Reminiscing

As Spring approaches, the minds of many men turn to…well, fishing. And it isn’t just the men either. My daughter, Corrie has already mentioned that she is getting camping fever. I suppose that really is normal for this time of year. Winter has dragged on long enough, and everyone is really over it, and ready for warmer weather. Bob and I don’t do much camping, but we love to hike, and lets face it…walking the mall just isn’t the same thing. So, as we get to this time of year, we can feel spring fever coming on too.

For avid fishermen, spring brings on a pretty big yearning for the open air, the water, and the fishing pole. I have never been one for fishing much, but then again, maybe it would be kind of nice sometimes. I lead a pretty hectic life, and the thought of sitting in a chair with nothing to do but wait for the fish to bite could be just what I need. I know my kids and grandkids seem to really enjoy it.

There are a lot of the other members in my family who love to head out to Pathfinder Lake to see what they can catch. And since I have fished in the past, I can relate to the challenge. There is really something about feeling that fish on the end of the line, and the ensuing fight to bring him in. The minute you feel that first tug, you wonder who will win…you or the fish.

And you don’t even have to enjoy eating the fish to enjoy the sport, because while Corrie’s family doesn’t like fish, they simply supply other family members with a couple of meals that are well received and very much enjoyed. My mom and sister, Cheryl have been the grateful recipients of a weekend’s catch, as have Kevin’s mom and Bob and me. So I guess we can’t say that we mind the fact that they don’t like fish.

As February comes to a close, and March marks the move toward Spring, the minds of sportsmen of all ages begin to think about fishing and other water or warm weather sports. I think that if it is possible, the adults are more excited that their little fishing buddies, for the season to begin. It’s like a breath of fresh air…or the light at the end of the tunnel. Winter is losing it’s punch and with it’s death comes the promise of the coming Spring and Summer…the lazy days of Summer and fishing, camping, hiking, and…warmth…beautiful warmth.

Lots of people follow the crowd…go along with their peers. If all their friends are being negative, rude, or disrespectful, then so do they. Everyone, it seems, is out for themselves. Doing things only if they will bring benefit to self. It seems like it is an “I, Me” world.

Still, there are people out there who specifically set out to be different than the rest. People who set aside their own needs and desires in order to do something nice or helpful for others. They are all around you, whether you know it or not. The man who stops to help someone change a flat tire, the the person who assists an elderly person with mobility problem to get up from a chair that is low, or helps a caregiver to transfer a loved one into the car from a wheelchair when they are not feeling well, and obviously to weak to stand easily.

These people usually remain nameless, because we either don’t know them, or we don’t see them do the nice things they do. Or maybe it is because they don’t do it for recognition, but rather because it is the right thing to do. They don’t do it for pay or for fame, but because they care about people. And they don’t even consider themselves to be heroes…but they are.

The funny thing is that each of us has the potential to be that person…to be different. It is a choice each of us can and must make when the opportunity presents itself. When we don’t look the other way when someone needs help, or when we can simply go out of our way to do something nice. And when we get the chance to step outside ourselves, to put others first, to ease someone’s pain, to give help where it is needed…when we get that chance and we take it…we learn what it is to be different.

A few days before my first two grandchildren were born, my nephew and his wife at the time, had their daughter, Christina. Maybe because of having their birthdays close together, and maybe not just because of that, Christina and my granddaughter, Shai have always been good friends. For a long time, Christina lived in Texas, and Shai was not able to see much of her, but when she moved back to Casper, it was as if they had never been apart. Cousins aren’t always good friends, but it is a little more common in our family, and since Christina and Shai are the only girls near their age, it made sense that they should be friends.

Christina has always been a bit flashy…not unlike most kids her age. Her favorite thing was to dye her hair is wild ways. Her aunt, my niece, Toni was that way. She dyed her hair just about every color in the book. It is Christina’s goal to dye her hair as many colors as her Aunt Toni. While I don’t dye my own hair, and have always liked my natural color, I know a lot of people like to spice it up a bit, and that is their right. Some of her colors have been wild and crazy, while others are fairly standard colors. Either way, you never know exactly what to expect with Christina.

