I have continued to think and rethink how to tell the story of my life with Chuck Wendel. He was a remarkable man, and though he became severely disabled less than a year after we married, he was a truly unique and intelligent gentleman. We often talked about how fortunate we were that his mind remained sharp and he could continue to talk after just a little physical therapy. When we met, because of our ages, we were realistic about potential illness. I had recovered from uterine cancer. He has suffered a stroke on his left side, and being left- handed, had to learn to do everything with his right. In fact, he typed one handed the last three books he published including the one on the history of the steam locomotive.
During the next seven years, I learned about rural Iowa living and farming. Being a city girl, I knew little about farm life. During the time we were together, I got a very good education on the hard life of early immigrants who were Chuck’s, how they made homes for themselves in the wilderness, and how they lived. I learned about tractors, steam traction engines, and gas engines, along with the history of his family and marveled at the books he had written and the many things he was able to accomplish, even after his first stroke.
I also became his full- time caregiver, and though we had hopes that rehab would bring some of the mobility back to his right side, he was never able to stand or use his right hand. Some of the movement came back to his left hand, so he was able to operate the joy -stick on an electric wheel chair. We were both problem solvers, and as his disability became more severe, we worked on ways to get things done. He could find ways to show me how to do things I had never imagined I was capable of doing. I became acquainted with wood working. Learned to use several different kinds of saws, built shelves, learned to use the electric screwdriver, and several other tools, with which I had little acquaintance in my life before Chuck.
While there were dark days early in his illness, and I coped with his anger and frustration. Eventually we began to work together and as we found so much in common, our love remained. Hurt sometimes by his fits of anger and bitterness, I managed to keep my patience. Some might wonder why we did not consider a nursing home, but that was really out of the question. We knew that would probably kill him as the experiences we had early on were scary.
After Chuck’s death, I thought I would write a biography of his life. As the months passed, it was suggested that I might share my experiences as a full -time caregiver. Maybe reading about our struggles, it would encourage others to find their answers to all the challenges that caretakers face. I have compiled lots of facts about Chuck’s life and can weave these into to “our” story. So that is what I have decided to do. I will share with my readers our victories and mistakes. I will try to help them appreciate the great man that Chuck was and how proud I have been to have the few years we had together.
I will also describe living in Amana, Iowa. It is a truly unique place with a fascinating history of its own. So I will begin by sharing our courtship and marriage. I hope you will enjoy reading our story and get to know both of us before my tale is through.