Caryn

When you are caring for an Alzheimer’s patient, you need all the help you can get. Because of the necessity for extreme hands on care, one person simply cannot do it alone. Our family understands that all too well. It takes a village as my sister, Alena would say to take care of any ill family member, but all too often it is hard to put that village together. This last year, the village involved in caring for my mother-in-law, who has Alzheimer’s, grew by one very important member. My mother-in-law’s sister, Margee retired from her job and offered to help when we needed to leave my mother-in-law home for any reason. Margee sits with my mother-in-law when I need to take my father-in-law to the doctor or if he needs time to get away for a little bit. And when he was in the hospital for a few days recently, Margee played a major role in her sister’s care. We would have been in a very serious situation without her help.

Margee is no stranger to stepping up when she is needed. Her own daughter-in-law died a little over 13 years ago, leaving behind a grieving husband, Margee’s son Dan and two small children, Zech and Stasi, who needed care. Margee stepped up and cared for them all. It was a terribly sad time in their lives. Margee was virtually alone for parts of it, while Dan worked in another state. The kids are almost grown up now, and Dan is working back here in Casper, but they still need each other very much.

Caregiving or helping to raise one’s grandchildren, can be very challenging, and it takes a special kind of person to do it. Margee has been such a blessing to us. As my mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s has progressed, I don’t know how we could manage the needs of both her and my father-in-law, who has Emphysema, if we didn’t have Margee’s help. She is free during the day, when the doctors appointments are, and she doesn’t mind helping out. I know my mother-in-law enjoys the time with her sister too, though she doesn’t remember the visits once they are over. Still, we know, and we remind my mother-in-law…and we appreciate it very much.

Today is Margee’s birthday. I want to thank her for her dedicated service to her sister and brother-in-law at a time in their lives when they truly needed her help. That is love. I don’t know what we would have done without Margee…and I can’t say enough about how wonderful she has been. Thank you Margee for all you do and who you are. You mean so much to all of us. Happy birthday!! We love you!!

When Corrie was just a little over a year old, and Amy was just 3 months old, we took a trip to Yakima, Washington to visit Bob’s great grandmother. His great grandparents had come to Casper for a visit just 3 months earlier, and shortly after returning home, Great Grandpa passed away. He was 93 years old, and fell off a ladder while doing some repairs to the home they lived in and broke his hip. He lived an amazing life, as you can see.

When we went to visit Great Grandma, Corrie was just learning to walk. Grandma had a little chair with short legs, just the right size for a little girl. Corrie loved that chair so much. She sat on it a lot during the time that we were there. So much so, in fact, that Great Grandma decided to give the chair to Corrie, after telling us about it’s history. The chair had belonged to her sister, and she had given it to Grandma. At the time that she gave the chair to Corrie, it was over 100 years old. That was in 1976. So that chair today is over 135 years old.

Throughout the years that chair has been a part of our lives, and has been used by many a small child. I’m sure that many of those kids would have loved to take that chair home, but I knew that it was a special gift given to Corrie, by a great great grandmother, now long since gone. Grandma passed away in early 1984 at the ripe old age of 96 years. She had continued to live alone in her own home all those years. Another amazing feat, but then she was an amazing woman.

When Corrie got married in 1993, that little chair went to a new home after all…Corrie’s. It was a piece of furniture that Corrie has cherished through the years. It has had to have several paint jobs during all those years, and is in the midst of one as I write this story, but the memories that have been built around that little chair…well, if it could only talk. It has seen many a little girl, and doll sit on it for tea parties, and other little gatherings. It has been used as a little table of sorts at times, and when Corrie and Kevin had children, the little chair saw a new generation of children, this time boys get to enjoy its perfect size, as they found out that they could get up on it easily, and without any help, which was the same thing that had so attracted Corrie to it all those years ago. Not a bad life…for a little chair.

Sometimes in life, we get the opportunity to interact with nature is ways that are unexpected. Most of the time wild animals, want nothing to do with humans. We are the enemy, and they know it, but once in while, you find a situation where the animals have learned to trust humans. Such was the case when my daughter, Corrie and her husband, Kevin took their son, Christopher to Denver with Kevin’s parents. Christopher’s other grandma helped Christopher to feed the geese some bread, and the geese loved it. Now, knowing my grandson like I do, I know that he was laughing with pure delight as the geese come up to him and took their dinner from him. Christopher has always loved animals. And when something got him excited, his laugh was amazing. I can just imagine the excitement he must have felt.

Some people have more chances to get to know nature up close and personal, like my good friend Becky, who lives on the mountain with her husband, dog, a number of deer and wild turkeys. The turkeys don’t allow her to get too close, but the deer are very brave. They will come right up to the camera…just to see what it is, even sticking their nose right up to it sometimes. Becky is treated to a side of nature that most of us never get to see. And, as she continues to live on the mountain, the deer will get to know her better. This picture of one of Becky’s favorites, Buddy, has him eating out of one hand while she took the picture with the other hand. She was nervous, but Buddy was a gentleman, so all went well.