Still, as spicy as she can be, Christina is a very sweet girl, and I love her very much. She lived in Texas for a number of years, and so we didn’t have as much chance to get to know her as she was growing up. When she came home for visits, she often told me that she missed the closeness to the rest of the family. It is something that goes along with living away from the rest of a close family, unfortunately, and it can be very hard on the kids. It’s no one’s fault…it just is. Now, while Christina misses her mom and little brothers, she is living in Casper again with her dad, step-mom, and little sisters and brother on her dad’s side. I know that there are times that she is torn because of missing the other half of her family, but we are very happy to have her here with us.

Today is Christina’s Sweet Sixteenth Birthday…that very special birthday in the life of a kid. Soon she will be driving and the next thing we know she will be graduating. Time goes by so fast. I remember well the day she was born…and it seems like only yesterday. Happy birthday Christina!! We love you!!

When my brother-in-law, Ron was little, it seemed like he would always be too little to help out much with things in the garage, and other mechanical areas of the place they lived. It was a frustrating thing to him to always be told, to go in the house, or go play, or stay out of the way. He wanted to be a mechanic…just like the big guys were.  He was sure he knew how to do stuff, but he just never seemed to get the chance. He did his best to be grown up…even trying to get to be as tall as me…which wasn’t saying much, but somehow struck him as being big at the time. Ron was younger than Bob by 14 years, and the rest of the kids were girls…who as we all know, do nothing that is interesting to a little boy.

As Ron grew up, of course, there began to be more jobs for him to do than he probably wanted to have. That happens with most kids. What seemed like the coolest thing to do in our early lives, is in reality, work, and not fun at all. Still, there were jobs that Ron really liked to do. One of them was moving snow around the place with the tractor. Having driven a tractor quite a bit, I can relate to the fact that it is a fun thing to do. Of course, it can have it’s down side too, as Ron can tell you. One time on Thanksgiving Day, Ron was moving the snow off the driveway, and the tractor got stuck in the snow. Ron stepped up on the tire to try to get it moving, and…well, it moved alright…right over his leg!!

Bob was working that Thanksgiving Day, and my girls and I were running late getting to my in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. When we pulled up, I saw my father-in-law carrying ny nephew Barry, into the house, and several other people were with him. What struck me as odd…the fact that no one said one word to me. I thought, “Wow!! I’m not that late, am I?” The truth was, it was not my 2 year old nephew, Barry that my father-in-law was carrying into the house…it was my 12 year old brother-in-law, Ron, who had broken his leg. How Ron could have looked like Barry to me is still a mystery to me. I suppose it was because I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea of my father-in-law carrying my 12 year old brother-in-law.

Needless to say, it was a rather strange Thanksgiving dinner. My in-laws took Ron to the hospital, and the rest of the family ate a rather subdued Thanksgiving dinner without them. When we next saw Ron, his entire leg was in a cast and he was in a hospital room. It was a difficult 6 week for him,because that cast made it next to impossible to walk, but he was soon well again, and has had no ill effects from that terrifying experience…when the tractor went berserk. Happy birthday Ron!! Glad you’re ok!!

My sister-in-law, Debbie was born 3 months prematurely. She was so little that she could fit in a shoe box, and she was immediately dubbed, Little Dab O’ Debbie. While very small, Debbie was healthy and grew strong. Before very long, she was a healthy full sized baby and the initial concerns for her life were behind the family. Debbie remained small all of her life, growing up to be only 5′ 2″ tall. While that isn’t terribly short…maybe that is my opinion, in that I am the same height…it did put her the second shortest of her sisters and brothers.

On June 8, 1974, Debbie would marry the love of her life, Lynn Cook. It was at this point that her height…or the lack thereof…became really noticeable. Lynn is 6′ 6″ tall. It really became the tall and the short of it. Even when their daughters were born we knew that it was unlikely that Debbie would be taller than her girls for very long. And sure enough, Machelle and Susan are close to 6′ tall. Her oldest grandson, Weston is already taller than she is, and I’m sure Easton won’t be shorter for long. I suppose it is possible that her granddaughters, Jala and Kaytlyn could be her height or shorter, it is very unlikely. No, I think Debbie will find that before long, she will be Little Dab O’ Grandma…just like she could have been Little Dab O’ Mom, had her girls thought to call her that.

