Monthly Archives: October 2013
I never knew my cousin Denny as a child, because I was not born yet, but I love looking at the old pictures of him and his brother, Gene. The both look so happy. Gene looks so proud that he has a little brother. It occurs to me that my cousin, Denny had to be a fun loving kid, because he so often is seen laughing, and I also think he must have been a curious kid, who didn’t like being cooped up in a stroller for very long…but then, what kid really ever did.
When my sisters and I were young, my cousin, Denny and his wife, Sandy lived here in Casper. We got to see them quite a bit, and I even babysat their son, David…my sisters might have too, but I can’t say for sure. We always loved having them come over to our house to visit. Then, they moved to Oregon, and we hardly got to see them anymore. We all really missed them a lot. Distance always seems to make the passing of time seem less noticeable, until you realize just how much time has truly passed….then you tend to feel the loss of those years very deeply. That is how I feel about the years that have gone by since we last saw Denny’s family, Gene’s family, and Aunt Laura. Both Gene and Aunt Laura are gone now, and that makes it all that much more sad. For that reason, I am very thankful for Facebook, so that those relationships can at least be rekindled virtually, if not in person.
Denny, like several of us in the family, inherited the family history bug. He has done extensive work on the history of our family and then collaborated with Uncle Bill to take it even further. Of course, there were others who helped too, including Denny’s brother, Gene, and their mom, my Aunt Laura, and his nephew, Tim, as well as a little help from me. It was a labor of love so that they could pass that precious history down to the rest of the family members…and my family and I have been blessed to be some of those people. Today is Denny’s birthday. Happy birthday Denny!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!
As Bob and I were having breakfast this morning, I noticed a family leaving the restaurant. They stopped outside to hug each other and say goodbye. There were two little girls there that the elder side of the family seemed especially sorry to see go, and it didn’t take much vision to realize that the younger side of the family had moved away from Casper, and the grandparents missed them terribly. My thoughts journeyed back to when my sisters and I were much younger and living at home with our parents. Almost all of us have either stayed in the Casper area, or returned to it now, but that doesn’t change the feelings that happened when we had to say goodbye to the ones who moved away for a time, or the feelings we felt when our cousins would visit and then had to go home.
It seems like more and more, families live in various places around the country, and even in totally different countries from their parents. While sometimes it is necessary for jobs and such, it doesn’t help the loneliness that it always creates on both sides of the situation. The hardest part is always the little kids, who don’t get to know their grandparents. Oh, they will get to know the a little on visits, through phone calls, and Skype, but they never really know them well…never feel the real bond. Those things are left to the family members who live nearby, and are privileged enough to have lots of contact with aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, children, grandparents, and grandchildren.
Of course, that is not the only way that people can miss their family members. So many people get wrapped up in their own lives, and forget that there are loved ones out there who would love to have a visit from them. People who can’t get to them so easily, and so depend on them to bring those little ones around so they can get to know them. Sadly those little ones have no say in the matter, and the time to let them share in the lives of their elder relation is so quickly lost…and once it’s gone, there is no going back. People really should try to think about how badly their loved ones could be missing those who are far away…or even those, who aren’t so far away.
My Uncle Jim had a different kind of life than what many of us can understand. His dad passed away when Uncle Jim was only 8 years old, just shortly before his dad’s youngest son, my Uncle Jim’s brother David was born. Most kids his age would have crumbled, so to speak, but not Uncle Jim. His mom needed his help. There were the children to care for, and the new baby was coming. There was little time to grieve, because there was much work to do. When his brother arrived, Uncle Jim instantly became a surrogate father of sorts. He took on the big responsibility if helping to raise his younger brother, and of showing him the kind of man their dad would want him to be. I know that as a little boy, you would think that he couldn’t do much, but he did what he could, and as he got older, he took on more and more responsibility where his younger siblings were concerned.
Even though Uncle Jim had lots of responsibility at home, he didn’t let that interfere with his school activities. While I can’t say what kind of a student he was, I can tell you that he was an amazing athlete…especially in the area of the hurdles. He and his brothers set a number of records in Bassett, Nebraska for various sports, and Uncle Jim, especially in the hurdles. Uncle Jim also set a standard of behavior in that high school. When he went back for one of his class reunions, another student, who was a self confessed wild child, told Uncle Jim that if it weren’t for him, he probably wouldn’t have survived high school…explaining that there were a number of times that he was driving home drunk, and wouldn’t have made it if he had not been able to follow my Uncle Jim home. I’m sure that the man probably surprised Uncle Jim with that revelation, because I know that if Uncle Jim would have know that the boy was driving drunk, he would have just taken him home.
