Model Railroading Really Does Offer Great Therapy

In a recent post, Why Is Model Railroading So Much Like Therapy, I gave a short list of characteristics of mental health therapy that fit into model railroading. I said my assertions were meant to be “tongue-in-cheek,” as helping with mental health is serious, not to be taken lightly.

In comments I received in response to the article, many said they found model railroading to provide just the right kind of help needed in times of struggle. Such is the case with C Fred Peterson. I received permission from Mr. Peterson to share his experience and thoughts. I am confident many will find his story not only encouraging, but heartwarming, as well.

C Fred Peterson to Dale Parsons:

“You end your writing with “All this is meant to be tongue-in-cheek”. Yes Mental health therapy is a serious business. Yes but all mental health is treated differently. In my personal case, I have been playing with HO trains for 50 years and have had a lot of fun. I lost my wife of 63 years last September 30th 2022. She had been bed ridden for the last 3 years and I was her full time care giver. I am here to tell you that if not for my HO train layout over the last few years I would badly need some “mental health therapy”. My office/train room was my to go to place day or night. I could lose myself taking apart and redoing my layout. I could talk to it, work on it when need be or not and yes after I lost Nancy I could just think of something while working, cry like a baby. You know what, the train did not give a damm, no replies, why’s, thoughts, or suggestions of what I should do. It just keep running around the track telling me just keep trucking and putting one foot in front of the other. If not for my trains, I would be just a puddle on the couch. I start group grief therapy tomorrow and with your permission I am going to share this with the group. There may be more unsaid here then just “tongue-in-cheek”. Have a good day.”

Dale Parsons to C Fred Peterson:

“Hello, Fred. I am so sorry to read of the passing of your wife. I really can’t begin to imagine the path you have walked these last few years. Giving your dear wife full time care was obviously born of your love together. As for our hobby, you said it so well. Those trains just keep on rolling, teaching us to keep going as well. Yes, please feel free to share these thoughts with your group. I hope the grief therapy group will be exactly what you need it to be. Also, with your permission, I would like to share your comments on my blog. I could do it without sharing your name. Thank you so much for sharing, and my best wishes for you in the days ahead.”

C Fred Peterson to Dale Parsons:

“You have my permission to both share and name if that would help someone. As the saying goes, I have been in service (USCG 1952-1960) so I can both talk the talk and walk the walk now. Was not my choice but back in the day you took your marriage vows seriously including till death do us part. Was never any time I was unhappy or resentful of my time with her. Our song was “Can I Have This Dance Till the End Of Time”. I was singing (badly) that song and holding her hand when GOD called her home. You can have all the LETTERS after your name but until you have done it, it is all textbook. I was talking to a neighbor here in the apartment who is going through now what I have just been through. I told him that my door to talk, ask questions, or just needed a ear was always open. He started to cry. Said he had been going to a counselor and all the man wanted was for him to tell him how he felt. He said I quit because he would not offer me any direction on what to expect. Sad. I may do it all wrong, but I sure wish I had had someone to talk to. Hospice social worker that I had was of no help to me and she had just had a baby so that was her priority. If someone you are working with you feel I could help, please reach out to me. See what happens when you post something with “tongue-in-cheek”. I’m 88, been self employed all my life. This you may share. Thank you for your time. PM me if you want a phone number or e-mail.”

Dale Parsons to C Fred Peterson:

“Hello, Fred. First of all, thank you, very sincerely, for your service with the USCG. I never had the honor of military service but have family members who did. You are so right about “book smarts.” We can know facts, but there is much more to helping than answers in a book. I have read your description of your last moments together with your dear wife over and over again. What a precious time of love and devotion. It brings tears to my eyes as I think about it now. What an incredible example of commitment and love to have walked together for sixty-three years, continuing to hold fast to the vows you made together on your wedding day. My wife and I will celebrate our 50th anniversary in December. I’m sorry that your friend in the apartment is struggling and wasn’t able to find help in counseling. Having a friend like you, I’m sure will bring him some encouragement. You are right, we never know how the words we say will impact someone, so hopefully, the things we choose to say or write will be kind, helpful, and uplifting. Thank you for allowing me to share your kind words in my blog, which I will do, soon. Best to you, Fred. Sincerely, Dale Parsons”

Thank you, Fred, for giving me the privilege of corresponding with you. Thank you, and your dear wife, Nancy, for being such a wonderful example of devotion and love.

The model railroading world is amazing, isn’t it?

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