Monthly Archives: December 2013
Isaac is the most serious of the children of my niece, Jenny and her husband Steve. The other children are always laughing, and Isaac laughs too, but much of the time he seems to be contemplating the complexity of the world around him. I know that sounds strange for a young man of only seven years, but when I look at Isaac, I see a young man who is a thinker. He doesn’t just look for the funny things in life, but rather wants to know the who, what, where, why, and how of things and situations around him. He may not even know that yet, but I see it in his eyes. I was that way when I was a kid. Sometimes the things going on around me went by unnoticed, because I was always deep in thought about something that came to my mind. I wanted to know why things went the way they did, so I sat and thought about it. I see that very much in Isaac too. He is a boy with many things on his mind.
Of course, Isaac has a funny side to, and is quick to smile. He is the kind of little boy that is a good friend, because he understands how to be a friend. He is kind and sensitive to others. The youngest son out of three boys, and older brother to his sister Aleesia, he knows how to get along with others. He knows how to fight battles with his brothers, and how to be gentle with his little sister. It’s a good mix. He also has a love of pets, and takes good care of them. Puppies think of Isaac as their best friend. He is truly a complex little boy.
Isaac is, nevertheless, all boy. He loves to go shooting with his dad, and looks forward to the day when he will be able to go hunting with his dad. In a day when so many people have a fear of guns, Isaac’s parents are teaching their children a healthy respect for guns and for life, so that as they get older, they will not see guns as a weapon to be used in anger, but one to be used to hunt and to protect. The best time to learn that is as a child, and that is what Isaac and his siblings are learning. Today is Isaac’s 7th birthday. Happy birthday Isaac!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
So often, we take many of the people in our lives for granted. We just assume that they will always be there, and never consider the events in their past that…were it not for the grace of God, would have taken their lives, possibly before we even knew them. That is the case with my Uncle George. Were it not for the grace of God, he would have been killed in action in World War II, before he ever had the chance to meet and marry my Aunt Evelyn, becoming father of my cousins, and an uncle to me and the rest of the cousins. Uncle George, like my dad, my Uncle Larry, Uncle Wayne, and many other young men of that era, served his country during World War II. Many people serve in the wars our country has been involved in, and many people are injured and killed every day as a result of their service in our wars. In that way, Uncle George is not an unusual statistic, but what is unusual is that Uncle George survived…a head injury!!! He has had a plate in his head since that injury, but in every other way, he has lead a normal life.
People who don’t know about a situation, which was me concerning my Uncle George…until recently when I came across the Wyoming Wounded List where his name appears, usually assume that the person they know, and have known all their lives, was never wounded. Little did I know how very wrong I was. I knew that Uncle George has been in the Navy in World War II, but that was all I knew about his war history, and I only knew that because of a picture of my Aunt Evelyn, Uncle George, and my parents attending the Military Ball. You see, like most of the men who fought in World War II and probably many other wars too, Uncle George never spoke of those days. It was like he either wanted to forget, or more likely that he thought he had simply done his duty and it was no big thing, because he came home after all. Many military men feel that way. They think the heroes are the ones who died for their country, but that is not the only way to be a hero. Just going into battle, makes them a hero!!
After learning about my Uncle George’s injuries from World War II, I feel so much more blessed to have Uncle George in my life. Thinking that, but for the grace of God, he would never have been my uncle, makes that blessing very clear to me, and I thank God for his life and for making him my uncle. I can’t imagine our family without him in it, and I know everyone else agrees with me too. Today is Uncle George’s birthday. Happy birthday Uncle George!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Kids are always doing goofy little things, and my niece Michelle is no exception. When I asked my niece, Lindsay, who is Michelle’s cousin/best friend/partner in crime, to give me a little dirt on Michelle for her birthday story, little did I know what I would hear. When I think of Michelle, I automatically think of Lindsay too, because they were practically inseparable as kids, and while they live a good distance away from each other now, that distance has not changed their friendship at all. As little kids, they decided to make up a special language for themselves. In the end they made up several…and they both knew exactly what the other one was saying. I suppose that it might be because their languages were logical to a degree. Lindsay explained one language this way. My name is spelled Caryn, so in their language it would be Caong Arong Yon Nong. Now that’s a pretty long version of a name that isn’t really that long, but that would be the name anyway. The girls understood each other completely, and their favorite thing to do was to go to Walmart and walk around talking to each other in their secret language…just to see the people around them looking at them like they were crazy. They enjoyed that so much that they spoke that language for two years.