Even in town, we have been treated to situations where nature and humans can interact. I know, because I have deer that come into my back yard often throughout the year. They are relatively unafraid. We can walk around the yard while they are there, and unless we get too close, they just watch us with curious interest. Maybe they, like we, each wonder what the other is all about. We aren’t too sure how close we can go, but we would love to be able to get really close…we just don’t know if we dare. Should we take a chance on a wild animal trusting us enough to allow us to get close? Most of us will take that chance. That’s why we feed the geese, deer and turkeys, and even the squirrels, like the one who bravely climbed up my grandson’s pant leg, until he realized he was very close…and then he ran. Those moments are special, and maybe even a little unnerving, but that’s what getting close to nature is all about.

My second grandson, Caalab is good at sports. He plays basketball and football, but they really aren’t his first love, though he is a good player in both sports. Caalab has several artistic qualities, as well as being a great comedian. Caalab has been taking guitar lessons at school for several years, and is quite good at playing the guitar. He loves it when he and his dad can jam together.

Recently, Caalab has discovered that he is quite good at drawing. He was goofing around one day and decided to try to draw his favorite Disney character…Pluto. So he started drawing, and it came out perfectly, as you can see from the picture here. Now I don’t know about you, but I have tried to draw, and it was a disaster. You know, those “Can you draw this” contests…well, the answer for me is “No, I can’t.” One thing I’m definitely not…is an artist.

Caalab has some real talent…in several areas. He can do anything he chooses to do. Of course, like most kids his age, he is keeping his options open. Meaning that he doesn’t really know what he wants to do for life yet. His dad works in radio, and Caalab could easily go into radio too if he wanted, and with his quick wit, he would be good at it. He could go into music or art or be a comedian. Very few people can come up with the funny stuff that Caalab can. He can always make me laugh. And he never forgets a punch line. Most of us have forgotten the punch line and and stumbled around with several “um, um’s” before finally given up on telling the joke. But not Caalab. He has been telling jokes since he was 4 or 5 years old. He’s really good at it, as he is at several other things.

Caalab’s choices are many, and time is on his side. I know he will be good at whatever he chooses to do, but for right now, I think I’m glad he isn’t ready to go out into the world just yet. Like my other grandchildren, Caalab is growing up so fast, and I am not ready for him to be all grown up. When you first have grandchildren, you just don’t think ahead to when they will be grown, but that time comes all to fast, and I would like to slow it down some.

While his older brother loves football, Josh’s game is basketball. Chris was good at basketball too, but it wasn’t really important to him. Josh loves the game. And Josh is suited to the game too. He is tall and slender, and very quick on his feet. He has learned so much, this season especially. Maybe it is partly because he has a really good coach, but I think that he is coming into his own this year. He isn’t afraid to shoot the basket, like he sometimes was in the past. He knows he can do it now. Also, he is tall enough to rebound well, and steal the ball easily.

His team is undefeated so far this year. They are a formidable opponent for any team. Their coach has taught them well, and they operate as a team. They don’t care who shoots the baskets, only that each player has done his best and given it his all. That is was teamwork is all about. Each of the boys supporting the others…watching their backs. That is what I see in Josh and his team.

Josh is one of the taller boys on his team, so it makes him one of the better guards. It is very hard to shoot over him, and very easy for him to block the shots. I am amazed at how quickly he moves and how immovable he is when he is guarding. The more he plays the better he will get. Of course, that is the same for most sports. If you are dedicated and you practice, you can get better at the sports you love.

I have seen such growth in Josh this year…in more ways than just sports. Oh sure, he is still a bit of a jokester, and he loves to pick on me…and other people, including his mom, but he just seems more grown up now. Maybe I notice it more with him because he is the youngest of my grandchildren. It’s easy to always look at the youngest child or grandchild, and think they will always be the little one. Then one day you look at them and you suddenly see them for the young adult they are. It can be quite a shock. When my grandchildren started arriving, I thought they would be little for a long time, but now suddenly they are all teenagers, even this youngest one that I have most recently discovered in no longer little, but a formidable opponent.

I have been reading through the letters my dad wrote home to his family while he was in World War II. He was a 20 year old boy who was a long way from home, and was missing his family. Like most younger brothers, my dad looked up to his brother, my Uncle Bill, who was 2 years older than my dad. To my dad, Uncle Bill was a very sophisticated ladies’ man. He always seemed to have a girl or two hanging around him, and that was a well known fact. I have come across pictures of my uncle during those young years, and those girls seemed always to be there. Uncle Bill was a looker too. Both of those Spencer boys were.

