Growing up, I lived the life of an ardent Roman Catholic. I was predestined. All the way back to Germany, my kin had prayed in their living rooms, bedrooms, and church pews for generations. I had Jesus in my genes.
Cecelia Brabender Bollenbeck was my aunt, one of my dad’s older sisters, who lived a tragic life, spending more than a half-century in mental institutions before she died at age 85. It was no secret that she was hospitalized, but it was seldom talked about in our family so I know little about her. If I could still write to her, this is what I would ask.
Welcome to “Mother House,” our family home, the heart of The Old Brabender Place. I had been fond of the name since the 1960s, after two of my St. Peter’s Catholic School classmates went to the convent in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, to become Franciscan nuns. When I saw them during a summer break, they affectionately talked about their convent's “Motherhouse.” In 1982 I helped host a family reunion that drew 500 people to our farm. Among them was Sonja from Washington. Her great grandmother Catherine, a sister to my grandfather Hubert, grew up in this old house. When Sonja and I re-connected on Facebook, she said she was so moved during her 1982 visit that she hugged our house’s limestone wall to feel closer to Catherine. I knew then we had our own Mother House right here.
This blog is a book in the making. If you're a new visitor, read Whole Hearted - A Farm Love Story. You can also find a copy in Prologue.