Recently, I drove to attend a breakfast in Hutchinson where Gov. Mark Parkinson and postal service officials unveiled the design for the state of Kansas’ 150th anniversary of statehood.
From there, I drove to Colorado Springs to visit my mother’s twin-sister, Dolores, who was stricken with at least two strokes.
I deliberately drove through Great Bend as a sign of respect and remembrance, since my mother Gloria (Riedl) Marples and her twin Dolores (Riedl) Myers were both born in Great Bend on November 5, 1922, nearly 88 years ago.
My mother passed away in 2003 in the aftermath of a massive stroke which left her basically without the ability to walk, talk, or perform any routine tasks.
My aunt Dolores had a heart flare-up about a month ago and two weeks ago, she suffered at least two separate strokes, which has impaired her speech and her mobility.
The city of Great Bend has changed dramatically since my mom and my aunt were born in 1922.
Back then, Warren Harding was president of the United States, and most people kept a job or occupation for decades til they retired.
Vacations were few, and generally people stayed closer to their homes.
Several houses in Great Bend were constructed by their grandfather, William Hampel Jr., of Great Bend.
Although telephones were in use back then, they were viewed as a luxury.
Newspapers and telegrams brought news.
Travel by train was the main mode of transportation.
After passing through Great Bend, I drove onward and stopped briefly at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Olmitz, which is where both sets of my mom’s and aunt’s grandparents came from.
I stopped at the church and went in and sat at a pew praying for my aunt for five minutes, then got back to my car to keep on driving.
I got to Colorado Springs safe and sound.
My Aunt was expecting me and I found her in the “rehab” unit of the Cheyenne Mountain nursing care facility in Colorado Springs.
Aunt Dolores had her usual big smile and she said: “Hello, Jimmy.”
Dolores is the precise image of my late mom, so seeing my Aunt brings a lot of joy, plus a tinge of sorrow.
We had a good visit.
She occasionally has trouble grasping the right word or finishing a sentence.
I try to be patient and improvise by offering a word or a clue to help her smoothly finish her train of thought. By giving subtle prompts it helps her finish a complete thought, rather than getting bogged-down or frustrated by a partial thought.
The visit was very enjoyable. I told her that I had just come from Great Bend. She was pleased. Although a long trip for me, it was well worth it.
It gave both of us one more positive and enjoyable memory.
Since my aunt can converse a little, it enabled two-way interaction. That is vastly different from that which I had with my mom at the end of her life, when I essentially had to do a one-sided monologue.
At the time of my mom’s stroke, I was hindered by having a broken leg and experiencing difficulty getting around myself.
The point is, stroke victims and all ill patients having a wide spectrum of ailments need to be in our thoughts and prayers. They need contact and communication to avoid loneliness. We need to give them our presence when we can, but also comfort them with hints, clues, and reminders of memories (old and new memories).
If we can’t be there personally, we can and should send stand-ins or surrogates to display a presence.
Coming back from Colorado Springs, I again returned to Great Bend via a different route (this time via K-96).
I wish my mom and Dolores could have seen the camels and exotic animals on the farm at the western edge of Great Bend. The sights and sounds of Great Bend have changed drastically since the year 1922, but Barton County is always a great inspiration to me since it was home to Mom and her twin-sister.
I just hope future generations will be mindful of the heritage which began in and around Great Bend.
James A. Marples