No matter how inventive these girls were, the one thing they couldn’t imagine was enjoying a Bologna sandwich. Their grandma, my mom fed her kids and grandkids a lot of Bologna sandwiches through the years, and whenever she fed them to Michelle and Lindsay, they would take the Bologna off and throw it in the bushes in the back yard, and eat the sandwich with mayonnaise, mustard, and pickles, and they decided that they kind of liked it…and they thought Mom’s taste in sandwiches was bad. I’m sorry, but I beg to differ. Mayonnaise, mustard, and pickles…I don’t think so, girls. Still, it’s a wonder the bushes didn’t die, because…let’s face it, Bologna isn’t plant food. Michelle, is however, a very good cook, and in their senior year, Michelle had a free period right before lunch. She would go home and make lunch for Lindsay who would come over at lunch. It was a fond memory of Lindsay’s from that year. Another fond memory is the day that Michelle and Lindsay kidnapped, Lindsay’s little sister, Kellie and made her ditch her class. Kellie was a little freaked out about it, but their mom, my sister, Allyn was a good sport, and didn’t kill them for it.
Michelle is seldom called Michelle, because she has a number of nicknames. I don’t know if these date back to the secret languages or not, but Lindsay has long called her Mash Stav…don’t ask me why or what that means, because it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just one of the goofy names they used. Lindsay also called her Meechelle, my Belle. Lacey, Michelle’s little sister often called her Mish Mash. They couldn’t go with any of the normal nicknames, like Shelly or anything, because that would be too…normal. And not to be outdone, Michelle had nicknames for Allyn’s family too. Lindsay became Lance, Kellie became Killay, and Allyn became Lynnie…and there are probably many more that we haven’t thought of.
Michelle is a very intelligent person. She has moved to Spearfish, South Dakota to finish her education, before beginning her career choice of being an art teacher. She is an incredible artist and will be an amazing art teacher. She is also a very fun person, who is a friend to all. While she does feel lonely and homesick sometimes, she likes the Spearfish area, and especially the lack of wind. We miss her too. Today is Michelle’s birthday. Happy birthday Michelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Sometimes we do things for no real reason…we just feel a need somehow. When my dad’s family was living in Holyoke, Minnesota, the family liked to go down to Oak Lake to fish. The lake is located about 15 miles southwest of Holyoke. The lake was a family favorite location. In fact, the whole area was beautiful. The kids, my Aunt Laura, Uncle Bill, my dad, Aunt Ruth, and their friends, went fishing at the lake as often without their parents as they did with them. The lake became an escape from the boredom of everyday life in a small town.
At some point the kids came across the Fire Warden’s house. You see, the area was very wooded, and there was enough fire danger to warrant not only a fire warden, but a fire watch tower in the area. Of course, the summer season in any wooded area presents a high fire danger, as the summer heat dries out the area. Over time, in their hikes through the area, the kids became friends with the fire warden, and were eventually invited to climb up in the fire tower to check out the view from far above the forest floor. It soon became a tradition. When the kids and their friends went fishing at Oak Lake, they also stopped by the tower, and climbed it every time.
Yes, they loved visiting with the person in the tower, but they also climbed the tower when it was unmanned. I suppose it was partly the challenge of climbing up the high tower. Or it could have been the beauty of the view from the top of the tower. Maybe it was the visit with the watchman in the tower. Somehow, I don’t really think that any of those were the real reason the kids and their friends climbed the tower, every time they went by it. I think they had a very simple reason that they did it…because it was there. And sometimes that is all the reason you need.
