Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My Brother Bob

(Note: Since writing this one year ago today, my three remaining siblings, Jeanne (on the right), Bernice (Bim) and Bob, have died. I miss my family very much. Family photo about 1933. Top from left: Bim, Bud, Jeanne. Bottom: Bob, Dad, Don, Mother, Lucille.Gordy was born in 1937)

Bob (Baldwin) Wierenga celebrating his 79th birthday today (March 2)

by brother Don Wierenga (03/02/05)

Not too long ago through the persistence of sister Bim and the organization of Kris (Decker) Buth some of the Wierenga family met at the Christian Rest Home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Jeanne is a resident there and brother Bob lives close by. So at Christmas time, 2004, we had a family reunion of sorts. Not much like those of the past when multiple families crowded into Bob and Jackie’s basement and watched Bob’s old family movies. Our kids really liked that part, much as me, as a child, enjoyed movies at DeKorne Christmas gatherings in the Keeler building.

There are just four of us now, Lucille died first in 1984 then Gordy in 1999 and Bud in 2000. We took this picture. (In the photo, I’m on right next to Bob. Bim is on the left with Jeanne.) We had good conversation around the table after a meal of traditional ham sandwiches . . . that Kris had hastily arranged. (She wondered if she was supposed to butter the buns!).
It occurred to me that some of our conversation should be shared with the rest of the family, but more importantly it prompted me to record these remembrances of siblings.

Starting with Bob

-I remember playing catch in the driveway . . . I had a first baseman’s glove.
-Making model airplanes out of a balsam wood and tissue paper.
-Being quarantined because of the threat of scarlet fever (I think). We both had serious cuts to our thumbs. (I think). Mine because I used a tool dad told me I shouldn’t touch.
-The business we nurtured. Making wooden name pins that Lucille would sell for fifteen cents at Union High School. I would solicit free yard sticks from local paint stores and sand off all the advertising. Bob would fashion them on his new jug saw, Jack Glass would use macaroni letters to form the names. We were going to use the money to buy a tent so we could go camping. I think we divided the the gross intake of $15 . . . which was really a lot of money. The camping trip never materialized.
-Bob was a boy scout. Once he took me camping with him to Mount Lion. . . (I think)
-He would direct scary plays where we would have a sheet hanging from the ceiling and a bright light shining into it. The ‘actor,’ me, perhaps a doctor would perform an operation where I would club my patient and then pull out realistic looking innards (knotted up stockings), like intestines, the heart . . etc.
-Sister Bim, taking care of us.
-He had an electric train, but I had more fun arranging the individual tracks in various circles, in the basement, starting from the ceiling with jumps and interruptions that a marble would travel safely to the bottom.
-Playing ‘Eney, Iney, Over . . . which was throwing a ball over the house roof, surprising the guy on the other side where it would come down.

Someone mentioned that Bob was always the gadget guy . . . the first to try out new technology, especially photography. The first to have a small six inch TV. But he also introduced FM radio to the family and remembers the radio now occupying space in my garage ‘museum.’ I remember it as well from its position along side his bed in Sunshine Sanitarium, and then at dad’s where Gordy listened to baseball games . . . (very quietly on Sundays while dad napped.)

Bob had tuberculosis, that dreaded disease that claimed mother and significantly influenced the life of Bud. Total bed rest was the only known cure at that time, although through research Bob later found his own cure. I’m short on details, but perhaps he will share them with us.

(Family photo: Top row from left: Bud, Lucille, Bob, Dad, Don, Bim. Gordy in the front. Jeanne was married by this time.)

It first showed up when he enlisted in the Navy, stationed in Chicago and then admitted to a select group (V 12?) that began pilot training at Purdue University. I was so proud of him. Sometimes he would send me a T-shirt, but what I really coveted was a Navy P coat. He said he might be able to get me one and I’m sure I pestered him long enough until he finally did. I’ll show you a picture sometime. He was given a medical discharge. I was in high school at the time, involved with sports and had a girl friend and was hardly noted for giving of my time to others. I did try to visit him every Sunday along with dad and Gordy. Often he would help me with my algebra assignments, I later became a math major.

Bob had more time than he knew what to do with. I couldn’t imagine being confined to bed, let alone miss all the high school fun I was having. He did beautiful leather work, (a billfold I treasured) and even took up knitting . . sweaters for the family! I felt guilty.He bought a car, a 1947 Ford convertible . . . for me to use. I remember the day he came home from the hospital. He was sitting on the front porch when I drove up in his car. Why didn’t I pick him up at the hospital? “That’s gratitude for you.”

Then came my college and more help with math . . . and financial help. After my first year he paid my tuition every semester. I worked several jobs to pay my room and board. Back to the FM radio. He bought it so that he could listen to my high school football games which was a first for covering local sports. I wonder if he was disappointed that he never heard my name mentioned.

Many enjoyable memories followed as we entered into adult life. He would do the unthinkable and go with Ginny and me to Gun Lake . . . on Sunday . . . before visiting Bud’s church in Muskegon. He was best man in my wedding, I was best man in his.

In later years we differed in religion and politics. Sometimes our mutual interest in the Glen Lake property got in the way. But we were and are brothers.

I love you, Bob.