After high school, Uncle Jim and several of his brothers would move to Casper, and some would live with Uncle Jim, including his youngest brother Dave. Later after he married my Aunt Dixie, his mother would move to Casper, and live with them for some time. He and my Aunt Dixie have always been all about family, whether it was his, hers, or their own family. They are close to all of them, and they are a blessing to all of them, and anyone else who has the pleasure of knowing them, too. Today is my Uncle Jim’s birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Jim!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!
Before my Grandpa Spencer passed away from cancer, on October 19, 1951, his life had held some difficult, sad, and lonely moments. My Uncle Bill writes that his suffering, from the pain that comes with cancer, “increased steadily for the last year and a half…then it was over”, and no matter what mistakes he had made in his life, all that was left was sadness that it was over…longing for a few more days to settle matters…to find peace with what was coming. My Uncle Bill took care of him in those last years, and while there were some hard feelings between them in earlier years, in the end, Uncle Bill was very sorry that he was gone…I know that by the way he talked about his dad and his death. Grandpa wasn’t always the easiest person to be around, but in the later years, he and Uncle Bill had made a way…a careful relationship, I suppose, but it was a relationship at least, and for some years, there wasn’t even that.
Don’t get me wrong, Uncle Bill loved his dad, but he didn’t always agree with everything his dad said or did…but then, what kid does. Grandpa was a man of the times. In those days you didn’t think twice about giving your kid a good spanking if they needed it, and in fact, you didn’t have an issue with taking someone else’s child to task if they got out of line. That said, you also didn’t pick on someone else’s kid either. One time Uncle Bill had been sent to town to get some money from his dad who worked on the railroad and lived in town during the week. Grandpa decided to buy him a sarsaparilla in the bar…which was ok at that time…and while there, another man began picking on my Uncle Bill. Well, his dad, my grandpa, told the man to leave his son alone, and when he would not, a fight ensued, and grandpa beat him up. Uncle Bill always felt like that was a very special event in his life. He was pleased that his dad had stood up for him in that way. Nevertheless, a few years later, there was some discord between the two men. Theirs was a guarded relationship for a long time, but in the end, they had started to work out their differences, and then time ran out.
Sometimes, when you read through the journals of another person, or in this case, the family history written by a man who dedicated his life to telling the family story as clearly as he understood it, you find yourself taking a look deep into the reality of human relationships. No matter how annoyed we can be at someone, we can also love them very much. And when it comes to the point of their passing, those difficult relationships can leave a very different kind of hole in our lives…one filled with “what if’s” and “if only’s”, and once that person is gone, no way to change the relationship for the better or at least, forgive that past. Those who are left behind, must deal with their own feelings within themselves, because there is really no one there to talk to about it all. Nevertheless, I believe that Grandpa knew that his son loved him and I believe he loved Uncle Bill and his other children very much, too.
For many years, my Uncle Bill asked everyone he knew to write to him. With our busy lives, few of us kept at it for very long. He always wanted the letters to be hand written, not typed if at all possible, and whenever he wrote back, it was always hand written. That always seemed like such major undertaking to most people, and sadly I was just as guilty as most other people in Uncle Bill’s life. I tried to write him regularly, but I just never really met that goal. As time went on, my letters got further and further apart. In recent years, Uncle Bill’s dementia has changed things, so now he doesn’t know that we haven’t written in a while, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that we didn’t do the one thing he asked us to do.
The problem was that, none of us really understood the reason. Now that I have begun looking through the many family history documents Uncle Bill has, I am beginning to understand the value of those had written letters. Of course, Uncle Bill’s family history has a variety of letters from different people in it, but the thing that has made the biggest impression on me…Uncle Bill’s handwriting. I never would have guessed that it would be his handwriting that would stay with me so long.
I always thought that handwriting was handwriting. I never felt like it held anything so special…until now. I had asked my cousin Tracey to send me some photos from her side of our family, and she happily obliged. To my astonishment, the pictures were some that were sent to her family by none other than, my Uncle Bill. I knew it because I recognized that handwriting. I think I will always recognize that handwriting. I find that amazing, somehow. It’s like the story has gone full circle now. Uncle Bill understood how valuable handwriting is…and now so do I. I only wish I had seen it sooner, when it could have meant something to Uncle Bill to see my handwriting a little more often.
