Letter # 21, February, 1867

‘Dear Fanny,

‘I received your letter a week or two ago. I am always glad to see your handwriting on the outside of the letter. She is there yet, I say.’

(Susan has taken ill.) You say that you cannot do much for me but you can pray for me. It is difficult to realize the lapse of time and how much older you are than when I left for California. I am too. The gray hairs show in my head. My health improved last month. Emory said I was growing fat but my loss of memory is a great trial. Sometimes I remember better than I did (Susan was displaying indications of Alzheimer’s; a disease yet unknown in 1868). You must not be surprised if I write the same thing over in my letters, seeing that I forgot what I wrote last……’

Susan left the letter unfinished and resumed writing a week later.

‘I will try to finish today. Circumstances are improving. We have seven cows to milk this coming season; two young heifers are coming into milk. Emory thinks we should sell two and pay off the hundred dollars we still owe on this place.’

‘The children desire things they cannot have. I cheer them up and tell them things will be better by and by. They wish for chairs to sit at the table but we only have two. Ma and Pa take those and the girls have to stand. If Emory had time, he would make chairs for them.’

Susan’s preceding paragraph is especially significant as another indication of possible Alzheimer’s. Several years earlier, Emory had built benches so his daughters could sit at the table for meals.

‘You say Mary will get my glasses the next time she goes to Boston? I thought I had asked her to send me a pair but I had forgotten it. This loss of memory afflicts me. It is not a thing that comes with old age. It is the effect of the sickness, from which I hope to recover. It is mysterious how things have gone out of my head. The other day I asked Emory how I came to this palace. I could not recall a single memory until he told me the circumstances. Then it was clear in my mind, Susan.’

Susan had cancer. In the spring of 1867 Emory took Susan to San Francisco. Where the doctors performed a diagnosis. It was on this trip Susan bought her long-wished for brush and dust pan. A year later, her cancer progressing, Emory took Susan to San Francisco a second time. One can only imagine the agony for Susan of that trip. She lay on a bed of straw in a wagon drawn by a mule team; a four-day trip over the steep, rough, dangerous Hopland Trail for a hundred and twenty miles.’

Susan, knowing her death was near, sent Emory home to his three little daughters. Thus, they parted for the last time. Their vision ended in poverty, hardship, and illness. Yet, they left us a legacy, not of gold, but of courage. Susan died on July 7,1868.

Beulah taught school in Kelseyville, married and had four children. Fanny went east and lived with Aunt Mary She also married later but had no children. Jessie, the youngest, died of diphtheria ten years later.

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Gene Paleno

Gene runs his life at a full sprint. In his ninety-three years he's dug ditches, painted signs, played semi-pro football, worked as a taxicab driver, an insurance agent, and a school teacher. He's been a technical artist, a marketing director, and a business owner. He served in World War II, raised four children, and was married to the love of his life for fifty years. He's an accomplished oil painter and skilled in ceramics. He's written fifteen books, including the definitive Lake County History, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

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