While Debbie is short, she has been a big help to her parents whenever she is down to visit them. They have had health problems over the last few years, and while she is unable to do very much heavy work, since injuring her back a number of years back, she cooks many meals and freezes them for her parents, so that all they have to do is thaw them and heat them up. That is a huge help for her dad who has been the main caregiver for her mom since she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease a number of years ago. It is an exhausting job for him, and those meals make his life a little easier after a hard day. I am so thankful that we have our Little Dab O’ Debbie, she is a blessing in so many ways. Happy Birthday Debbie!! We love you!!

We knew almost from the very start that our little Shai was a Fashionista. She wanted her nails painted almost from the moment she was born…ok, ok her grandma helped that part out a little, much to her daddy’s chagrin. I don’t think it was really going to matter if her grandma painted her nails or not…this little girl was all girl, and very much a Fashionista. And that is a fact that has not changed to this day.

The other thing that fully describes Shai is born to shop. She likes nothing better than to check out the latest styles, the coolest frills, and of course, the most stylish shoes. Jewelry is a must too, of course, because a girl can never have enough bling. She also likes the hustle and bustle of the mall. It’s not just about shopping, but socializing.

Still, as a little girl…it was a different scenario. Shai had a one track mind. It didn’t matter so much what she was shopping for. The reality was that she was doing what she was born to do. Shop first, fashion second, and third and maybe the most important of all…never use your own money. Probably Shai’s favorite place to shop when she was a little girl was J C Penney’s. One day she was trying to get her mom to take her shopping at J C Penney’s, and Amy said, “No, we don’t have enough money right now.” Well Shai saw that as a non-problem. She wanted to go shopping and she was willing to find a way to make that happen. And, she was sure she had found the answer when she said, “Well…just charge it!!”

Shai has grown up some since those days of simplicity, but she still loves to shop. And she is still very much a Fashionista. In fact, I often find myself looking to her for confirmation on my own outfits. She has a great eye for fashion. If she says I look good, then I know that I do. She would never steer me in the wrong direction. She can always see a fashion mistake. It’s nice to have such a stylish granddaughter. Much has changed with Shai through the years, but she will probably always be a Fashionista who was born to shop.

My sister, Cheryl was divorced from her husband Rob before their youngest daughter Jenny was born. While divorce is a tragedy, there was a great degree of good that came to Cheryl’s children afterward. They were very young when the divorce took place, and their dad was not a big part of their life after that time. They did have a father figure, however…their grandpa, our dad. Dad was a mentor to them. His continued loving guidance was a major source of stability in their lives.

Dad always saw to it that they got to go on some vacations, and outings to the mountains, as well as drives…a type of outing we all enjoyed. Dad also provided a moral compass as well as help with educational things. Don’t misunderstand me, because they did have their mom, and Cheryl was and is a good mom, but they needed that father figure…someone who could do all the things a dad does with them.

Every one of Cheryl’s kids has told me that their grandpa was the only dad they ever had. Thinking about that I realize how blessed I was to have my dad, because not everyone has that. It’s hard to understand how they felt, because I was never in that position. For my sister’s kids, they had to look to my dad to show them all the things a dad usually shows you. That was not a bad thing for them either. Each one of them has told me about how their grandpa enriched their lives.

It really wasn’t anything so specific that my dad did for them, but rather it was just the love he showed to them…and it was the same love he showed to all his grandchildren, but maybe it was felt a little bit more deeply to them, because they wanted the love of a dad…and they wanted to belong. That is what my dad gave them. A sense of normalcy in their life.

When my dad passed away, each one of my sister’s kids told me that he was the only dad they ever knew. While I can’t pretend to know every detail of what he meant to them. I do know that somehow he impacted their lives is a way that made them feel a connection to their grandpa that was unlike the other grandchildren, even though my dad was very much loved by grandchildren and great grandchildren alike. I believe it was the way he became their mentor, showing them how to live, but living the best life he could as a model for them…as well as for the rest of us. That was the kind of man my dad was.