Life is filled with unknowns. Things change everyday…sometimes quite drastically. On January 13, 1883, life for my Great Great Grandmother Spencer, would change forever, when her husband, my Great Great Grandfather Spencer passed away, and she had to make the difficult decision to spread her family among her relatives, not knowing if she would ever see some of them again, much less get to meet her grandchildren. But, just as the tragic loss of her husband changed her life forever, so would the return of her children and their children.
Healing can take place in many ways. It may not feel completely like healing when you are still grieving for your husband, but babies can change your whole view of life, and for a grandmother, they can be like a new lease on life. For my great great grandmother, I think that is exactly what happened. Her daughter Teressa, who had gone to Rushville, Nebraska, while her mother and two brothers had gone to Oklahoma, her older sister had taken another brother to Washington state, and her older brother was living in Wisconsin with his family, soon married and started a family of her own. Teressa and her husband, Martin Luther Cox, would go on to raise nine children on their ranch near Rushville, Nebraska. Nine babies over the years…that had to be a really wonderful blessing for her grandmother’s heart. Those babies could never replace the husband she had lost, but she could rejoice in them…even while she was wishing that her husband could have been there to see it too.
That life change that had torn the family apart, still held a deep feeling of sadness for my great great grandmother, but she knew that her life was not over, even though it may have felt like it at the time of my great great grandfather’s passing. But God had a different plan for her life. She would never marry again, but her life would be filled with the joys of family. She lived out her years in the home of her son Luther’s family, and got to be around those grandchildren all the time. She received visits, and I’m sure went on visits to her other children and those grandchildren, and in the end, her life was renewed with joy again.
With the recent storm, and all the broken trees in the area, there was a lot of clean up to do. In fact, there still is a lot of clean up to do, but neighbor has helped neighbor, and families have helped families. Many have even helped people they didn’t know. The community rallied together, and cleaned up the parks, cemeteries, and streets. It was an amazing show of community and the human spirit, but there was one person that I missed very much at that time…my father-in-law.
In the early years of my marriage to Bob, we went with his dad to the Shirley Mountains to cut firewood. This event wasn’t a planned firewood cutting event, but it did end up putting a lot of firewood into the woodpiles of anyone who had a fireplace or wood stove. The work reminded me of those trips we took to the Shirley Mountains. My father-in-law knew exactly what he was doing, and we were his laborers. It was a learning experience to be sure. He was always so capable.
Of course, in those later years, he could not have done the work of cutting down those fallen trees, and he would not have been there in any capacity, except to watch…or supervise. While we worked to cut down broken trees and branches, it occurred to me just how much I had learned from him all those years ago in the Shirley Mountains. We knew what needed to be done, and we did it. My job wasn’t any different than it was back then, but Bob was in charge now. He had made the transformation from being the son, learning the ropes, to the person in charge of the operation. Of course, that transformation had taken place a long time ago, but because of the storm, and the forest like mountain of fallen and broken trees, it hit me at this particular time, and not on the other times that Bob has cut up firewood in the past.
The lessons we have learned from our parents will always be with us. We may not see them as an important lesson at the time, but down the road…when we need the information that was given to us…that lesson comes back to us and shows us the things we need to know to help us in the situation at hand. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t appreciate the valuable lesson that was taught, until the teacher is gone, and we can’t even thank them. Then, all that is left is a warm feeling in our hearts, and a lump in our throats, because our parents, and even in-laws, really did prepare us for life.
The older I get, the less I seem to be able to tolerate Winter. The early winter storms we have received this year…in the fall, have done nothing to improve the feeling of dread I get as Winter approaches. It wasn’t always that way, of course. As a kid, I can remember being more than ready to go outside when it snowed. Building snowmen and making snow angels always seemed like so much fun. And, if you could get someone to push you on a sled, then you really had a great time. Snowball fights and snow forts are a must for winter fun, and it didn’t matter if you could throw a snowball with any accuracy or not.
I do remember those days…when I associated snow with fun, and somehow managed to forget how cold playing outside in Winter made me. Was I warmer then, somehow…or was it that I had more energy to do more moving back then? I suppose that it could be a bit of both, and no matter what the reason was, I just don’t seem to have that same ability to stay warm any more. Sometimes, I wish I did, because I’m going to be living in Casper, Wyoming, and like it or not, we get Winter here in Wyoming.
