... It split right in two. Rotten clear through." He continued laughing as he removed an icicle from his chin.

Had the pressure of the day finally taken its toll? Had Bob popped his cork, causing everything in his head to come babbling out?

Not wanting to upset him further, I said, "Why don't you come and sit down. Put your feet up. Rest for a while and tell me all about it. Start at the beginning...the very beginning."

"I was going to town to get a tractor part when smoke started pouring out the back of the van." He giggled.

Susan's daughter joins her at the Green Bay Botanical Gardens last weekend.

"It got worse as I drove. By the time I reached town, I couldn't see out the back window." He laughed again. "I thought the engine had blown.

"The radiator hose broke... just the hose. Not that bad and I was right by the hardware store...I even had my tools with me and money in my pocket."

"So?" I waited patiently for him to get to the funny part.

"So, I bought a new hose and fresh anti-freeze and fixed it right there in the parking lot." He smiled.

"So?" There must be a punch line in all this.

"Nothing else... don't you get it?"

"No. All I understand is that you had trouble with the van. But somehow I don't think that's funny."

"Don't you see? It could have been worse... much worse. It could've been the engine or it could have gone out halfway to town...or when we were broke...or when my tools were in the truck...or when YOU were driving alone."

"I'm not laughing," I told him as I lowered the thermostat.

"You don't understand. The hose... the parking lot. Our luck’s changing... I guess you had to be there to appreciate it."

"I guess so." I nodded as I drank his hot chocolate. "I'm glad I wasn't. I might have laughed myself to death."

So that she wasn't alone on the anniversary of Bob's passing, son Russell and his family Cynthia and Harrison joined Susan at the NEW Zoo of Brown County where they walked, talked and laughed as they viewed the animals.

Silver Lining

There you have it. Bob always found the silver lining. When things went wrong, which they often did, he laughed about it. I miss that laugh and a lot more.

So that I wasn’t alone on the first anniversary of Bob’s passing, Rebecca and Rachel met me at the Green Bay Botanical Gardens. There we looked for blue skies as we walked, talked, and yes, laughed. Two days later, I met Russell and his family at the NEW Zoo of Brown County. Again, we walked, talked, and laughed as we looked at the animals.

Blue skies have been missing, but they will return, as will spring. As with anything, we take life one day at a time.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;