Sometimes, it seems, people are dealt a very sad hand in life. Such was the case for my 1st cousin once removed, Pearl Ethyl Spencer. She was the daughter on my Great Uncle Clifford Herbert Spencer and his wife at the time, Annie Mae Jordan. As sometimes happens in marriage, Clifford and Annie divorced when Pearl was just a baby, and he moved to Rushville, Nebraska, where he would remarry, to a woman named Hanna (who went by Anna, making the records somewhat confusing), have 3 more children, and live out the rest of his life. To my knowledge he either saw very little of, or nothing more of, his daughter Pearl. Then, when Pearl was still very young, her mother, Annie passed away, leaving Pearl a virtual orphan. My Great Aunt Bertha always said, “Poor Pearl, she was so terribly alone!” Pearl must have had some contact with her grandparents, my Great Grandpa William Malrose Spencer I and Grandma Viola Fuller Spencer, because Aunt Bertha Spencer Hummer knew enough about her to say that her childhood was very lonely.
Pearl grew up and married Claude Lawrence Coleman, and together they had six children, before he too would leave her around 1941. I’m sure that by this time, her children were a blessing to her, and she was no longer as lonely, but Claude’s decision to leave the family must have struck quite a blow to poor Pearl. It was about this time that Pearl and her children came to live with my Grandma, Anna Schumacher Spencer, who was her great aunt. The two families became as one, living and working together during those hard times following divorce and during World War II. They were really a big help to my grandmother, since my dad was serving in the Army Air Forces in England, My Aunt Laura was married and on her own, and Uncle Bill lived in Superior, but worked in the shipyards. Aunt Ruth was still living at home, and prior to this time, they ran the farm together, but it was hard work, and I’m sure the extra help was very nice.
Pearl’s son Claude was a hard working boy, who worked side by side with my grandmother on the farm, and his sisters helped out where needed too. Pearl’s life took many sad and difficult turns, but she raised very nice children. In later years, my Uncle Bill lost touch with Pearl, and to my knowledge never saw her again, but he reconnected with Claude in the late 1990’s, and in 2000, he sent him copies of the only pictures he had of his mother, Pearl. While the letter telling of Pearls history is a sad one, I’m sure that Claude was very pleased to get the two pictures of his mom.
For as long as she could remember, my daughter, Amy has wanted to swim, interact, or at the very least, touch a dolphin. I think she was beginning to think that her lifelong dream would never come to pass. Then, she and her husband, Travis decided to take a very special family vacation, before their children, Shai and Caalab were completely grown up. They settled on a Caribbean cruise. At first they were going to keep it a secret so the kids would find out when they pulled up to the dock, but the excitement got to be too much for them and they found themselves wanting the kids to share in the excitement of planning the trip. Shai and Caalab were beyond excited about the trip, and over time it became all they talked about. Finally the day arrived, and they were off on the trip of a lifetime.
Their trip would take them to a private island in the Bahamas, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel, Mexico. They would get to go parasailing in the Bahamas, which was a little un-nerving for Shai…but then I’m not sure how I would feel about it either. Jamaica was the part of the trip that Travis, Shai, and Caalab were most looking forward to. They were going to see the home and grave of one of their favorite singers, Bob Marley. Jamaica was a little surprising for them too, because there are two sides to Jamaica…the rich and the very poor…still, the visit to Bob Marley’s place was the highlight of the trip for Travis and the kids. In Grand Cayman, they took a ship wreck tour, and found out what can happen when an anchor misses the shelf it is supposed to land on. The fish they saw through the glass bottom boat were amazingly beautiful, and the ship wrecks were sad, broken pieces of what used to be a ship.
Finally, came the day when Amy’s wish would come true. Their ship arrived in Cozumel at 10:00 in the morning…to pouring rain!! They all wondered if they would be able to spend their time with the dolphins. Travis and Caalab were trying to figure out a way to force the issue, in the event that they said it was cancelled. Thankfully the rain quit, and they headed into the pool area. After a little training, they were able to interact with the dolphins. For Amy this part of the trip was the end all/beat all best part. I don’t know if she ever truly believed that her dream would come true, but in the end, not only did she get to interact with the dolphins, but one named Diego even gave her a kiss. Travis was a little jealous, but since Diego wasn’t coming home with them, he figured that one little kiss wouldn’t hurt anything.
Every year, in the tradition my grandparents started, the Byer family gathers to celebrate the Christmas season together, and to keep my grandparents’ dream alive. It was their desire that their children wouldn’t drift apart after they were gone. The family has done their very best to honor their wish, and the Byer Family Christmas Party is a big part of honoring that wish. Over the years, we have all worked together or split the hosting into families, but the party has always been held. Santa Clause has shown up to talk to the kids, bags of treats for the little ones were always given out, and the food…the best in the world. But, the most important part of these wonderful gatherings is the family. Re-connecting with all of them and hearing all about what is going on in their lives…that’s what it’s all about…that’s the dream that our grandparents had for us. The connection to family.
