Lunch with Marjorie: Dental care, brain surgery and playgrounds—part two

Editor’s note: This is the second part of a three-part series. The first part appeared in the July 5-10, 2007, issue.

Sara Salberg recently celebrated her 61st birthday. But this birthday almost didn’t happen.

“I’m glad you’re here,” I said.

Sara was still showing signs of recovery from her massive brain surgery to untangle a knot of capillaries in her brain, which had been there from birth. It had only become life-threatening in her late 50s.

“While you were going through this trauma, getting medical second opinions, what was going on with you?” I asked.

“From the time we walked into Mayo—I remember the doctor’s words,” she said. “‘The good news is that it has nothing to do with your carotids.’ Then, he paused before he told me I had a brain malformation. When he said that, it was like nothing to me. I looked at my husband. For him, it was like the bottom fell out, like his whole life was over. But I was so at peace. It was a God-thing…so much peace.”

Sara lost vision in her right eye after surgery, but it has come back bit by bit.

“I say things backwards,” she said. “That’s kind of where I am in my healing process. Things I was always prideful of…remembering everybody’s name and face. I know you are Marjorie because I’ve written it enough, seen it enough. But a new person…this girl I have been working with in the church nursery for six or seven months…I’m really bothered by this.”

Sara had to ask her to remind her co-worker who she was.

“‘Would you forgive me? Just tell me your name every time you see me,’ I tell her,” she explained.

“It’s not really your fault,” I reminded.

“No, but I still feel bad about it,” she said. “It feels like I have to go and explain myself everywhere I go. I am so tired of hearing about me. I want to hear about you.”

In general, Sara said she’s an easy-going person.

“I’d say, I have always felt I was in God’s hands,” she said. “I had a couple of years of rebellion at 19 or 20 like most kids, but I have always trusted God for everything, even when things didn’t go right.”

She saw this role model in her family. “My great grandfather was a minister in a small town in Kansas,” she said. “I’ve always had simple faith. I’ve never really thought of myself as really smart. I know I’m gifted and that God wouldn’t have left me out. I just trust Him. I think it probably is that I’m hospitable. Maybe that’s all I have to be in life.”

“I always think sunshine when I see you,” I said. “Your smile, your countenance, your blonde hair. You look sunny, from the inside.”

Her family surrounded her during her surgery and recovery. “All the kids and grandkids were there,” she said.

Her surgeon was delighted with what he had been able to do.

“When I went back for the year check-up, he said he was still surprised at how well things went,” she said. “I told him from the beginning, ‘God has been good to me’.”

“How different has your life been?” I asked.

“Well, sometimes I remember my past better than my present,” she said. “It’s been that way throughout the year-and-a-half.”

She tells me her family moved from Kansas to the farm that is now Aldeen Golf Course. She’s related to the Aldeen family.

“There wasn’t a livelihood on a farm in Kansas because there was always drought,” she said. “The Aldeen brothers in Rockford had the farm and needed people to farm it. They were factory boys—they owned Amerock. They asked my dad and his new bride to farm the land. That’s how we got to Illinois.”

“Did you work on the farm?” I asked.

“Yeah, but I was the little sister,” she said. “I had two big brothers. I think my dad always thought it was too dangerous for a girl. I drove the tractor to get the cows out of the pasture, and cleaned the milkers.”

I changed the subject back to post-brain surgery.

“Do others relate to your differently now?” I asked.

“People who say they pray for me get tears rolling,” she said. “The people who came to see me in the beginning didn’t think I would ever heal.”

“It would seem wasteful to have all of this miraculous discovery, all the red flags to get you surgery just in time, only to have it fail. I’ll bet most people never had a dentist discover a carotid problem,” I mused out loud, appreciating this woman so eager to embrace her life and cheer others.

Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe. She has covered food, drama, entertainment, health, and business for publications in California and Illinois for the past 25 years. She can be reached via e-mail at

from the July 18-24, 2007, issue

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