Lincoln family gives a new life to an old table
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Lincoln family gives a new life to an old table

Jun 27, 2023

The dining room table, it’s not my style.

But it was my parents’ style, and we ate every holiday meal there at the house they built after we all grew up and left home.

A bigger house. A house with the dining room my mom always wanted.

What my dad wanted was to die in that house.

Now a dark-haired stranger was carting that table away from a place with call buttons and nurses — the retirement home my mom and dad had landed and where Dad would spend his last months.

His journey was a fill-in-the-blank primer on aging, as predictable as a sunrise. A stroke one year, a fractured neck the next, a life-changing fall on the driveway.

When I arrived at the east Lincoln cul-de-sac that spring morning in 2021, Dad rested on the concrete, a pillow under his head. His right foot jutted out at an angle, like a ballet dancer in third position. A sure sign of a broken hip, the doctor living next door told me.

As we waited for confirmation in the ER, my dad turned to my mom: I’m sorry.

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For years, Mom had nudged him to move into a senior living community. No yard work. No stairs. A built-in social life.

She was ready. He was stubborn.

Hell no, Dad would say. I don’t want to live with all those old people.

Now, the decision was no longer his. The house went on the market, and the first round of possessions disappeared. My sister and brother and I took what we wanted — the blonde bedroom set from their early years, Mom’s frosting knife, my granny’s potato pot, the birthday cards Dad saved in a shoebox — and they kept enough to furnish that first apartment.

My dad was an entrepreneur. He was a money-saver and a handshaker.

He was a storyteller. The first to laugh at his own jokes. The man who taught me to change my oil, bluff at pitch, go for broke but never swim out farther than I could swim back.

By the time his hip snapped, he was 87, and the slow slide to the grave had gained momentum. Nine months later, he and Mom were leaving the roomy independent living apartment at Legacy Estates for a smaller place in assisted living. Three months after that, he’d be gone.

That dark-haired stranger didn’t know any of those things.

Jerrod Bley simply answered a Facebook ad, handed over $100 and carted away that table where we had made so many memories. He grabbed the chairs, too, and the flat screen and the pale green armchair where Dad had lingered each morning for decades alongside my mom, in her matching chair.

Dale and Arly Lange, good neighbors and good people, reading the newspaper and plotting their day.


The dining room table found its next home on Plymouth Avenue.

The two-story house is nearly 100 years old, covered in weathered cedar shingles.

Jerrod Bley and Laura Yeramysheva-Bley live here with their fluffy dog and a trio of dark-haired children: Leopold, 4; Cora, 3; and baby Embry, a chubby and cheery 6-month-old.

After years of far-flung moves, they’ve settled in Lincoln where Laura – born in Azerbaijan – grew up, surrounded by her extended Armenian family.

Jerrod is the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s sustainability manager, finding ways to reduce waste and save energy. Laura runs a small skincare business and is returning to school for her psychology degree this fall.

The first-time homeowners closed on their house in February 2022 with a goal: to furnish it entirely with secondhand belongings.

“We saw your family’s ad and said, ‘Let’s jump on it,’” Jerrod remembers. “It was the first thing we bought.”

The table is perfect in their dining room, Laura says. “It’s our most utilitarian piece and it’s beautiful.”

They eat all their meals there. They work there. The kiddos make art there. They entertain friends and family there.

It’s a sturdy symbol of their philosophy: to walk lightly on the Earth.


Dad never recovered from that broken hip.

Mom was his companion and caretaker, worrying over him, reading the newspaper aloud to him in the morning when his eyes failed, guiding his walker to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

I’d coax him down the hallway outside their apartment, with its hotel-patterned carpet and piped-in ’80s music, Dad shuffling to the beat of Queen and U2. He’d rest halfway, grumbling about the musical selections, and gratefully collapse in his recliner after our trek. “We made it!” he’d say.

He walked to please me, Mom told my sister later. To show me he hadn’t given up.

But by February of 2022, Dad was in hospice, and on his way down the long hallway in a wheelchair to assisted living.

The dining room table went off to Plymouth Avenue.

Dale Lange could still spin a yarn. He could still recite the Lord’s Prayer. Still give his grandkids advice. Hold onto your stocks, you only lose money if you sell. Hold onto your family, they are everything you need.

He held on as long as he could. Those first months, with a broken body that had once carried his kids on his shoulders and buckled into roller coasters with his grandkids, he prayed to go to sleep and wake up in heaven.

But as the end approached, he didn’t seem as sure, holding our hands with his salesman’s grip and not letting go.