This year I had a chance to hear about how well Autumn Beadle is doing in school, and her plans to graduate at semester in her senior year, and then it’s on to Nursing School for her. I got to see how much she cares for her grandma, my Aunt Virginia. I got to touch base with Aunt Dixie, Uncle Jim, and their family. We used to see them at the mall a lot, but in recent years that hasn’t worked out so well. I ran into Michael and Deena McDaniels on Black Friday, and we laughed about our shopping trials tonight. I had seen Missy and Mindy Grosvenor at the movies on Thursday, and we had a chance tonight to discuss how much we liked “A Christmas Candle” tonight, as well as how much they like taking care of their niece, Piper and sometimes her brother and sister, Parker and Payton. Cousins, Clyde and Susie Young spend much of their winter months in Arizona these days, but they were able to get home for the holidays and the party.
Anthony McDaniels showed up in a suit, adding a special touch of class to our party, while Shai Royce and Christina Masterson dressed up as twins, even though they are not. Aunt Bonnie’s little grandson, Noah spent the latter part of the evening trying to give her a bunny tail. Aunt Sandy has been a mainstay for information for some of the great stories I have been able to relay about the Byer Family, and has also spent several afternoons with my mom this year at the Senior Center, which my mom has cherished and fully enjoyed. The party has brought Elmer Johnson back into our lives after a time of not being able to be there, and since he and I have connected on Facebook too, we have grown to be even better friends than we were as kids. Aunt Jeanette is doing well, and always brings a smile to my face with her awesome laugh. Corrie and Kevin Petersen and their boys Christopher and Josh have been busily planning for Chris to start college in Sheridan next year and Josh to get his driver’s license. Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George were not able to join us this year, but their granddaughter, Rachelle French took lots of pictures for them so they would not feel left out.
This year’s highlight, however, had to be the idea someone had to open up bags of cotton balls for the little kids to play with. It turned into a cotton ball/snow ball fight, and everyone had a wonderful time. Xander, Zack, Isaac, and Aleesia Spethman; Kya and Noah Hamilton; Logan and Lea Orr; Mateo Steiner and Dera Elvidge; Noah Williams; Parker, Payton, and Piper Dobson; Raelynn, Matthew, and Audrianna Masterson all had a wonderful time picking up, loading up on, and throwing those cotton balls. I don’t know who thought of it, but it was a great idea.
When a young wife moves half way across the country from her childhood home, she can get to a point where she really misses her family, especially her parents. That was the case for my mom when she married my dad and they moved from Casper, Wyoming to Superior, Wisconsin. While mom was happy in her new life and ecstatically happy with her new husband, she was nevertheless, a daughter far away from her parents. Soon after their marriage, mom became pregnant with my sister, Cheryl. Being a young wife and soon-to-be mother, and being far away from your mom can be very hard, and even a little scary, because as a woman is about to give birth, having her mother nearby is not a bad thing.
Grandma and Grandpa made several trips to Wisconsin in the five years my family lived there, and we were always very happy to see them and very sorry to see them go. The loneliness that always followed their home going was really tough, especially on my mom. Of course, like most families, daily life soon fell into place, and she got too busy to dwell on that loneliness too much. With two little girls to take care of she was pretty busy. Still, I’m sure that her family and especially her parents were never far from her thoughts though, because that is only natural.
The trips that Grandma and Grandpa made to visit were wonderful though. Mom and Dad showed them all the sights in the area. Superior, and the whole Lake Superior area is quite beautiful, and I don’t know if my grandparents had been there before my mom and dad move back there, so it was quite likely a very special treat to take those great drives, and be able to just relax and enjoy the view. When you have someone to show you the sights, you don’t have to worry about getting lost, traffic, or anything like that. You can just look, and that was what Grandma and Grandpa got to do. Knowing them like I did, I know that those touring drives were treasured times for them. They always liked the outdoors, and to see that whole region, which is quite different from Wyoming was probably a thrill, for sure.
