Brother Mark Turns 60

Mark Steinhoff - Robin Hirsch wedding 09-08-2014Brother Mark turned 60 on March 10. It’s hard to believe. It seems like it was just yesterday that Mother, Son Adam and I snuck up to St. Louis to attend a surprise birthday party for his 50th trip around the sun.

This picture was taken when he and Robin got married September 8, 2014. Dad’s construction company had a whole bunch of padlocks with a key code of 2406, so we used them over the years on family locks in at least four states. Giving a 2406 to Robin meant that she was now, officially, a Steinhoff.

One of my all-time favorites

Mary - Mark Steinhoff KY Lake 10-16-08This shot of Mother and Mark in front of the trailer at Kentucky Lake is one of my favorite pictures of the two of them. Sometimes you’d love to be able to go back and relive a moment.

Mark through the years

I’m not going to use ALL of my Mark pictures for his 60th. He may have a few more birthdays to go, and I need to dole them out. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move around.

Bald Headed Men of America

LV Steinhoff Bald Headed Men of America 1973

In 1973, I sponsored Dad to a lifetime membership in the Bald Headed Men of America. He started losing his hair in his 20s, so I knew I was going to be destined to comb my hair with a washrag. He was self conscious about it, Mother said, and always wore a hat when he was younger.

When he got older, he said one of the few things he missed about having hair was the protection it gave you against sunburn and scraping your head on stuff.

Check out my comb-over

Ken Steinhoff in PBNI Photo dept 06-1970I didn’t have any room to talk. By 1976, this photo taken in the Palm Beach Post photo department, will demonstrate I was sporting a serious comb-over. In my defense, I can only say that when you are combing your hair, you are look straight into your face, not at the top of your head. You’ve been parting your hair since childhood, so you don’t sense that your part keeps creeping closer and closer to your ear.

My moment of truth came when I was riding in an open National Guard jeep on the way to photograph their summer camp. I felt my hair streaming out about a foot and thought, “Kid, your hair is going to get caught the in rearview mirror of a passing semi and you’re going to be dragged to an ignoble death.”

I visited a barber when I got back to town, and said, “It’s time.”

(I don’t think it’s necessary for you to click on the photo to make it larger.)

Founder J.T. Capps III

LV Steinhoff Bald Headed Men of America 1973I did a quick Google search for BHMA founder J.T. Capps III, figuring his obit would have some interesting tidbit I could add to the post. It turned out that he’s still alive and promoting beautiful heads – at least as late as 2015.

Maybe guys who don’t waste energy growing hair live longer. I certainly hope so.

Newsletter

LV Steinhoff Bald Headed Men of America 1973The organization even had a newsletter that came out quarterly. The July 1974 noted that Vice President Gerald Ford had been made the group’s first honorary member.

 

Dutchtown: Flood of 1993

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993Some of you have been wondering where I’ve been. I was busy in Cape getting a boat ready to pull down to Florida for Kid Adam, then it was a long slog south because of weather. When you’ve been gone from home for months, there are a number of things you have to catch up on. If you don’t accept all those excuses, I’ll have to fall back on “the dog ate my homework” and hope you don’t know that I don’t own a dog. (I’m owned by a cat, but they rarely eat homework.)

OK, to bring us back to the headline, I was in Chicago for phone switch training when the Flood of 1993 was going on. I told the boss that I’d pay any difference in ticket price to do a stopover in Missouri for a couple of days, so I could see the high water.

Dad’s construction company owned a piece of ground at the southeast corner of Highways 25 and 74 in Dutchtown. It had gone under in 1973, and was revisited by water backing up from the Mississippi River in 1993. Brother Mark and I rented a canoe to explore the property at the height of the flood. The building we’re headed toward was what we called the mechanics shed.

Big enough to hold heavy equipment

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993The building had a super-thick slab strong enough to hold bulldozers and draglines when they needed repair and maintenance. Half of it was set aside for mechanical and welding work, and the other side had storage cabinets and a carpentry setup.

The first challenge was how to open the door. The Master lock was located just beyond where you could reach it comfortably without tipping the canoe over. My key ring, 22 years later, is still bent from trying to twist the lock open.

Not a pretty sight

Mark’s first peek showed stuff bobbing around all over the place. We lost some good table and band saws because we never thought the water would come up so high and so fast.

How do we get through the door?

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993The next challenge was how to get a wide canoe through a narrow door. It was part of family lore that Dad once built a boat in a basement on Themis street, then figured out it was too big to get out. I never knew for sure if that was true, and he’s not around to either confirm or deny the story.

I REALLY didn’t want to go swimming, and I REALLY, REALLY didn’t want to spill all my camera gear in the drink, but how can you pass up an opportunity like this?

I went first

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993I managed get the bow of the canoe far enough into the building to rig a 2×8 or 2×10 board between the top of a cabinet and some shelving, and clambered out. Mark handed up everything that was in the boat and followed my lead.