In Dad’s letters, he talked about the adventures his big brother was fond of having. It wasn’t that my dad wasn’t having adventures of his own, but…well, to him, his big brother was just cool, and like many little brothers, Dad looked at his brother and thought…maybe I could be like him. Dad hadn’t really grown into the wonderful man my mother married, or the amazing dad that he became yet. His brother was his hero to a large degree.

Today, my dad’s handsome brother is 90 years old, and his little brother, my dad has been in heaven for 4 long years. My uncle is still quite a character, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the nurses and aides around him still see a bit of that ladies’ man in him. It seems like as men get older, they like to flirt more. A trait that I find to be very cute, and endearing in the older men I know. They are always so complimentary, no matter how bad you might look that day. It’s just a sweetness they seem to have.

My uncle lives far away in Wisconsin, and it’s not so easy for him to travel, especially as his mind is slipping more and more. My uncle has always been a history buff, and the family history was his personal passion. Through the years he has amassed a wealth of information on our family. It is information that might have been lost if he had not put it all together. Our family has been very blessed by the information Uncle Bill was able to gather.

At 90 years old, I don’t know if Uncle Bill is still a ladies’ man, like many older men are, but I know that I have always loved my uncle very much. He was a good friend when I was growing up, even though we didn’t live close to his family. He was my Cribbage buddy, we wrote letters, and later we shared a love of the family history. It makes me sad that he is getting older, but happy that he has reached the grand old age of 90. Happy birthday Uncle Bill!! I love you very much!!

As kids, we all thought snow was the coolest thing. We couldn’t wait for it to start so we could go out and play in it…provided it wasn’t a school day. If it was a school day, we all hoped that it would come down so hard that school would be cancelled. Funny how if you were in school and it snowed, you thought it was great fun to have indoor recess, but if school was out, you couldn’t wait to get outside to play. And it didn’t matter if it was early in the day or late at night, snow simply called for playing outside. It called out to you…”Come and build a snowman with me!!”

And once you got the snowman built…if you were blessed with a block full of kids, you were all set for a snowball fight. Of course, the first thing you needed to do is build a fort. You needed a place to hide from the incoming snowballs, because we all know what happens to that poor person who gets caught with out some form of cover. That person is really in a lot of trouble, because very soon, the snowballs are going to start flying, and they will not show mercy. It is nothing personal. It’s just the way the game is played. Survival of the fittest is the name of the game. Of course, it’s even more fun if that poor victim of the attack is your mom or aunt.

There were always so many ways to have fun in the snow when you were a kid. One of the most fun, of course, was throwing someone else in the snowbank…preferably a girl right. And when you get your three grandsons going against your only granddaughter…well, she is going in the snow. Even if she doesn’t want to mess up her hair and makeup, because she is going to the mall. Shai was a good sport when her cousins Chris and Josh, and her brother Caalab threw her in the snow, and rubbed snow in her face.

For kids, snow days are the best part of winter. Hoping for a day off from school to hang out with your friends and cut loose a little. And in my opinion, it’s just as well that we like snow when we are kids, because many of us really don’t later on. Maybe it’s the driving in it, or maybe we just get more thin skinned as we get older. My idea of a good thing to do on a snow day…sitting in front of a roaring fire with a cup of hot chocolate, and reading a good book on my Kindle. Oh yeah!! That’s what I’m talking about.

When you are small, and you don’t have much prospect of getting very big, you have 2 choices. You can take the teasing and even bullying that kids can dish out, or you can learn to take care of yourself. As an adult who is only 4’11” tall, you can imagine how little Amy was as a little girl. But don’t let her small size fool you, because if necessary, you will find that there is a tiger living inside that small frame. Of course, like all tiger cubs, Amy’s prowess developed slowly. She first began by making sure that her big sister, Corrie knew who was the tougher of the two. Now Corrie was bigger, and 11 months older, but that didn’t matter. When Corrie was about 3, she came out of the bedroom the girls shared, crying. I asked what was wrong. She said through her tears, “Amy hit me!!” Now, coming from a family of five girls who fought plenty, I couldn’t see much sense in coming between them in their fight, so I told Corrie to “Hit her back!!” That brought immediate shrieks of terror as Corrie yelled, “NOOOOOOOO!!!” Now, I don’t know if Corrie was afraid she would hurt her little sister, or just plain afraid of her little sister, but she never would hit her back. It was probably just as well that Corrie didn’t hit Amy, because through the years, they have always been good friends. They never did fight very much. I guess that it is pretty hard to fight alone, so when your sister won’t hit you back, the fight is…well, over!

