In respect, honor, and love for my Dad who would be 100 Years Old this Month!

I am giving away the book What’s Wrong With Grandpa? to the second person who messages or emails ( me, saying, “Send it to me, please.” And if you already have this book, join in anyway, and give it away to a friend. It’s a children’s book addressing misunderstanding, specifically with disabilities with aging. It doesn’t matter if you call him Grandpa, Papa, Poppi, Gramps, Babu or whatever, the message is the same. And remember what C.S. Lewis said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” This story connects and increases compassion through understanding.  It takes place on a Colorado trail with moose, bluebirds, purple columbine, and other things you see while hiking in Colorado.

I was asked at a Barnes & Noble local author event that I participated in, what inspired the writing of this book. That hit me; this book was written because of an interaction I observed in my early twenties between my dad, Erwin Albert Lange, and my little nephews, his grandsons. It hurt inside how I could see the misunderstanding between the boys and my dad. But I didn’t know how to approach it at that time.

My dad was born September 26, 1923! He passed away at the age of 86 after suffering through the terrible effects of Alzheimer’s. He was a humble, respected, hard-working man who lived through the harsh realities of the Great Depression and the horrors of being shot down and becoming a POW in WWII.

Growing up during the Depression, my dad learned the value of hard work, resourcefulness, and the importance of a strong principled upbringing. He watched his parents work hard and exhibit gratitude for what they did have, and those lessons stayed with him throughout his life.

My dad enlisted in the Air Force on December 7, 1942, respecting his country and the freedoms she gave. He went through training and completed several missions. But on March 15, 1945, his final mission, my dad’s plane got in enemy territory and was shot down over Hungry, where he parachuted, landing in a tree in a farmer’s field. He became a prisoner of war. He endured grueling conditions, physical hardships, and emotional turmoil that would leave an indelible mark on his spirit and scares that would never heal. Yet, amidst the darkness, he found a way to keep hope alive. He became a source of strength, hope, and faith for his fellow prisoners.  He said it was his belief in God and protecting angels that helped him survive the next several months of fear, hunger, pain, and suffering that also earned him the Purple Heart.

After he returned home, he got married and graduated from the Milwaukee School of Engineering as an Electronic Technician and became employed in that field for 38 years at Sears. He had four daughters during this time.   It wasn’t until his early 60’s that he reconnected with all 10 members of his crew that had been shot down and survived.  The scars of his experiences, physical and emotional, from the battlefield and his time as a POW, were not easily visible, making it difficult for those around him to understand the depth of his challenges. He carried with him memories that he could not fully share until much later in life, a burden that weighed heavily on his heart and spirit. On the outside, he lived a typical life with his wife and daughters enjoying gardening, fishing, hunting, building, working, socializing, ballroom, and square dancing, playing cards, and taking on leadership and service in his church. He was a man of few words with a big heart. When he spoke, his words were thoughtful with significant meaning and foresight.

It’s story’s like these that are so important to share with younger generations so they understand what others before them have endured, giving us the lives we now enjoy. It provides greater understanding creating a more inclusive world between the generations.

What’s your story? Share it with a child so they can learn from your experiences.

Happy Heavenly 100th Birthday, Dad!

Sonja Wendt

Enhancing children’s sensitivity in human interactions one story at a time.

Sonja Wendt

Author and Multi-Generational “Sharing Life Stories” Leader

Cultivating Compassion in Children Books Series


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