"If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story." -Orson Welles

No, I do not want only happy endings. What I want is for the stories to be shared, to never have to stop because the story teller is no longer telling. I want stories to be somewhere for us to look back on, to smile or cry about, to remember - both our own memories and those of others around us.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Grandpa Varden, College and Medical School and beyond

This is from a conversation my cousin Genet had with our Grandpa Varden, summer of 2014.

There is quite a lot to it, so it will be in installments. This is the third part. You can start at the beginning here, and the story continues with part two here.

{You got back and did you always know you wanted to go to Bethel?}
It was just kind of routine.

{Did you know what you wanted to do yet?}
I kind of figured I would probably teach like my dad and my mother had. But after my freshman year at Bethel, Dr. Kreider (sp?) who was my chemistry teacher, asked me if I had ever thought of going into medicine. I aced his chemistry test and he dropped the hint that I should probably go to medical school. Up to that point I hadn't thought much about it. He's the one who encouraged me and that's probably when I changed my major. I stayed in natural sciences mainly and took the requirements to go to medical school.

{What did you do for fun when you were in college? What did you enjoy most about it?}
Oh, dating Lu.

{How did you meet her?}
Freshman year. Required Life of Christ course. There was a girl in the class that had on white makeup. She was trying to hide her deep tan, her farmer's tan. So she was quite obvious. Plus she had a dress that was kind of open here (use your imagination).
I think the first date we had we went to... a college Christian organization of some kind had a picnic. I had some other dates after that with some other girls, but after about the first semester why,

{This was your freshman year? So what made you choose her over the other girls? What did you like about her?}
That's a hard question. I don't know. It's easy comparing you to Mary Katherine, but I can't say why.

She was neat and trim and friendly. What else were you?

{How long did you date her before you figured out you wanted to marry her?}
I imagine it was probably our junior year.
After our freshman year it wasn't "will you go with me to this?" it was "What time shall I pick you up?"

{And you said you never proposed to her? Or did you?}
We had a banquet one night and I made a ring out of wax that had melted off the candle.
It was a college banquet, probably our junior year.
Well, I just kind of took for granted that we were getting married. Then when I got accepted to medical school we managed to decide pretty quickly that we would go there together, so we were getting married.

{When did you get married? Right after you graduated?}
We graduated one day and got married a couple days later and medical school started the week after that.

{Did you have a big wedding? Who was there?}
Denard was my best man, in spite of all the fights we had. And Fernan kind of screwed it up. He thought he had to take charge, and Lu finally put him in his place. Mom was... I think she lost her three boys the same summer. We all got married the same summer, and that was kind of tough on her.

I think of all the girls we married, she felt like Lu was... well, she was. I don't know how you say it. I got the cream of the crop. I think she realized that.

{So was it important for you that your family and your mom liked her?}
Denard and Lanoy thought she was great because she came over and cooked for us every once in a while. We were together often enough that she was like a sister to them by the time we got married.

{Did you guys have a honeymoon?}
Medical school started right away. Our honeymoon was we spent the night in Peabody on the way to Lawrence.

{Where did you live in Lawrence, and how many years were you there?}
At that time, the first year was in Lawrence. We had a house near the campus, an apartment. It was kind of an unpleasant situation. It was a second floor apartment. The lady that owned the house, her son lived on the first floor with his wife and she would stick her nose into our apartment and complain about how we were taking care of it.
After three or four months we moved out and got a different place in Lawrence.

When we moved to Kansas City, there was a house just a block from the medical center. A spinster woman lived there, and she lived int he back part. the kitchen was int he middle. The front part had a bedroom and kind of a living room. We fixed her meals; she ate with us. We bought all the food an d fixed the meals. That paid for our rent. Lu was working at the medical center and I was in school so it worked out very well

{How long was medical school? Where did you get hired after that?}
Well in medical school you have to take an internship as part of the residency program. I went to Wesley Hospital in Wichita. After one year, I stayed on with a couple of surgeons and worked for them for one year in anticipation of maybe taking a surgery residency. But after that year I decided to go into family practice, moved to McPherson.

{During school, where did the income come from?}
Lu's job paid for our living expenses. Tuition wasn't that much of a problem. It was $500 a quarter. I borrowed some money from my Uncle Albert who was very pleased to help me through medical school. We left medical school with less than a $5,000 debt.

