Lorraine Steinbruecker is almost 93 years young. A descendant of German immigrants, she lives in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The house she lives in was built by her late husband, Eddie, in 1948. Eddie and his brother built it themselves as well as the house next door. It’s a quaint little house and it’s obvious that Lorraine has been comfortable in body and soul there alongside the many memories of Eddie. She is my wife’s aunt and as fiesty today as she has ever been.
It is the habit of the extended Steinbruecker family to gather at Lorraine’s house on a semi-regular basis. She has at least 30 lawn chairs of various shapes, sizes, colors, and states of repair. They are set out in the driveway while mounds of food are strategically placed around the kitchen and back yard. The beer is in a refrigerator downstairs along with soda for the kids – help yourself. Many a hog has died to keep the extended Steinbruecker family in bratwurst. The “driveway time” lasts for hours. Chairs are moved around in track with the sun, there are no assigned seats, memories are rehashed, and new ones made. I was fortunate to spend a few days with this incredible family recently. Yes, indeed. I married well.
There are no strangers on the driveway. After a bit, you get the feeling you’ve been among these wonderful people forever. Lorraine hovers around trying to feed everybody. Ray, my father-in-law, moves his chair to stay in the sun. Tom, a cousin, presents a lesson on the care and feeding of bratwurst (I listen in rapt attention). My Karen forgets herself in the comfort of the family that she rarely sees. Meanwhile, pockets of conversation all around the driveway reflect the deep love these people have for one another and plans for the future. Only the departure of the sun and emergence of the ubiquitous mosquitoes puts an end to this hallowed time. I am jealous of this family but glad to have been able to experience “the driveway.”
Back in Greenwood, my Karen and I decide to try to duplicate the driveway. Here though, it is the patio. The time is pleasant, but we are missing something. Yes, time builds tradition and intimacy and I am fortunate to call Karen my wife for over 30 years. Yet, we still lack. Ah! Lorraine. We can’t duplicate Lorraine. She is the energy and nervous system that glues “the driveway” together. That accent! “Do you want anything else to eat? A drink? A beer? Lorraine retreats to her chair and her occasional Pabst Blue Ribbon. She listens intently to the sounds of family. Lorraine has a good life.