The Star

The Star of Palmer Lake is the claim to fame of this small town in Colorado by the same name.  Built on the side of Sundance Mountain in 1934 and rebuilt in 1976, this 500-foot star shines above the city in December and on special occasions every year.  I got to see this local wonder in the year 2003.

Palmer Lake Star, Palmer Lake, Colorado, Christmas star, December star, mountain, star on the side of a mountain, star at nightRobert had a gentle spirit as a kid.  He talked less than his older brother and sister yet they often knew what he was thinking based upon the look on his face.  A stern look that made his face turn as red as a stuffed sausage meant that this little kiddo needed to get to the bathroom right quick!

Perhaps Rob was more sensitive than they realized:  the kind of kid who took in the good and the bad without saying much while growing up in a single-parent home.  Rob looked like his dad which may have given him some slight favor . . . or at least that is what his older brother, Mike and their mom would say.  But Rob was too young to really get to know his dad before he divorced his mom then eventually became estranged from the family altogether.  How did Robert Matthew Lech get to be so mechanically inclined anyways?  Decades later it became very clear that the instruction manual for the Motor City Gear Head that Rob became was in his DNA as well as from those years as a young child when his dad was still around tinkering with this and that in the basement workshop.  Just like his Dad, Rob could fix just about anything!

There’s one thing, however, that he could not fix.  Rob could not change the fact that his dad left without a trace until many years later.  All of the kids would be grown up by the time they learned that “Ted” was living in Florida.  The older sister had moved to Chicagoland and the older brother had returned from the Navy.  Rob had completed an aviation mechanic certification course with his buddy Karl, then never took the test to actually become certified.  Rob drifted a bit then became the Grease Monkey who could answer most any question when you dropped by to see him at the local NAPA auto parts store near Palmer Lake.  He would often help his customers fix their cars as well, no charge.  Rob had many friends for sure.  Many of them joined him at the bar of the bowling alley in the evening, much like the camaraderie of the 1980’s television show, Cheers.

Rob reached out to his Dad some time after receiving his Dad’s address from his mom.  It might have been when the family received notice of his Dad’s brother’s passing that they all saw Ted’s address in Uncle Fred’s legal paperwork.  Someone had found Ted!  Ted’s sister, Lori, went to visit and Ted reportedly shunned her.  But for some reason Rob needed to try to reach out to him anyways.  Something inside of him still needed to know his father, the one he had come to be like.  These things would be revealed many years later, of course.  No one got to know Ted just then.  Ted responded to the letter that Rob finally sent to his Dad, telling Rob not to contact him again.  Ted said that he had a mental illness and he had found a way to live with it which included estrangement from his family and everything in his past.  Ted slipped away into anonymity once again.  So very sad, really.

Rob was devastated.  Rob had another close friend, Dewey, who had passed away which was doubly devastating for this tender-hearted young man.  Rob never seemed to overcome the loss of these two important men in his life.  His drinking increased and his life crumbled.  Before he died he had started to ask questions about God and may have even attended a local church to find some peace.  Cans of food from a local food bank were found in his disheveled mobile home along with the slot cars from racing with his dad and brother at local tracks as a boy.  Ted Lech, aka “Mr. Motor” was a champion slot car racer and design engineer behind Dyna-Rewind:  the fastest motors in the cars on the tracks in the 1960’s.  Mike and Rob’s best times were shagging cars during competitions, especially those where their dad smoked all the other race cars every Thursday night!

Dyna-Rewind, Dyna Rewind, Ted Lech, Mr. Motor, slot car racing
Dad’s Slot Car

I found the letter from our Dad in Rob’s wallet when my mom, Mike and I got into town after Rob had died.  I was devastated.  I, too, carried big hurts from our Dad leaving us as children and so did Michael.  We needed our Dad and he could not be there.  I grieved the pain that my little brother must have carried to his grave.  I loved Robbie so much!  Then I found a picture in his wallet, the only one he carried with him every day.  It was a picture of me.  Oh dear.  My brother loved me too!  Sigh.

I am not quite sure why this memory is so tender for me right now.  I am not quite sure why it still hurts so very much.  I am not quite sure my little brother Rob knew how much I really loved him.  Oh Rob, how I wish you were still here!  I wish you could meet my really cool husband Steve and talk with him about cars and motors and carburetors and hemi engines and more!  I sure miss you Raaaaaabeeee!

It is quite possible that Steve and I will do some travelling West this Fall.  Lord willing, one of our destinations will be New Mexico and potential places north of there for us to live where the climate is dryer.  We just may have to visit Palmer Lake, Colorado too.

Rob’s ashes were dispersed at the base of one of the stars on the side of the Palmer Lake Star on Sundance Mountain in the late summer of 2003.  Mike and I climbed up the steep slope, hanging onto brambles, posts, and the cables that comprise the outline of the star while our mom waited and watched from the road below.  Two of Rob’s friends from the bowling alley lead the way for us while we huffed and puffed fighting altitude sickness to complete our mission to place Rob at rest.  His remains are part of the mountain that he called home:  the second light fixture from the upper right point of the 5-pointed star.  It’s also right next to the resting place of his friend and neighbor, Dewey.  Kind of poetic in a way . . .