{So you moved to McPherson and how long was it before you guys decided to have kids?}
Actually, when we knew that I would start earning a little money at the internship we decided we would start our family.

{How old were you when my dad was born?}
28. Older than a lot of people

{Did you have a specific number of kids you wanted? Or preference for boys or girls?}
I think three was kind of what we had in mind. Didn't care boys or girls.

{What were your thoughts on being a dad right when your first was born? How did you feel?}
It changed our life dramatically. We weren't footloose and fancy free anymore. Lu had most of the duties. In my internship I spent some nights at the hospital completely and she'd have to take care of Marcus entirely. But it felt pretty good being a dad.

{What are your favorite memories of your kids when they were young? And the worst memories?}
Worst part was getting up at night when they needed to be fed or changed.
The best part was taking them for a ride in their carriage. I have a picture of your dad (Marcus) turning around looking at me like "Why'd you stop? Let's go!"

{How would you describe your parenting style? What values did you want to instill?}
Mostly we wanted them to be Christian. Wanted them to be self-sufficient. We wanted them to be friends with everybody.

{Do you feel like your kids ended up the way you wanted to? Did you have problems with teenage rebellion?}
I can say that our kids never embarrassed us. Of course, you have problems. I mean, disagreements at times, but I think overall we're very proud of all our children. They've done very well. They make a good contribution with their lives. That's one thing we're very pleased with. They, well, you know for instance your dad is a friend to everybody, involved in church and so forth.Valerie involved in so many things, church work, Camp Mennoscah, and serving the needy sick people. I think we could probably say the same thing about our grandkids, too. Except for your tattoo!

{What was your favorite age of your kids? The most fun you had as a dad?}
Probably preschool age. I'd come home and they'd come running down the front sidewalk hollering "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" We'd go in and have supper, and I'd read to them for an hour or two
. Just a pretty happy time.

{How did you feel when Blair left for college? Empty nest?}
It was different. OF course, we had a foreign exchange student come that year. That made us appreciate our kids much more.

{Who was that?}
A kid from Sweden... He made us appreciate our own kids very much. He thought a good time was going to a bar with his buddies. We didn't have one in Moundridge, so he thought life was pretty dull. We paid for his meal at school. If Lu wasn't going to be home at noon he'd sneak home to eat and take the money to buy records.

{How did you feel when your kids started dating and getting married? Did you have guidelines? Did you feel differently about  Valerie than you did with the boys?}
Yeah. We didn't think anybody was good enough for Valerie. Not everybody, but there were quite a few picks that would be good enough for the boys. Valerie didn't have any dates in high school. She was a tall girl. She had another friend that was also a tall girl and they were pretty much all business. They were ahead of the boys in their class as far as their ideals and what they wanted to do in school. So we didn't have any trouble with her. She had friends in school. I know that after commencement every year at Moundridge High School we had the class over for as long as they wanted to stay. Most all of her class was there except for a couple of boys that went out on a beer binge, and you probably don't know him, but fellow that teaches forensics at Bethel (John McCabe-Juhnke) was in the same class as Valerie. In fact, they went kindergarten to college together. And one of those boys was half-drunk came and brought the food he was supposed to have brought and John ran him off.

Our kids never gave us any trouble.

Kind of wondered about John because he didn't finish college, but that's a good match. He's a terrific son-in-law.

As far as the boys were concerned, they didn't have a lot of date sin high school. Neither one fo them had anything serious.

{So was it hard to give your  kids away when they all got married?}
No. We were happy with their choices. Kind of afraid for Marcus, that Cynthia would beat him up.
I don't know how many times Marcus and Cynthia chased each other around that hallway at the house.

{Was it hard when my parents (Marcus and Cynthia) moved to Columbia?}
Yeah. It was. We thought their choice was a great choice, as far as that goes, good service, but going that far away... and Columbia wasn't the most safe haven in the world, so we were concerned about that.

{Are you thankful that all your kids live fairly close?}
That's nice.

{How old were you when you retired?}
72, I think.

{Did you thoroughly enjoy your career? Best and worst?}
Most of the time. There are times I would like to forget about. It was a very nice career. I think I am respected in the community. You go to the doctor's office, somebody is almost always there. I can't think of anybody that has ill will against me or that I have ill will against.

