The year of living strangely: Germantown's Fischer has learned the bachelor's life

Mom Kim makes 350-mile round trip each week

Feb. 15, 2013

"Welcome to Pittsville Elementary School. Where the journey begins!"

- headline above the principal's letter on the school web page

The journey to basketball success for 6-11 Germantown all-state basketball center Luke Fischer will eventually lead him this fall to Indiana University in Bloomington, home of the NCAA Division I No. 1-ranked Hoosiers, where he has a scholarship waiting for him.

He's also hoping for a very satisfying stopover along the way in Madison for a second WIAA state championship this March.

For his mother, Kim, the journey to career satisfaction along with some semblance of family interaction means an approximate 350-mile round trip each week on her vehicle between Germantown and Pittsville, a small town about 15 miles west of Wisconsin Rapids.

She took the job as principal at Pittsville Elementary this fall after years of searching for a school-based administrative job. She had spent the past four years as a curriculum specialist in the Mequon/Thiensville School District.

Kim Fischer gets in her car at approximately 3:30 p.m. each Friday and makes the 7:30 p.m. game for Luke, usually with about an hour to spare, barring traffic. She then leaves late afternoon or early evening Sunday back for her apartment in Pittsville.

Welcome to Germantown's version of "Modern Family."

"I'd been interviewing all over the place for four years," Kim said. "They (Luke and Kim's husband, Jim) were glad for me because I finally landed a job, but the timing was a little off. If it had been a year earlier or so or even a year later, it would have been much each easier."

What this has meant for Luke and Jim, her husband of 29 years, is a life of pure bachelorhood during the week, with them (mostly Jim) doing the cooking and the cleaning.

"Yes, it would have been better had it been after Luke's senior year," said Jim, who works for Kellogg's, "but she has worked awfully hard for this and has earned the right to try and prove herself."

In-between, there are regular texts, emails, phone calls and the occasional Skype setup. Jim said Luke and Kim have figured out how to make that latter technology work well for them.

"It is lonely," admits Jim, "because Luke is gone all the time (he is an only child). It would be nice to see more of each other, but it winds up with a lot of time by myself."

Needless to say, father and son both look forward to Friday nights.

Kim took the job in July which made for an interesting transition as Jim and Luke were frequently gone on weekends for AAU basketball tournaments. It was an interesting change for the tall man-child at first.

"It made up for a bit of a mixed-up summer," Luke said. "It was strange for the first couple of weeks not having her around, but when she gets home it's nice. She'll stop at home first or meet my dad and then they're off to the game.

"… and dad's a pretty good cook, he doesn't miss a beat in the kitchen."

"We're lucky that Luke likes Jim sort of cooking," laughed Kim.

Mom's rules

Kim did make a couple of nonnegotiable rules for the two guys.

"My days are pretty intense up there," she said of her new job. "A lot of times it is 12-hour days and when I come home I don't want to have to do laundry or clean house. That's not part of the deal.

"So far, they've done a pretty good job and they've come to understand how much I did around the house."

Jim and Kim are also both working hard to convince Luke of the merits of laundry, cooking and cleaning, as he will have to do a lot of that himself next year when he's in school at Indiana, but it's a slow process.

"I'm still convinced he'll have the sloppiest dorm room down there," said his mother with a chuckle.

Kim is sad that she missed out on all the Tuesday night games, but she is trying to make the best of it for herself and her family.

"I really enjoy my job," she said. "It's just that the disconnect is unfortunate. … I try to make up for lost time. I finish up loose ends her (in Pittsville on Friday) then I get home and they get the best part of me."

And she really means it when she says she's enjoying her job. The small Pittsville District (high school enrollment about 211 and 430 students all told) has a strong four-year-old prekindergarten program (an item President Barack Obama just alluded to as essential for children to help them get ahead in the world).

"I'm a strong advocate of that," she said. "It really helps with reading and math development. My school is also interesting because it runs all the way through eighth grade (after starting in kindergarten). The way it works here reminds me of how I started out in education as a middle schoolteacher."

They've also made her feel very welcome. Part of that maybe her son's doing, as her superintendent Terry Reynolds is on the WIAA's Board of Control (as is Germantown Athletic Director Jack Klebesadel) so he's well aware of Luke and Germantown's accomplishments.

Kim shudders to think what might have happened had the whole family decided to move up to Pittsville taking Luke with them.

"Steve (Warhawks coach Showalter) might have hunted us down (laughs)," she said.

But all kidding aside, there are some serious decisions facing the family after Luke graduates in June and heads off to Bloomington later this summer. Plans are already in the offing to put the family home on the market this spring and Jim will move up to the Rapids/Pittsville area to be with his wife sometime this summer.

Jim said that Kellogg's (the cereal company) is going to be flexible with him and will be able to find him a position in the area.

And then it'll be time for Big Ten Conference road trips throughout the Midwest to follow Luke.

Showing independence

As Jim noted, Luke is already highly independent, getting out the door early in a sweat shirt and shorts (rarely long pants even in 10 degree weather) and he often won't see his son until evening after practice or a game, but both he and Kim said that Luke has absorbed a few things in this year of long-distance family life.

"He's had to become a little more independent," Jim said. "He gets up. He fends for himself and if he hasn't learned certain things by now, he'll have to in a hurry next year, so it's better he do it now rather than later."

"Luke knows how hard it's been, parent to a child," Kim said. "He's learned lifelong lessons. He saw how I dealt with interviews and rejection (before landing the job in Pittsville). He knows that you have to be persistent and believe in your dreams."

And you can see that rubbing off on Luke in his endless patience with interviews after games. One swears that Showalter would sometimes have to drag him by the arm to the bus he's lingered so long with fans or reporters.

"He has such poise," Kim said. "I don't know if I would have had that in high school."

It may be an innate trait of his, or something that the parents genetically passed along to him or maybe something he's learned in this past year of a family life that remains full and busy, one 350-mile round trip at a time.

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