Now the same thing did not apply to other children who got on Amy’s bad side. When Amy was just about 2 years old, and about the same time as Corrie’s little mishap with her, the girls began going into the nursery at the bowling alley, while I bowled on a league. One day as I was bowling, I heard this blood curdling scream coming from the nursery. It was a scream that I quickly recognized as my youngest daughter. I ran up to the nursery to see what was going on in there. I asked the nursery attendant what had happened…concern showing on my face, I’m quite sure. She quickly reassured me that everything was just fine…now. Then she explained that one of the other children in the nursery had decided that Amy was like a little toy doll or something, and tried to pick her up. Well, after that scream, that child…and all the others knew that you could play with that toy doll, but do not pick her up…ever!!!

The years have flown by, and that little tiger cub is all grown up…though still not tall. There is one thing that I can say about Amy, and that is…she can take care of herself. She’s not a fighter or a bully. In fact, she really never was…even when she needed to defend herself. She is simply a force to be reckoned with. So, during her teen years, while I won’t lie and say I never worried, I did know that she was pretty capable of taking care of herself, and it really was the other guy who might want to watch out. Amy is a gentle spirit that is quiet and kind. She looks for friends, not enemies. She looks for the best in people, and that is a trait that maybe more of us should have…me included.

When my daughter, Corrie was in first grade, her teacher decided to use Clifford, the Big Red Dog, as a reading helper. Everything they did was based on Clifford. From their first books, to the stickers they received for books read. The students thrived under Miss Tyler’s unusual interest in the big red dog. Corrie tells me that everyone loved Clifford. And not just in the books, because Miss Tyler had a huge stuffed Clifford. He was like a mascot for the class.

In addition to Clifford, Miss Tyler had all of the Clifford books. It was like a big red dog addiction. Everything they did in class included Clifford. He was a great learning aid, because at that time, and possibly still for that age group, Clifford was the coolest thing out there. We never really know what things can help a child learn, but it is well known that children learn better with toys. I have always liked learning toys for my kids, and I could see how well this strategy had worked well for Corrie.

Corrie tells me that the first book she remembers reading was a Clifford book, and that for Christmas, each student receive a Clifford book as a gift from Miss Tyler. Their entire year centered around Clifford. As rewards for good work, or good behavior, students were given the privilege of being in charge of taking care of Clifford. Corrie says that the students loved Clifford, almost as much as Emily, his owner did.

Time marches on, of course, and Clifford went the way of all childhood heros. I doubt if Corrie has thought about him in years. Her children have grown past the Clifford age, and while they did read those books too, they probably haven’t thought about the big red dog in a long time. Still, when I asked her about a picture I had found of a teacher, her students, and Clifford, all the memories came flooding back for her. Memories of school days gone by…about a simpler time, when life was all about making friends at school, and of course, recess. When I asked her about how the class responded to this different method of teaching, she said, “Oh, we loved Clifford!!”

When I was a young girl, our family took a vacation every year. By the time I was 12 years old, I had every possible worthless souvenir there was. It was at that point that I decided to change the plan some. I told my mom that instead of the silly souvenirs, I was going to start buying something that would have meaning for the rest of my life. She thought that was a great idea. So I looked around the souvenir store that we were in at Grand Coulee Dam, and found my first spoon. The decision…made by a 12 year old girl…began a lifelong collection for me.

At first I kept my collection in a box, but later on that was going to be problematic. The spoons would be hard to enjoy, because they could only be looked at when I had time to go through the box, and no one else could really enjoy my collection. It was at that time that I came across the only souvenir I would buy during those years that was not a spoon. It was my first spoon rack, and it was beautiful as you can see.

When I first bought the spoon rack, it didn’t have very many spoons on it, but the years have changed that. I have added many spoons from places that are very special to me. I have also been given spoons from all over the world, as friends and family members traveled to those places and were kind enough to spend their time to look for a spoon for me. I have spoons from places like the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Space Needle, and the Grand Canyon, all of which I have had the privilege of seeing. I collected spoons from every state that I have been in. I have also collected many memories with each of those spoons.

Then, as more of the people I knew began to travel out of the country, me spoon collection grew in ways I never expected. My ex-brother-in-law, Warren, who has remained a friend of the family since my sister’s divorce, contributed a great many of those out of the country spoons. Warren was in the Navy, and was required to go on cruises for long periods of times to many places around the world. Warren brought back spoons from Thailand, Hong Kong, Spain, Jerusalem, and Rome. My grandmother brought me one from Ireland when she got got go there…it was the trip of a lifetime for her, and that spoon reminds me of how much fun she had. My boss, Jim brought me a spoon from Israel when he and his wife Julie went there for their 25th wedding anniversary. These gifted spoons have a memory all their own for me, because while they are from places I have never been, I have the joy of knowing what each trip meant to the person who took it. Some were so special that they were the highlight of the travelers life. And they took time to do something nice for me.

My collection will continue to grow as I travel and others do. In fact, the collection as grown so much that I have had to add a second spoon rack, just to hold them all. It is almost like having a scrapbook that hangs on my wall. My spoons have their own stories to tell.

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