7/11/2017 11:48:00 AM Publisher's Column
Weekend visit humbling
but also very gratifying
This past weekend we went to Sleepy Eye to participate in celebrating the seventieth birthdays of two old friends, friends whose daughter is one of Emily's dearest friends. We had originally moved to Sleepy Eye in 1994, when I was hired as publisher of the local newspaper, the Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch. After the 1998 Comfrey-St. Peter tornado, I served as a construction coordinator with Lutheran Disaster Response and helped hundreds of families with getting their homes, farms and businesses repaired or replaced. I kind of felt like people might remember me, so...
(Some of you may not know that I adopted Emily many years ago but she kept her birth name, Emily Janet Steffens.)
We stopped in New Ulm for coffee at one of our old haunts, and a young woman, who we learned later is one of the owners, was at the register and asked if we used to live in Sleepy Eye. When I smiled and said, "Yes," she turned to Emily and said, "I saw you sing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor when I was a young girl."
She had been in elementary school when Emily sang as narrator of the play almost 19 years ago and remembered Emily's face, she even remembered Emily's name.
We stayed at the only motel in Sleepy Eye, and it is a very nice motel. They are in the process of adding a large convention/visitors center to the motel. The staff was very friendly and, after I had checked out, one of the women who worked there looked familiar to me and came over and asked, "Didn't you used to live in Sleepy Eye?"
"Yes, we did," I said.
"I thought it was you, Mr. Steffens," she said. I just smiled.
So, if people don't remember me as me, they at least remember me as Emily's father, and that's not a bad reason to be remembered. She is an amazing young woman of whom I am very proud. I've never met anyone I admire more than I do her, knowing all that she has been through and the courage, grace, dignity, optimism, love and faith she demonstrates daily.
It was humbling for me as a former "big shot," but it was very gratifying as Emily's father to see her recognized for herself, for what she has done and for the what she is doing.
We hadn't been back to Sleepy Eye for several years, so I got up at five and went for a walk around the town. There is a beautiful lake with two large parks, lots for camping and a few cabins. One of the men at the birthday celebration guides fishing on the lake and said it has been producing some nice walleye and bass. I remember it for the blue gills, which they also still catch. The lake and associated parks also provide great bird and waterfowl watching opportunities.
I also walked over to get some pictures of our old home, which was an American Four-Square style with a full basement and three floors. We, Emily, Mel, David and I had painted the house shortly after we bought it. The spring of Emily's accident, we built on a 28 x 40 foot addition. Emily and I had just finished framing, putting up the trusses and sheathing it when she had her accident. Many men from Sleepy Eye finished the roof for us while we were in the hospital with Emily that summer. The house has six bedrooms, and it looks like the family that lives there now has them well filled. It looks to still be a very happy home.
As I was walking back to the motel along Main Street, a Pit Bull started trotting along across the street from me. It would look at me and occasionally growl, but it stayed on the sidewalk across the street, so I wasn't really concerned. It kept going right across from me for three blocks, then it stopped. I thought it had decided I was okay. About a block later, I heard a movement behind me and, just as I was about to turn around, something grabbed my left ankle and immediately let loose. It was the Pit Bull. It dropped back about twenty feet and growled at me. I looked at it over my shoulder and could not decide what it had planned, so I slowly took out my belt as I kept walking normally. I thought I might possibly be able to strangle it if it did attack again, but it didn't. I did not look back for a couple blocks, and when I did it was gone.
The birthday party was great! It was put on by the couple's two daughters, with live music, lots of food and beverages and scores of old friends and acquaintances.
Mel got stopped for speeding, but she sweet-talked her way out of it. That's my story for the week.