Once the boat was empty, he was able to twist it enough to get it through the door.

Mark doesn’t look comfortable

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993He’s giving me the look that says, “I bet you’ve rigged that board to dump me. I can’t figure out HOW you did it, but I’m pretty sure something nasty is going to happen.”

Snakes?

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993He looked even more uncomfortable when I started sharing snake stories from other floods and hurricanes I had covered. “Don’t forget,” I warned him, “snakes are looking for high ground, and they might mistake you for high ground.”

Compressor was flood casualty

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993There was a huge, industrial-size air compressor on the mechanic side of the shed that wasn’t bolted to the floor. When the water came up, the air tank on the bottom started to float, but the heavy motor and compressor on the top caused the unit to flip over. Had it been bolted down, the water wouldn’t have gotten up high enough to do any damage. Mark’s using the big ceiling hoist to get it out of the water.

We asked someone if they thought the compressor was salvageable, but we were told that the motor was probably shot. We gave it no thought for about ten years until Brother-in-Law John came down to help us with something. He said he’d take the thing off our hands.

Sure enough, when I went over to his shop a couple of weeks ago, the compressor was puttering away as good as new. I’m glad it found a good home.

On the same side as the compressor was our ski boat, The Mary Lou, floating, still attached to its trailer. (You’ll hear more about The Mary Lou later.)

Water marks

Mark Steinhoff - Dutchtown Flood of 1993When I got back to Cape several months later, the armpit-high water marks on the buildings were still evident. Mark may be my “little brother,” but he’s not that little.

I saw drone aerial photos of the property shot a couple of days ago. The water is already into the buildings, and I suspect that Mark and I could take a canoe through the big shed pretty much the same at 1993 if the water crests as high as predicted.

 

I Guess It’s Time

Mary Steinhoff funeral 06-24-2015It’s been three weeks since the early-morning phone call from the Lutheran Home telling me that I had become an orphan. In those three weeks, we wrapped up a wedding in Tulsa, held a funeral service, scattered the family in all directions, and started to deal with all the minutia of unraveling someone’s life. Brother Mark and Robin have done a great job of starting to box and discard. He was elected to be the one to handle all the executor stuff. While he was doing that, I skipped town for a week to go to Ohio to set up some projects there.

So, I’m back in a house that is slowly looking less and less like the place I grew up. I find myself talking to myself – usually griping, like when the alarm goes off – to fill the silence.

As I described in the last post, Mother wanted a simple funeral – no church, no sad songs, a balloon release and happy memories. What we ended up with was a unique send-off that contained elements even the funeral director said he hadn’t seen before.

About three dozen attended

Mary Steinhoff obit card Funeral Docs 03 06-24-2015The funeral home register contained about three dozen signatures, and nearly 500 readers “liked” my obituary post. She got quite a send-off. I was even pleased to see several of Mother’s favorites from the nursing home staff show up.

Brother David and I spoke briefly; at the last minute, we consented to having a Bible verse read, and David asked to have Over the Rainbow played while the attendees left the service.

The publisher of The Gastonia Gazette threw a big party every year for advertisers and news sources. It included lots of good food and a band. A stereotypical old Southern Belle stopped the band in mid-song saying in honey-dipped tones, “They played that song at muh daddy’s funeral. I can’t stand to hear it.”

At the time, I thought she was overly full of drama and entitlement, but I know, now, that I will never think Wizard of Oz when I hear Over the Rainbow.

Signs of respect

Mary Steinhoff funeral 06-24-2015Mother always liked to ride down a road she had never been down before, so I guess her final ride qualified for that. It reminded me a bit of the 2001 Birthday Season when we rented a couple of limos to take her and her friends out to dinner. They were honored that so many people lined Broadway that evening to see them go by (not realizing the crowds were setting up for SEMO’s Homecoming parade.

I love how cars in Cape pull off to the side as a funeral procession goes by. The most touching moment was when we passed a group of three or four construction workers wearing their day-glo shirts. The men straightened up, pulled off their caps and held them over their hearts. It happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to get a photo. Like I’ve said before, some days you make pictures; some days you make memories. I’ll never forget their gesture toward someone they never knew.

Stay or leave?

Mary Steinhoff funeral 06-24-2015Mark and I had a last-minute discussion about what we would do when we got to the cemetery. I told him I’d be happy to leave before the casket was lowered into the ground, but he said he wanted to be there until the very end.

See you later”

Mary Steinhoff funeral 06-24-2015David asked if there was anything wrong with scratching something onto the top of the casket. There were no objections, so he carved on it, “See you later,” the phrase Mother always used instead of “Goodbye.” Before long, a bunch of us were leaving last messages. David’s daughters tossed bridal bouquets on the casket, and Son Matt left behind Groucho Marx glasses (more about that later).