Jerrod and Laura are on the first lap of their married lives. My parents had 66 years behind them when Dad died May 28, 2022.

When they built the house with the dining room my mom wanted in 1990, they offered to sell me my childhood home, a ’60’s brick ranch with oak floors they’d promptly covered in shag carpet. I politely declined. I wanted a grownup life, done my way.

Now I poke around estate sales, looking for mid-century treasures for my own brick ranch.

I peruse the leftovers of long lives, laid out on card tables and kitchen counters. The good dishes, the paring knives, the placemats. Christmas decorations and board games for the grandchildren who once came to play. And usually, in the bathroom or leaning on the washer and dryer – walkers and lift belts, canes and commodes.

You can watch life unspool in those houses: party dresses and dapper Sunday suits in the dim backs of closets, Velcro shoes and denture cases under the sink. The decades compressed, like a time-lapse video.


When Laura met Jerrod in 2006, she was a combat medic on deployment in Alaska with the Nebraska Army National Guard. Her friends back home gave the Marine who caught her fancy a nickname: Mr. Nine Days.

“I was there for two weeks and I met him five days after we arrived,” says Laura, 37, juggling Embry on her hip.

A few years later, in love and out of the military, Jerrod enrolled at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, eventually earning two degrees.

During those early dating years, Laura shipped off to Iraq and Jerrod walked the Appalachian Trail.

The Ohio native had an epiphany on his 5-month trek, meeting environmentalists and hippies and hikers who’d lost their jobs during the 2008 recession: Humans can limit environmental degradation by changing their consumption habits.

“It affected me so much, I came back and changed my major from civil engineering to environmental studies.”

Laura had a similar realization during her year in the Middle East, delivering food and water to schools, seeing the children delight at the watch on her wrist and the ballpoint pen she carried.

“We are already facing a changing planet and a changing climate,” Jerrod says. “We recognize that over-consumption is connected to most of the climate change issues we have.”

They live intentionally. Cloth diapers. Food from local sources. A compost pile for their kitchen waste and grass clippings. Decade-old cars, one a hybrid.

Jerrod Bley and Laura Yeramysheva-Bley love their secondhand life.

“We just don’t feel as though we need to buy something new if we can get it secondhand,” Laura says. “It’s rooted in concern for the planet and a habitable future planet for our children with biodiversity and a stable climate.”

The Lincoln couple offered a list of resources for others looking to lessen their environmental impact through reducing, reusing, and recycling and, said Jerrod, a fourth R: Refusing.

Jerrod found free lumber on Craigslist and is building a fence for their vegetable garden. He plans to remodel the kitchen and bathrooms with secondhand cupboards and vanities.

Everything in the house, save the couple’s mattress, is used: Lamps and side tables, couches and chairs, bedroom sets and patio furniture. The ’70s stereo console. The baby’s changing table. The art deco prints on the walls. The tchotchkes on the end tables. The wool rugs under their feet. Many of the clothes in their closets.

“Every time you extend the life of an object, it’s one less thing that needs to be built using resources from a finite planet,” Laura says.

Saving the gas and oil used to manufacture and transport. Saving trees. Saving space in landfills. Saving money, too.

“We’ve probably saved tens of thousands of dollars,” Jerrod says.

Their biggest ticket item? An antique oak bedroom set for $250.

My dad’s green armchair – free for the hauling – fits the budget and the living room’s boho vibe, with its strawgrass wallpaper, gold glass hanging light and a pair of gold glass lamps atop matching end tables.

On the day of my visit, Leopold and Cora are watching Russian cartoons on the same TV my parents once faithfully tuned to Husker football and ABC Nightly News in the family room.

I can see them there now, enjoying Lange Happy Hour with David Muir.


My dad wouldn’t have called himself an environmentalist.

But he’d holler at us to “Turn off the lights!” or to “Shut the door, you’re letting all the cold out,” when we’d stand too long in front of the refrigerator.

And he and my mom grew up in the days when everything was reused — The tin foil! Those rubberbands! The Cool Whip tubs! — and built to last.

He’d shake his head at broken toasters and plastic car bumpers. “They want it to break so you’ll buy a new one,” he’d say. “Junk!”

He wasn’t sentimental about stuff, but he’d be glad his furniture was making new memories with a new family. And like Jerrod and Laura, he had reasons for wanting the planet to endure.

I spent an afternoon last week scouring old albums for photos of my dad at the dining room table. It was the grownup table, reserved for holidays and birthdays, all the grandkids in the kitchen, until they became grownups, too, with kids of their own. Dad at one end, Mom at the other.