There will always be kids, who can’t wait to get out there in the snow, and some of those “kids” will likely be of the adult kind, but there will also always those who, like me, are seriously over the cold. My sister-in-law, Jennifer loves to go skiing, my sister, Allyn’s family love to get out there in the snow, and my sister, Cheryl loves the cold, although not really the snow. They can have it if you ask me, because I am a definite Summer person…ok maybe Spring…but definitely not Winter.
As it says in the Bible, “there is a time to every purpose under Heaven” and I guess that applies to the Winter cold too. There is a time when kids love the cold and the fun they can have there, and then there is a time when these same kids, now adults find themselves feeling totally over the Winter…and it hasn’t even started yet!
For a number of years now, Bob and I have been walking the Mickelson Trail that runs from Edgemont, South Dakota to Deadwood, South Dakota. It is 109 miles long, and when we are done, we will actually walk the trail more that two times from one end to the other. I say more than twice, because there are some areas we have walked several times. We did not start at one end and work our way to the other end, but rather we started in the middle, and then realized how much we liked the trail, so we made the decision to keep track of where we had walked and work toward walking the entire trail. It has taken us a long time, because we only come to the Black Hills once a year on the average year.
This year, however, we decided to make a second trip. The lower section of the trail has areas of fewer trees, and is a little warmer climate, so it is very hot to walk in the full heat of summer. We decided that the long Columbus Day weekend would be perfect for three days of hiking…and on a normal year, it probably would have been. However, this was not a normal year. It was not a total loss, but we did get rained out today, which was disappointing. The six mile hike we had planned for today will have to be added on to the rest of the lower section, leaving us with 18.5 miles to the south and 10 miles to the north. Two hundred and eighteen miles at an average of six to eleven miles a day completed one week in the summer really takes a while. Still, it is with a sense of accomplishment that we mark of each new section on our map. While the Mickleson Trail is not a difficult trail, when it is taken in nine to eleven mile chunks, it take a toll on your body for sure, at least for that day. In the long run, it is one of the best things you can do for your body…low impact, hard work…yep great exercise, for sure.
While our last day of hiking was cancelled, the other two days were wonderful. The first day, we were treated to flock after flock of geese flying over on their way south. It was an amazing sight to see, and the air was filled with their calls back and forth, as they happily headed to their southern home for the winter. The second day brought deer into my camera view…both white tail and mule deer, which was a bit surprising in that we have not seen mule deer in the Black Hills before…of course, we are on the southern section of the trail, so it could be just that this area has them. The weather those first two days was just perfect for our hikes. We had to wear our jackets, it was not really cold. Our extra time in the Black Hills this year was wonderful…and it has inspired us to do this again next year.
My nephew, Ryan reminds me more and more of his dad, my brother-in-law, Chris every day. They are both very tall men, and they always use that to their advantage when it comes to teasing all the poor, defenseless women and girls around them. Oh, it’s always in good fun, but they always win…no matter what. I guess it’s a good thing we love them, isn’t it. Still that lets them get away with picking on all of us, and Ryan has perfected the art. As much as Ryan likes to pick on all of us though, that isn’t all he is about.
Ryan is a great dad to his kids, Ethan and Aurora. His combination of a teasing kid and a capable dad, makes things at their house very interesting, indeed. And now, I see Ethan displaying those same teasing tendencies. I guess it is something that is passed down from generation to generation. I think Ryan must be a fun dad in so many ways, because when I see him with his kids, they always seem to have such a great time. Ryan has always been great with kids. I remember him playing with some of his younger cousins and the great times they had too.
Ryan is a hard working man who takes good care of his family. He doesn’t put off the things that need doing, such as clearing the trees and snow off of their driveway after the recent storm we had. He had the driveway cleared almost before the storm was over. He also works hard at his job, so his wife, Chelsea can stay at home to care for their two children. That may mean he is a little tired at night, but that is simply prioritizing. You have to put the most important things first in your life, and that is exactly what Ryan does, every day.
But, I think, with Ryan, as with many other people, when they meet their true other half, they blossom into the person that has been hiding inside for most of their lives. When Ryan met Chelsea, his true self came out and you could finally see the incredible person that had always been there, only hidden. Today is Ryan’s birthday. Happy birthday Ryan!! Have a great day!! We love you!!