Back in August I published my Grandpa’s book of poetry entitled, A Country Life: A Collection of Poems. It’s a project that I’ve been working on for about a year. My Grandpa loved writing poems. He intended to someday publish his poetry, but he died before realizing that dream. I found a collection of his poems in an old file cabinet at my parent’s home. One folder contained several poems centered around the theme of country living. Grandpa had titled the folder, “A Country Life.”
Grandpa wrote thousands of poems, including poems for two of our Presidents (Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter). One of his poems, celebrating Gerald Ford’s inauguration is located at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
For the next three days you can download his book for free for Kindle. Please take a moment to download the book as my gift to you. If you get a chance to read it, please consider leaving feedback on Amazon.
Here is the introduction that I wrote for the book. I hope this gives you a better idea of who my Grandpa was.
In many ways, I had an idyllic childhood. No child understands that when they are growing up. Idyllic doesn’t mean perfect, but I had a home that was surrounded with love. My parents celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary last year. They are very much in love, and never failed to demonstrate that love to my brothers, my sister and me. My grandparents on both sides lived near us. They loved their grandchildren, and poured that love into us with their time, their laughter, their gifts, and their stories.
As a child, my brothers and I spent a lot of time with my mother’s parents. Her mom, Helen, would eventually come to live with us when my Grandpa Art passed away. I was just a young boy when Grandpa died, but somehow I can’t get the memories out of my mind of afternoons spent around his television set watching the Chicago Cubs play baseball on WGN television. After the games we’d sit around his chair and listen to him tell us stories. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of the afternoons spent at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Grandpa also loved the great outdoors. Feeding the ducks at the park and watching his grandsons fish were some of his favorite activities.
My Grandpa Art was a tool and die maker. He didn’t have much of an education. He earned his high school diploma as an adult, and went to night school to become a Doctor of Naprapathy, a system of treating disease that employed no medication but used the manipulation of muscles, joints and ligaments to stimulate the natural healing process. It was something in which he took a lot of pride. I think he loved helping others deal with pain, because he had so much of it in his life.
When he was just ten years old, my Grandpa’s mother died. Grandpa’s dad would marry again. He found a sweet woman who loved Grandpa and his siblings like they were her own. I’m not sure Grandpa ever got over losing his mother, but he loved his stepmother.
The pain in his life would come in waves. When he became a parent, before my mother was born, my grandparents lost their son, Teddy. It was during the Great Depression. My grandparents opened up their home to a family in need. The child in that family had meningitis. Soon, Teddy caught meningitis. He was just a little boy, so full of life, the apple of his parents’ eyes. He died in the hospital in just a few days. Our English language has no words for a parent who has lost a child. It’s just too painful. It’s not the natural order of things. When a spouse dies we are a widow or widower. When a parent dies we are an orphan. But, when our children die we just grieve, and grieve and grieve. Teddy was my grandparents’ only child at the time.
The Lord would see fit to give my grandparents two little girls in the convening years. Art’s daughters, Beatrice and Marlene were now his great delight. Eventually two young men, Gordon and Larry, stole his daughters’ hearts. God would also bless Grandpa with seven grandsons (Mark, Randy, Brian and Kevin Schulenburg and Steve, Dan and Andy Pearson) in whom he took great delight, and a granddaughter (Jenny Schulenburg) who was born after he died, and whom he will meet in heaven. I know he is going to love meeting Jenny in heaven someday. She shares many of his same passions and is quite a poet herself! One of the poems Grandpa wrote is called “Jennie.” Even though the poem “Jennie” is about his pet rabbit, I like to think it is a special gift from the Lord for a girl that never got to meet her Grandpa.
In his later years, Grandpa developed severe diabetes. He lost some toes and eventually a leg to the disease. Through all the pain he still had a twinkle in his eyes and a story on his tongue. A relative of mine recently saw some old family photos that I posted on Facebook. She commented, “I don’t ever remember a time that your grandpa wasn’t smiling. And, your grandma was just the sweetest! Loved them both so much.”
I don’t know when my Grandpa Art started writing poetry. It could be that he wrote poetry throughout his entire life. I think Grandpa’s poetry became a sort of therapy for him. Like me, he remembered his childhood as being idyllic. It was a simpler time. He grew up on a farm in Michigan with parents, brothers and sisters, and grandparents who loved him. This book is a compilation of poems that he wrote, intending to someday publish. I found the poems in a folder while preparing to move my parents out of my boyhood home and into their retirement home. He had put a title on the folder that contained the poetry – A Country Life.
In the pages that follow, you will see the memories of a boy growing up on a Michigan farm from around 1906-1926. I hope that Grandpa’s poems will inspire and encourage you. Beyond that, I hope that you will take delight in Grandpa’s God. He was above all things a man of faith. He loved Jesus with all of his heart. He loved his wife. He loved his daughters. He loved his sons-in-law. And he loved his grandchildren. It was his faith in Christ that was his beacon of light in the darkest of days, his compass on the journey of life, and his hope for eternity.
The pages herein contain the poems of a man who was continually in awe of the creative genius of God. The poems cover the beautiful themes of family, faith, discovery, nature, scrumptious food, boyhood adventures, busy towns, and sleepy meadows. Farmers, their wives, rascally sons, a hermit, pet rabbits and trusty horses all play prominent roles in the narrative of the poetry. Each poem tells a story of a time when the pace of life was simpler. Families were in tune with each other; not continually connected to electronic devices. Relationships with friends and neighbors mattered. Shared meals, piping hot coffee, hard work, and prayer were part of everyday life for the Swedish immigrants living on a farm near Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Some of Grandpa’s poems share the same title. Apparently, he wasn’t real creative when it came to titling his poems. So, if you see duplicate titles on poems, don’t fret, the content is different.
I hope that you will enjoy A Country Life, as much as I have. These poems have made a Grandpa, who passed away when I was just eleven years old, come back alive to me. The time that I have spent typing his poetry on my computer’s keyboard has felt like a gift to me. I feel like I have received a few more hours of Grandpa’s time, mixed with practical bits of homespun wisdom, charm, and delightful stories.
Enjoy . . . A Country Life.
Art’s Third Grandson