I couldn’t find the photo I was looking for and Mom said she wasn’t sure there was one.

But she could see him there, content with his lot in life, cocooned by the family he loved.

“Starting in on his second plate of food.”

The Flatwater Free Press is Nebraska’s first independent, nonprofit newsroom focused on investigations and feature stories that matter.

Cindy Lange-Kubick began her writing career at the "Malcolm News," penned on her popo's Mobil Oil invoices in her grandparents' home in the small Lancaster County town. She returned to journalism years later as a harried mother of three, and happily spent the next 28 years writing columns at the Lincoln Journal Star. When she cleaned out her desk in August 2021, she carted home her three prized possessions: The Robert T. Morse Award for excellence in mental health reporting from the American Psychiatric Association, the Great Plains Journalism Award for column writing and a handmade plaque from her cribbage partner Stan, in honor of a once-in-a-lifetime feat: a perfect 29 hand.

A sweet, but sad story. All too real. My parents are in their mid-90’s and I fear that fall. So many memories in this home.

Cindy….so great to read your stuff again. Missed you.

Years ago I directed a play called The Dining Room. It’s a series of sketches focused on activities associated with living and the connection of our furnishings to the evolution of life, with all the action among all the characters centered on that dining room table. Reading Cindy’s article made me want to go back and find my tattered copy of the script—to see how differently I might feel about it 35 years after directing it.

Such a lovely story and beautifully written.

Great yo read her column! Keep it up! Such good detail that makes like come s as live!

Absolutely delightful and touching. Thank you, Cindy and ALL!

What a wonderful piece, Cindy. I’ve always loved your work, but this one hit a chord in me that is still resonating – and probably always will. Thank you!

You’re welcome! Loved uncovering the fate of the furniture.

Cindy,Wonderful to read your story. Our families were so entwined. This brings back good memories.Thinking a lot about you these days.Thank you.

Bitter sweet and amazing..loved this..

Great story Cindy! You were always the best in our Creative Writing class at Southeast! You captured your Dad perfectly as I remember meeting him a few times. May he RIP as he smiles proudly at your story/talents……….

Wow…creative writing class. Your memory is better than mine. Thank you for the kind words and I hope everything is well in your world!

If I see an article is written by CLK I’m reading it. Always have, always will.

Yes, me too.

Thank you!

Oh your article brought tears, almost our life to a tea ongoing. And the boy pictured in the Michigan shirt, my birth state thru 1st child’s birth. From St. Louis to Nebraska, traveled as a gift rep and love out state especially the Sand Hills. See you at the Fest.

Can’t wait!

I grew up on Plymouth Ave. Lots of fond memories of growing up there. I hope this family has as many fond memories of living there as I have.

Cindy, I have missed your columns since you left the LJS. Glad to read you again!

Thank you, Laurie!

Wonderful, that dark haired man is my brother. Of course lovely Laura is my sister in law and I couldn’t be more proud of the two of them. Living how they believe and being veterans to our Nation. There is a lot to learn here, love them both dearly.

What a great brother (and sister-in-law) you have. Inspirations for sure!

I love your piece! The dining room table holds so much more than plates and napkins. The activities and emotions of a busy family soak into that solid oak remembered only by its owner of 48 years. It came along with my downcision, unwanted and underappreciated by all but me. I have no need nor space for it. This beautiful table and its matching 6 chairs has entered into furniture hospice. I care for it, rotate it on occasion, lotion and massage it and its 6 too-heavy-for-me chairs from time to time. I’ll ask the kids in their 50s once again whether or not they find a need for it. They’ll decline the offer of course, so at 82 years old, I’ll suggest they ask a good price.Or, following yours and Jerrod’s sound philosophy of re-purposing, it’d make a pretty spiffy coffin!

I hope your table finds love in a new home.

Dear Cindy,Your writing is, as always, emotionally thoughtful and touching, a tear runs down my face.Thank you for sharing this from the heart life story. A tribute to your Dad. I believe he has read it and shed a tear.

Thank you, Al!

Cindy,Wonderful article. Very surprised to see your byline again!! We were the previous owners. It was heartwarming to know the Bley’s have saved some of the decor. I think our dining room chandelier did not make the cut!!. The gold boho hanging lamp did.. I hope they will be having wonderful memories in our house. Yes, it did bring a tear to my eye.

The dining room chandelier lives! You just can’t see it in the photo. What a lovely home you had and the Bleys are filling it with new memories. Thank you for commenting!

The Flatwater Free Press is Nebraska’s first independent, nonprofit newsroom focused on investigations and feature stories that matter.