{What are you favorite parts about your career?}
Just seeing people get better. Being responsible for their improved health. Just the whole service, even to help somebody pass away comfortably, both physically and mentally.

{So were you ready to retire? Was it hard?}
No, I think I was ready.

{Do you miss working?}

{What have you been doing?}
Taking care of the other place took time. Involved in some church work. Nothing very stressful at all.

{Looking back on your whole life, what do you think were your favorite year?}
I think when the kids were home, from grade school through high school, and everybody was well. No physical problems of any kind, and making a contribution in both the community and the church.

{Do you have any regrets?}
My biggest regret is that I had a lady in labor, and we gave her a little pitocin to help her move along, and we ruptured her uterus. Worst day of my life. The baby was okay, and the mother ended up with I don't know how many blood transfusions. She's alright also, but it was the longest day of my life.

{If you could go back and change anything about your life, would you?}
I don't think so.

{What was the most difficult time of your life?}
I think when my father died. That period of time and then through the war.

{Can you remember when you were 21? That's how old I am. When you were 21, what was your perspective on life at that point and how has it changed?}
When I was 21, I was a freshman at Bethel. I think I've pretty well lived the life that I wanted. At 21 I hadn't chosen a profession. I thought possibly being a teacher, but I don't think I varied much from... I probably didn't think about it much at that time. I knew I woudl finish college, get married, and have a family. And teach.

{When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?}
I just probably thought I'd be a teacher, since my dad and mom both were. I don't think I had any earth-shaking aspirations of any kind.

{Are you glad you grew up in the era you grew up in? Would you want to be a 21-year-old now?}
No. I don't think ... I lived my life. There are some thing I wouldn't want to do again. Most things were pleasurable but I don't have any regrets. I don't need to do it over.

{Is there anything else you still want to do?}
A lot of the things you'd like to see happen but can't control. I get discouraged every time I read the darn newspaper. Like what's going on in Iraq, what's going on in the state of Kansas as far as our governor and education and taxes. Like how much money we're spending on our military and people are hungry and all the problems int he world. I kind of think maybe it's tie to get off, let somebody else solve the problems.

{What do you imagine heaven to be like? What do you think happens after death?}
There's a book out just recently that a doctor that was almost declared dead. Before he went through this experience he said he was a Christmas and Easter Christian. While he was in limbo he thought he experienced heaven. He doesn't describe it very well but...

I've often thought that our spirit is something like steam that connects with other spirits. You kind of wish you knew what it was like, but I don't believe in any bodily resurrection at all. Somehow our spirit persists, but not in any kind of a physical form. Also we'll be able to mingle with our spirits. In what way I'm not sure. Just an unknown thing that I'm not too concerned about.

{What is your proudest accomplishment in life?}
I guess my three kids.

{When you were grown up or even now, who was your biggest hero? Biggest influence?}
I think my father, just the example of... he spent his life in service, in education. He spent his life serving students as well as taking care of his family as well as he could. I often wondered what he felt like when he knew he was going to pass away, leaving a family with teenage kids, insufficient finances. He spend his life in a profession that didn't pay well. His example of service was probably the biggest influence in my life.

{Was he pretty positive when he got sick?}
Oh, yes. I never saw him shed a tear.

{Did he ever talk about his death?}
No. That's something I feel bad about. I don't think I spent enough time with him during that time.

{You and grandma have been married for 64 years. What is the most important thing in your marriage? Keys to that?}
I think first of all our ideals are similar. Both being Christians, living a life of service. Physically compatible, that's a big part of it.

{Have you ever had any rough patches? Was there ever a time when marriage was hard?}
We've had a few disagreements. Never had any spats that lasted. No, I don't think there was, I can't think of anything major that happened.

{What kind of advice would you give young people now in regards to choosing the right person and sustaining a good marriage?}
Identify that you're going to disagree sometimes, but it shouldn't be anything major. Settle all issues before you go to bed. Do things together. Have some similar hobbies you can share time with. And agree to disagree. Give each other some space. I think financially, you need to agree on what's important and necessary and what isn't.

{I want to know more about the banquet. You said you proposed with a wax candle ring.}
The candle was melting and I just took the wax and made her engagement ring.

{You didn't say anything? You just put it on her finger and that was it?}

{Well, what did she do?}
She wore it home!

{When you put it on her finger? Did she laugh?}
I don't remember. She didn't take it off.

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