After five years, my family would move back to Casper, Wyoming, where most of us would spend the rest of, or at least the majority of the rest of our lives. My mom was happy to be back here…near her siblings and her parents. She had missed them very much. Their house had always had a bustle of activity in it, and she missed that a lot. Still, now she also missed the family in Wisconsin and the beauty of the area. There is never really any way to have it all, I guess, so you just have to make due where you find yourself, and deal with the feelings of missing the things you left behind you.
All too often, in this day and age, we don’t think about the modern conveniences that we have. Things like electricity, indoor plumbing, gas (both for cars and houses), cars, television, and telephone are the normal everyday items we count on, but think very little about.
When you consider that not so very many years ago, people had to either get out of bed, practically get dressed, and go outside…even in the bitter cold of winter, to go to the outhouse, you know the outdoor toilet which was a little building out back of the house, or have a pot in the bedroom to use, and then emptied in the morning. Neither choice was perfect, but I suppose the pot in the house would have been better than going outside in the bitter cold of winter. These days we abhor the thought of stopping at a rest stop on a trip and finding out that all it has is an outhouse, because we expect that every place has modern indoor plumbing, whether it is a fact or not.
In times past, people went to bed and got up with the sun, because it was too expensive to light candles or lanterns. The work had to be done by daylight anyway, so they might just as well be up at dawn. of course, most teenagers these days consider anything before noon to be pure torture, and might even whine a little if they have to be up before that hour. Still, there wasn’t really any shift work back then, and families were together in the evening, unless the father was working in another state or town.
Letters were used to communicate, and unfortunately that often meant that if your loved ones didn’t live in the same place you did, you might hear of their passing months after the fact. It took a long time for letters to arrive, especially if they were coming from back east. Today, we can inform people of events that happen in our lives, almost the second they happen. In fact, it’s almost like they are there with you, and if it is an event you know about ahead of time, you can Skype with them, and they can watch it happen. Sometimes, even with all of our modern conveniences, we still think life is really hard, but if we think back to days gone by, we will know that we really have no idea what a hard life is.
I found a picture among my Uncle Bill’s family history books, of my dad, Allen Spencer in a water fight with a friend named Ordie at Pattison Park, in Wisconsin, which is just 15 miles east of Holyoke, Minnesota, where the family was living at the time. I could just hear my dad’s laugh as he pummeled his friend with water. Dad had such a great laugh, and he took great pleasure in getting the best of people…in a friendly way, of course. I remember, as a kid, my dad and I used to have sparring matches. Somehow I had it in my head that I could beat him, if I really tried. Our sparring matches weren’t real, of course, but rather a matter of blocking the other persons attempts to pat their opponents face. Dad always won, and he always laughed all the way through our match. I was like a kid with an adult holding onto my head, while I tried to swing and couldn’t hit anything. Dad never held my head, but he almost always blocked my attempts to pat his face. It wasn’t really the sparring matches that drew me back into them, but rather my dad’s laugh. It amused him so much, he laughed in pure delight.
Some memories are so vivid that it’s almost as if you can hear the person. Dad’s voice, the way he teased his girls, his laugh, dancing with him on New Year’s Eve, the swatting game he always played with the grandkids from his chair in the kitchen as they tried in vain to run past him before he could swat them, and the whisker rubs he used to give us…laughing all the while. So many great memories of the wonderful dad that God blessed me with. He could even turn a moment when we were really angry or had been fighting with one of our sisters, into a laughing matter, because it was really hard to keep from laughing when he was laughing. I remember really trying a few times though. We would come to him tattling on whichever sister had so wrongly offended us, and he would imitate our whining…while we tried to keep a straight face. Before you knew it, we were both laughing, and the sister incident was forgotten. That was my dad…always the peacemaker.
When a loved one has gone to Heaven, you just never know what things will bring a memory of them that engulfs you. Sometimes, the sadness is overwhelming, and sometimes the memory brings a smile to your face. Either way, it is always unexpected and you are completely unprepared for it. My dad passed away 6 years ago today, and the memories continue to bring both tears and smiles. My mind shows me video clips of those moments in time, and the happiness we all shared with our dad. I see his smile. I remember his teasing. I hear his words of wisdom. And yes, I hear Dad’s laugh. These memories keep him in my heart until we see each other again in Heaven. I love you Dad!!