Whenever we walked by a Busse, my mother would give a pitying smile, wait until the family member was out of earshot, and say,
“That poor family. Oh, what they have been through.”
And then she would sigh.
Everyone in our small town knew about the Busses. We heard the stories of their misfortune. We saw the brave smile on Mrs. Busse’s face when spotted in public, and we wondered; how do they do it?
There were seven Busses in all when you count the grandmother, Mr. Busse’s mother, who lived with them.
The sad story usually starts with Ted Busse, the father. He lost both legs when a jack gave way as he worked on his car in a neighbor’s garage.
Others argue that Christy’s very public miscarriage was the beginning of what surely is a curse on the Busse household.
I found out the truth when Glen Busse and I became friends summer of eighth grade.
The four Busse kids stuck to themselves. Glen is the oldest. There is a wide age gap between him and his next sister.
Glen was just two when his Mom lost the baby in the cereal aisle at Kroger’s. He was in the cart when it happened.
Mr. Weintraub noticed Mrs. Busse grimacing and gripping tightly on the cart’s handle. Her jeans were stained, and blood was pooling on the floor under her.
His first reaction was to panic (he lived to regret it), and he called out loudly for help. That drew the other shoppers to the center aisle, where they watched on with horror. The store manager came to the scene and tried to clear the way for the approaching paramedics.
But the cluster of people witnessing the tragedy was frozen in place. Mrs. Ables was one of them who remembers the scene.
“I don’t know what got into me, but I couldn’t just walk away.”
The Polish woman who worked in the bakery ran over, hairnet and all. She crouched down to Mrs. Busse, who was now sitting in a puddle of blood, dazed by what was happening and crying out with each cramp.
“I take the baby. Mrs. don’t worry. I take care.”
She covered Mrs. Busse with a clean apron. Then she gently lifted Glen from the little seat in the cart and walked him to the bakery section, where she gave him a cookie.
According to all reports, it was Mrs. Kowalczyk who was the voice of calm that day. There’s always one in every crowd.
With the help from the kindly bakery worker, Harry Cramer, the police officer first on the scene, the situation was handled, and life for the Busses went on.
The double amputation was no less a public spectacle than Mrs. Busses’ tragic loss.
The incident took place in the Hightower’s garage next door on the east side of their own home. It was Sunday. 2:30ish. A perfect spring day with temperatures in the seventies. Everyone was outside.
Christy Busse was sitting on a lawn chair in her driveway. Glen was pushing his favorite Little Tykes lion riding toy up and down the blacktop.
The scream came first. Then the sound of five thousand pounds of metal crashing through limbs before it hit the concrete floor, breaking that too.
Thank God Mr. Busse was scooting out from under the car when it happened. It was only his legs.
And that was what I learned from Glen about the “poor Busses.”
They thought themselves fortunate.
Three more healthy babies followed the miscarriage.
Mr. Busse rehabbed and learned how to be one with his chair. He had a good job. He developed his upper body strength and is active in sports. He plays basketball using a specially designed wheelchair for weekend athletes like himself.
The townspeople were so busy dealing in pity. We didn’t even notice the contentment that comes from an attitude of gratitude that the Busse family subscribes to.
The Busse’s aren’t particularly religious in a church-going way. They aren’t active in the town civics. They’re not the little league coaches or the PTO parents.
They live simply as a family unit. They are humble people. Happy and fun-loving. They shun the spotlight and don’t like anyone to make a fuss over them.
I suppose they had enough when that spotlight shone on their tragedies, and we, the spectators, defined them by it.
After discovering the secret of the Busses, I choose not to share it. At least not directly. I don’t correct anyone when I’m in the company of someone reflecting on Busse family history. I simply change the negative narrative to a positive one.
That’s my give back to the world. To always look beyond the bad and find the sliver of good in every situation. One man can moan about bad luck, hardships, and trials. Another can reflect on the good luck, opportunities, and lessons learned. Similar situations, opposite reactions.
Which one are you?