I do hope that somehow Rob made peace with his past through the tender love of our Heavenly Father before he passed away.  I hope that I will see my little brother and his lanky frame, cute smile, and soft brown eyes when I reach the presence of the Lord someday.  Hey Robbie, you will always be a shining star in my memories, my heart.

man with cat, Robert Lech, Rob Lech, man wearing baseball hat, man in apartment, guy with cat, pet cat

And thanks again for fixing up that 1974 Nova for me too!  JJ

The Sister Bear Speaks

While my brother’s fiancé is there at the hospital with him in the thick of things, his next of kin is a bit upset.  I am too upset to make any rational decisions.  The feelings run deep with me.  It’s all I could do to be polite on the phone today to the social worker from the rehabilitation unit where Mike is hospitalized.  At least Steve and I have the weekend to sort things out . . .

Very likely Mike will get booted out of the hospital next week and sent to be housed in a nursing home without additional rehabilitation services.  His insurance is “Medicaid Pending” and his requiring of 24-hour physical care post discharge, a situation that cannot be met at home for valid reasons, is pushing the hospital to discharge him from their care.  I don’t get it.  In my 30+ year career in rehabilitation as an occupational therapist, the discharge criteria virtually always hinged on a lack of progress, not the particulars of discharge planning.  It’s a new day:  a new reality.  If you can’t do what the government-driven healthcare system wants you to do then I guess they can wash their hands of you.

Perhaps he will go to a nursing home or perhaps by some miracle the Veterans Administration (VA) will accept him on such short notice.  If the decision is the former, he will be fed 3 meals per day, kept clean and dry, and left to sit slumped in an overstretched wheelchair or geri chair in front of an out-of-tune entertainer from the long term care circuit with a pair of maracas shoved into his functional hand.  The wailing of the demented residents will woo him to sleep at night as he tosses on his waterproof mattress to get comfortable around the bedsores that no one will find until it is too late for healing.  Thickened Pepsi to drink?  Not a chance.  At least until his fiancé cleans up her make-up from crying long enough to ignore the swale of urine stench long enough to bring it to him.  God bless her faithfulness visiting every day through this incredibly stressful ordeal!

Or perhaps it won’t be that bad.  Maybe he will get into a VA rehabilitation facility with little red tape and get stronger.  Regardless, the hope of at least a few weeks of physical, occupational, and speech therapy has vanished for the time-being.  And Michael has no idea yet, what is about to happen to him next week.  I left a message for his saint of a fiancé and she has not gotten back to me yet.  Maybe she is in as big of SHOCK as I am.  Maybe she is exhausted and horrified from touring nursing homes closer to where they lived in the “thumb” area of Michigan.  I don’t blame her for taking a little time for herself to sort things out.  My heart goes out to Lisa.  She has been through so much these past two weeks as her life has changed forever.

As for me, 200 miles to the south and struggling with four hours of seizure attacks multiple times per day, I am overwhelmed with the stress of it all.  Just seeing the missing flooring in our bathroom from yet another mold remediation project is enough to stub my toe even when the light is on.  Somehow I completed a few errands outside the home this afternoon and made a simple dinner.  I talked to a few family members who offered mixed consolation while I was stepping on the elliptical for 20 minutes, phone in hand.  Geez!  I haven’t used that thing in a few weeks!  I must be stressed out.  Thank goodness the nightly seizure attack episodes haven’t fully ramped up yet tonight:  I needed to talk to you, Gentle Reader!  I started to type and there you were.  Thanks so much for being here.  I can barely speak I am so very upset.

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Life goes on despite the drama of the moment.  If Steve and I don’t impulsively drive 3 hours north to go to the hospital tomorrow and I’m stable enough, we will attend the 50th wedding anniversary open house of some friends.  It will be good to enjoy some Christian fellowship.  Then maybe my beloved Steve will start to work on the bathroom floor tile project and I’ll put together the jewelry orders that have been sitting at my work table this past week.  Lord willing I’ll continue with the Spring clean-up of our gardens and Steve will mow the grass for the first time this year.  Looks like the narcissus will be blooming within a day or two with their yellow-throated happy faces reaching up to soak up the sun.  The sunshine will feel good on my broken frame as well and I will enjoy the freshness of the air this time of year.  There’s no better hue of green than that of the tender leaves emerging from their Winter slumber:  truly lime, truly sublime too.  Some call it “horticulture therapy.”  Gee, maybe I should go right now poke my finger in the dirt of the violets waiting to fill the self-watering planters I thought I might plant tomorrow . . . I need a fix of something and a shot of tequila is out of the question these days . . .

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Please pray for us.  This sister bear is hurting more for her brother than anything right now.  My beloved Steve has been so loving despite the challenges of my illness, demands of his work, and his other responsibilities.  Lisa has got to be struggling as well, balancing work, the care of her teenage son (Alex), and assuming increasing responsibility for Michael’s affairs.  She and Michael have known each other almost 7 years.  Her 13 year old son has a great relationship with Michael too.  Oh Lord, hold us all closely this night.  Help us.  Show us Your love, mercy, and grace.  Guide us with wisdom.  If it is Your will, heal my brother from the effects of this devastating stroke.  Comfort him as he realizes all that has happened to him and show him hope, be real for him on his bed of sickness.  He has reached out to you in his time of need.  I am grateful for this and grateful that you are here with us.  And thank you for the encouragement we find in Your Word:

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  (2 Corinthians 4)

In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

Michael George Lech
Michael George Lech