David turns the crank

Mary Steinhoff funeral 06-24-2015We Steinhoffs are curious folks, so Brother David asked the young grave digger (I don’t know if that’s his official title) lots of questions. He let David push the button that lowered the casket into the vault, but explained that the vault and casket weighted about 2,300 pounds, so a heavier cable set was used to finish the job. David turned the crank that lowered the vault into its final resting place.

Despite my earlier trepidations, focusing on the mechanics and the process helped distract us from the contents of the box we were lowering into the ground. Instead of being a morbid experience, the great-grandkids were fascinated by what was going on. I think it was healthy for all of us.

“That’s your dad next to her”

Mary Steinhoff funeral 06-24-2015When the vault was finally in the hole, the young gravedigger said, if you look toward the head end, you can see something that looks like a cave. If you look even more closely, that’s the edge of your dad’s vault showing.

It was comforting to see that after 37 years and a few odd weeks that Mother and Dad were going to be side-by-side again.

The celebration begins

Mary Steinhoff funeral 06-24-2015Mother always like to watch to car dealer over on Kingshighway cut loose the balloons tied to its cars, so she wanted a balloon release at the cemetery.

Popping the corks

Mary Steinhoff funeral 06-24-2015 What would a celebration of life be without Champagne and a toast?

When I got back home

Mary Steinhoff funeral 06-24-2015When I got back home, two envelopes were waiting for me by my computer. I had been up until 4 a.m. the night before putting together a slide show for the viewing, which caused Wife Lila and me to leave separately from the rest of the family.

Mark explained what they were later:

I had made up a little packet for everyone in the family and some others and gave them out right before they let us view mother. Since you arrived at a different time, I did not get yours to you. I left them on the desk by your computer. The glasses commemorate her photo at Ky Lake and the tissues are obvious.

Mark’s thoughts

 

Mary Steinhoff funeral 06-24-2015Also in the packet was a one-page document: “I wrote the thoughts on my phone while sitting on the couch with her one night at home before she went to Lutheran Home.

I’m glad I didn’t see it before the service because that small box of tissues wouldn’t have been near enough. He summed up so well what some of those long nights were like.

“Playing like we are happy?”

Weak as a kitten, boney as an old cat… I rub the back of my 93-year-old mother as she drifts off to sleep on her couch at home.

Her pajama top is brushed combed cotton so rubbing her feels just like kitten fur. She wakes herself up and says to me “What are we doing?” And I say “Sitting on the couch together” and then she says , “Playing like we are happy?”….”Yes, like we are happy.”

Outside the window

Sunset by Mary Steinhoff 11-09-2014_050The sun has sunk down behind the trees and so has she, sunk, bent forward sleeping in her own lap. How is this possible? Her skin is like onion paper and tears so easily yet she is flexible enough to sleep in her own lap. Cars drive by the house outside the window on their way to someplace. While she sleeps going no place yet somewhere in her mind she is far away.

We are both sitting side by side here on the couch and neither one of us not wanting to be here at this place at all.

Damn you, time

Damn you memories. Damn you time.

Damn you Vulcan Spock for not having emotions.

Why only you?

This time is different

This time is different.

In the past, had the top scoop fallen off my ice cream cone, I could have gone in and gotten another one. This time, this time I can only look at the scoop on the ground and watch it melt away.

Seems like a lifetime ago when I was in the basement of this house stringing tinsel on a Christmas tree. Only slightly worrying about what I would get as presents. Who is that kid and how many trees have come and gone since then?  Seems odd that I have all the original tree ornaments and they look the very same as back then and everything else has gotten older and somewhat tarnished.

Did I sleep too much?

Did I sleep too much, did I waste the days, the moments and the minutes? I want to roll some of them, actually a lot of them back, please. I want to savor them now more than I did when it was a fleeting moment.

So what happens?  Like at the moment you turn off an old tube TV set and the picture suddenly disappears and shrinks to a white dot before the screen goes completely dark, is that what happens?

It’s going to be hard to “play like we are happy” very hard indeed.

I feel cheated

I think I want my money back. I want to review the warranty closer and really read the fine print.  ‘Cause I think I missed something, feeling cheated is how I can best explain it. I guess I should have gotten the extended warranty.

I’m not so noble that I want to trade places. I just want to beat, if not cheat, the system a tiny bit. Not stepping on the, “…And on the third day he rose…” story, more of a “Lazarus take up your bed and walk” turnabout fair play thingy. Can you blame a guy?

Graveside photo gallery

Steinhoff plot 06-25-2015 IMG_1369Well, I got to use Mark’s box of tissues. I edited the photos right after the service, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to write about it. I’ve gone on to shoot some other stories, but I didn’t feel like I could post them until I got this one out of the way. Maybe we can get back to our regularly scheduled programming. I won’t promise that I’ll keep up my old daily schedule, but I’ve missed you all.

Thank you for all the cards you sent to Mother at the Lutheran Home, and thank you for the support and love you have sent to the Steinhoff family.

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Copyright © Ken Steinhoff. All rights reserved.