REFLECTIONS. “Off Kilter.” I was surprised that this particular old man was sitting in my law office, at night, talking and talking and talking. I hardly knew him. He seemed to know me. Well, that could be explained by his reading about me in the Montevideo or Willmar newspapers. Still, there was more that was off kilter about him. Some of what he was saying were things that most men don’t talk about, even with best friends. I listened, and listened, and wondered whether something was wrong, some help that he needed and I wasn’t recognizing. Eventually, he left. I was relieved. The next morning I learned that he, once a powerhouse in the community, had died sometime during the night, away from home, with his body found downtown. It was then that I realized that he, without him knowing it, was already in the medical emergency that took his life, when he was sitting in my office, talking, not quite incoherently.
A few years ago, Mom, despite disability, walked from her home, a few blocks away, to a friend’s house, to be with me, and “just to help” with work I was doing there. I sensed there was something off kilter, something I was not realizing. Well, the work wouldn’t wait, and Mom’s help would be welcome. Minutes later, Mom collapsed into my arms. I eased her to the ground, the friend called for an ambulance, and I held Mom and comforted her while we waited for help. Mom died, a few weeks later, from that heart attack. Had she or I recognized the trouble soon enough, and gotten medical care then, she would have lived even longer than her 93 years.
I became acquainted with a neighbor. Soon, we were spending a whole lot of time together. One evening, I noticed that something was off kilter about her behavior. I told her something was wrong, that she needed medical help. She insisted that it was nothing, that she’d be better tomorrow. This time, I didn’t relent. When given the chance of riding to the ER with me or calling an ambulance, she “humored” me, and rode. Together, in the ER, we heard the diagnosis. She spent a few days in the hospital, being treated for pneumonia. When she was released, I took her home.
Why have I taken your time, readers, with these old stories? For very good cause, for something that happened mere days ago. I talked with a good hearted person, a friend. Friend’s conversation was muddled. Friend did not remember known names, perhaps even mine. I should have told Friend of my concern. I did not. It was a BIG mistake. I have my “fingers crossed”, hoping that no untreated medical emergency is upon Friend, and that I was right in assuming that stress or some other non-emergency situation is the cause.
Readers, and that includes you, Friend, please, please realize that when things get off kilter, it is a warning, a warning that all too often is ignored. Heed the warning. If you see that things are too off kilter with someone else, intervene, and do your best to see to it that the person receives help, and is restored to health.
NEWS OF VERY LONG AGO. “August 4, 1869.” Mr. John A. Stewart, whose wife and brother were drowned July 1st, in Clanton Creek near St. Charles, Warren county, came on board the cars yesterday at Monroe, bearing in his arms the little motherless babe, all that is left of his family. He was on his way to Illinois, taking the little boy home to its grandmother. We sat down near him, and while he related the sad story, tears rolled down his cheeks. He had come to Warren county last spring from Illinois, his brother coming along. He had just got up a little house--had some land broke--was on a fair road to happiness and wealth--when like a thunderbolt, came this sad affair. On the day above mentioned, his wife and brother were returning from a visit to a neighbor--coming to a creek and being strangers--ventured in--the wagon upset and they were dashed into the foaming flood. Their cries brought some men that were near by, but too late. Mrs. Stewart lodged in a drift and perished; her brother-in-law floated in some distance below. But the blessed little babe floated on top of the water and was rescued by one of the men.
As he entered the cars, some kind hearted lady, who accompanied him, called the attention of the women in the car to the fact of its having no mother, and that she hoped they would aid Mr. Stewart in taking care of it and help keep it from crying. Half a dozen voices said “we will.”
Many a sympathizing face turned to the little motherless babe; many an anxious ear listened to the sad, sorrowful story and many a bosom heaved with emotions for the heart-stricken father, whose face told the mournful tale. As the dear little motherless babe looked up in our face, how vivid came the words of our Savior, “Suffer little children to come unto me, for such is the kingdom of Heaven.”
Readers, what you have just read is an exact quote from the Madisonian’s August 4, 1869, issue. You may recall seeing this same item in Very Long Ago some years ago. Or maybe you heard me read it more recently, in a presentation about the drownings that caused Madison County’s only county line covered bridge to be built. I hope that you agree with me that this very special story deserved to be told again, now, 150 years after its sad happening.