Written by Elva Suderman Tuesday, 25 November 2008 14:01
Editor’s note: Dale Suderman, a Marion County native who made his home in Chicago, wrote a popular column called View From Afar in the Free Press from 2001 until April 2008, when he suffered a severe stroke. With our encouragement, Dale’s sister wrote this essay on the seasons of their close relationship.
You were getting excited about coming to town to retire in two more years and constantly checked the Free Press realty ads to find your dream home.
However, things did not go as planned. You never expected that your dream home would be a room at Parkside Homes and not a home with a deck where you planned on drinking many cups of coffee.
On your last visit to Hillsboro you said that on this trip you were going to see if you could really retire in Hillsboro. After checking the Tabor College Library for current newspapers to visiting with the men’s coffee drinkers you said that you could make this transition.
Your massive stroke on April 19 changed many of your future plans. After numerous brain surgeries your life was spared and you started to relearn many of the skills that we take for granted.
As your older sister, we have shared 64 years together. Sorry, but I did not always appreciate you and got very tired of reading the same stories to you and brother Ron time after time when you were young. Then I was expected to baby-sit you and Ron while our parents went to town. This was totally unfair as my friends always went with their parents when they went to town.
As you attended Hillsboro High School and Tabor College I would get phone calls from you stating that I was your favorite (and only) sister. My comment would always be, “What favor do you want this time?” I have typed many of your school assignments, but let’s face it— nobody else could read your writing.
You like to tell the story about Dad when he said you were never going to be a farmer and that he would have to send you to college. Perhaps daydreaming and trying to read while driving the tractor were good clues.
When you and Ron both left for military service in Vietnam, we corresponded from time to time. I will never forget the day when you were finally discharged and I drove you out to the field where Ron was working. When you saw each other after almost two years you both ran as fast as you could and gave each other a big hug. To this day you and Ron have had a special bond.
In the following years we saw each other when you came to Hillsboro twice a year and occasionally we talked by phone. In the almost 25 years that you have spent part of your vacation days at my place, I would estimate that it adds up to more than 10 months of time.
Our parents got married during the Depression and placed value on material assets. You, however, placed value on friendships and traveling.
Your love of people is evident in the many close friends you have from near and far. Your home was often open to them on weekends and you loved to entertain.
These friends are worth more than any monetary assets. Your friend John stated this very well in a recent e-mail when he wrote, “What has been most amazing during this experience has been to recognize how many good friends Dale has who are very devoted and committed to his welfare. I can think of no other person who could marshal such a number and array of persons to his bedside and to assist with his welfare.”
Gradually our roles changed and you became my encourager. I will never forget visiting you in Chicago when I started using a folding cane for walking longer distances.
I certainly was not going to embarrass you by using it when meeting your friends. You got very stern with me and said I had proved to everyone that “I could do it” and it was time to make some changes.
Little did I know that you would need to help me through many more stages of adjustments from retiring 14 years ago due to post-polio syndrome to using a scooter and now for many years using a powerchair. You gave me confidence to speak and write about post-polio syndrome and thus help other polio survivors.
I have been reading your scrapbook of “View From Afar” articles. Your column started in 1985 when you wrote for the Hillsboro-Star Journal for about two years. In 2001 you started writing for the Hillsboro Free Press and you have written more than 100 columns.
When your column was due I knew I would get a phone call from you asking me to proofread your article.
About three years ago I came to the realization that you made a commitment to phone me every day in addition to many e-mails. You always said “Hey, it’s Dale” and I could often tell if you were having a good or bad day according to how you said this.
Sometimes we talked just for a minute to check if I was all right but on weekends we discussed many issues from politics, books, news about family or what was happening in Hillsboro.
This is something that I miss so much now as you were my rock for many years. Now your words “I love you” mean so much to me.
Now our roles have changed and I am once more your encourager. Shortly after your stroke I purchased a bracelet with the following inscription: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” with the word “courage” in large letters.
I wear this bracelet 24/7 as a reminder that there are some things I cannot change and that God will provide both you and me serenity for the days ahead.
Cards for Dale Suderman can be sent to Parkside Homes, 200 Willow Road, Hillsboro, KS 67063. E-mails can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org