My earliest memory of Alan is from the brief time our family lived in Roseville in a little two bedroom house. I told Alan the other day how I would wake up in the morning and go over to his crib to see his happy little face, eyes peering out waiting for Mom to appear. Two years before I had learned not to pick up the baby – wanting to be a helpful older sister, I horrified Mom when I brought Darleen to her, awake from her nap, holding her by her neck.
Alan could be handful as a little boy as Darleen can attest (like the time he punched his hand through the front screen door when he was locked out of the house by his older sisters). So anxious to get out and play with a buddy down the block on Larchwood, there were repeated pajama clad escapes. As an adult whenever he would exhibit stubborn tendencies, like those of his father before him, bemused Sandy and Stephanie would joke he was just “Waltering out.“
One day while researching family in library films of old Macomb Daily’s, a familiar name caught my eye – the article described how the Hawk Patrol of Boy Scout Troop 202 was named the winner in the Macomb District First Aid-O-Ree, led by team captain, Alan Jeske, which I copied and sent to Alan.
A Christmas present Alan gave me several decades ago has been continuously displayed wherever I resided – an old world miniature globe, which proved to be a harbinger of Alan’s sight-seeing days.
Winding down the bending slope of North River Rd. for Sunday outings on Grandpa Schulte’s boat were treasured times in our childhood. In the cool of the evenings you could hear us all crooning old tunes (not exactly a barbershop quartet) such as: “Cruising down the river on a Sunday afternoon” or one perfect for Alan and his future wife “I’ll be loving you – always.” On those days Alan’s love of being out on the water was born. He later owned his own boats and a beautiful home on the water. Vacation destinations were to sunny tropical places.
North River Rd. also leads to the shop Alan and his good friend, Denny, co-founded and owned, Alden Hydraulics. We have always been so proud of Alan and glad for his success.
At the time Mom and Alan were at my daughter Jill’s high school graduation party in 1994, they both unknowingly carried a pernicious secret that would later claim their lives. Mom has been gone ten and a half years now.
Through my genealogy website in memory of Mom, I have heard from a great many people who live far and wide, who will continue to carry Alan in their thoughts and hearts. Cousins in the Netherlands shared a saying, “Behind the tears of grief hide a smile of remembrance.”
In June 2004 Alan and I could have just been a brother and sister chatting about our daughters, whether or not the NHL would be out for the upcoming season, recent trips Alan and Sandy had taken – except we were in the waiting room at Karmanos for Alan’s doctor appointment to hear the report of his latest results, which were then still good.
A poem Alan sent to me early on in his last life journey means so much to me (and I know Alan would want me to say this applies to anyone who has ever given him comfort or made him smile): “I thank God for the gift of my sister...I think of you and my heart sings...not just because of your quick smile...not just because of the way I feel after I’ve talked to you...it’s all of these things and more...we feel each other’s pain, and we share each other’s joy...I thank God for giving me the gift of you.”
When Alan was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2001, a man just 46 years old, it was a devastating blow, especially since initial tests showed his was so advanced. There were tears in my brother’s eyes when the prognosis given. We wouldn’t know the exact extent until after his, hopefully, life-saving surgery, if he even had a year left. Learning the cancer had already spread to his lymphatic system, it meant options were very limited, but Alan, with his determination to live, opted to try the best treatment we could find for his circumstance. He endured four and a half years of frequent doctor visits, biopsies, scannings, multiple trips to other states, additional treatments, pneumonia, increasing pain – until nothing worked. Then came the debilitating final weeks, with Sandy his constant companion.
Alan became a hospice patient this September, but continued to venture out until after Stephanie’s wedding. He couldn’t have had a more comforting place to be than his bedroom with its large bay window looking out over the canal, his beloved dogs, Teddy and Max, bounding about or by his side and the love of his life, Sandy, to provide such tender care. He told me years before they married that Sandy was the only one he ever wanted. It is fitting that Alan spent his last days and will now rest in peace near the water that brought him so much enjoyment over the years.
I suspect there was always at the back of his mind the fear he did not have as much time left as most of us do. Alan packed a lifetime of living into his last years of life. On good days he still went in to his shop until earlier this year, where nephew, Bryan, carries on. He was especially delighted whenever Bryan’s daughter, Haley, came by the shop eager to see “Al.” He and Sandy traveled many times to seaside locales, often with friends. He got to see the Red Wings bring the Stanley Cup home to Detroit one more time, watch the Wolverines play football at U of M stadium. He attended concerts of some of his favorite musicians, The Guess Who, in August was his last. He celebrated four more Christmas’s with us, a holiday he always took great delight in, decorating his house inside and out to the hilt. He gazed on with pride as his daughter, Stephanie, married Derek, her own true love, before family and friends.
Among the pleasant “lasts” in Alan’s life: a long boat ride with friends Matt and Jeanie on an unseasonably warm Sunday in October; a soak in his jacuzzi bath the day before his epidural catheter was surgically placed in his back – it looked so enticing that Stephanie’s dog, Biscuit, jumped in the tub; a tiny taste of Sandy’s coffee a couple of weeks ago, saying, “ahhhh.”
Even during those difficult final days, Alan found reasons to smile with the grace of our mother, Rosie. He was so sweet, in quiet good humor through his distress, his response always “no, I’m fine.” He didn’t jump at the offer to boss Darleen and I around like we bossed him around as kids – just chuckled.
A little over five years ago our youngest brother, Robert, died suddenly. At the funeral home making arrangements Alan hugged me tightly, saying, “I just can’t believe he’s gone.” For so long throughout his ordeal Alan appeared vigorous – some trickster must have replaced him with the physically weakening man of these past three months and it is hard to believe he is gone, decades too soon.
Picturing Alan sailing away, buoyed by a summer breeze, I say good-bye to my dear brother, Alan Joseph Jeske, namesake of our fun-loving grandfather, Joseph Schulte.
These memories of Alan were shared by Mariana at Gandernalik Funeral Home on 28 November 2005
Readings at Immaculate Conception Church on 29 November 2005 by Alan's nephew, Craig Shipway and friend, Denny Chabot