When my girls were about 4 and 3, my in-laws sold their place west of Casper and bought a place north of Casper, because the old place was becoming more and more a part of town, and they wanted to live in the country. We had moved our mobile home to their old place while we got our new place east of Casper ready, so when they sold the old place, we moved with them. The new place had a 14 X 60 mobile home on it, which would definitely not be big enough for the family. So began a family project. We would build them a house, and everyone was going to help. It was rather exciting for me, since this was something I had never done before…much less ever thought I would do.

I had the initial job of running the tractor while one of the guys went behind me with a scoop to move the dirt and level the site. This was a big job since the home was to be built into the side of a hill to help with insulation. I had never run a tractor before, much less with a person hooked up behind it, so I was a little bit nervous, but in time, I became an expert through repetition. Finally the site was ready for the home to be built. The foundation was laid, and the next step of the family project would begin.

The home was to be built out of cinder blocks. For those who don’t know, cinder blocks are like a very large, usually gray, brick. My father-in-law, it seemed, could build just about anything he put his mind to, and I don’t know if he had laid bricks before, but he did this job with the skill of an expert. This was to be a big home with a huge garage attached. The family would no longer be cramped for space.

Everyone helped, right down to the little kids. Barry, my nephew, was just about 1 or 2 when we were doing some of the finishing touches to the house, and he helped too…even if someone had to lift him up so he could reach. Every family member had a hand in the building of the house, and we can all take pride in the accomplishment.

While my in-laws have long since moved to town, my brother-in-law, Ron bought the land next door to the house, and still lives out there with his family. The home that was our family project is still there, of course, and houses a different family now. Whether they know it or not, the house they live in has quite a unique history…and they are very blessed to be living in it.

As sometimes happens in families who live great distances away from each other, our family has been distanced from some of my cousins for as many as 30+ years. That is a fact that I find sad in many ways, but mostly because now, with the use of Facebook, we have reconnected with many of those cousins, and now we are faced with the lost years that cannot be replaced. I am very glad to be in touch with my cousins Shirley, Terry, Pam, Bill, and second cousins, Larry, Tonnya, Danyelle, Jason, Crystal, Christine, Bill, Kristin, Cody, Tim, and Shawn and all their families. Talking with them now, the missed years seem to have melted away, but knowing that there were so many years, and so many past events that we missed out on, makes me sad. That’s how life goes sometimes. You get so busy with your own life, that there doesn’t seem to be enough time to stay in touch.

Kids I last saw as babies, or have never even met, are grown up and out on their own. Some have their own children and one has a child on the way. My cousins and I have been doing quite a bit of catching up, and that has been very wonderful for me, as I hope it has been for them. I have been getting to know the younger generation, as well as the ones in my age group. We are as varied in who we are as we are in where we live, and yet each person, each personality, each life is a precious reunion to me. I am interested in the lives and lifestyles of each one. Some of us prefer the big city life, some the small town atmosphere, and some the scenic beauty of nature.

We are all very different, but we all share one side of our background. We share the same Spencer lineage. We are connected in the past, present, and future because of it. We share similar views of our background…similar stories of the past. We may have a little bit different view of those stories, but they are basically the same. I feel so blessed by the connection to these precious cousins. It is really the fact that these cousins complete who I am…and that part of me was separated from the rest of me for a long time. Today, I feel so blessed to be reunited with my cousins…the grandchildren and great grandchildren, and even great great grandchildren of my grandparents.

On Valentine’s Day, two very special people got engaged. My future nephew-in-law, Jason asked my niece Jessi to marry him. We are all so happy for them. They are so perfect for each other. They are both full of life and fun to be around. It is a great match.

Jason…known as Red, fits so well into the family. We are a family that likes to tease each other, so it’s a good idea to find someone who is an easygoing kidder. And that is Jason. Theirs is a relationship fulled with laughter, and what could be more wonderful than a home filled with laughter. I am convinced that that is the type of home Jessi ad Jason will have.

Still, behind the laughter, the silliness, the jokes and teasing, lives a love that is very strong. I have talked to Jason when he wasn’t joking, and before he knew me very well. Bob and I were on a trail here in town, when we ran into Jason. You could see the way he felt when he spoke of Jessi. It wasn’t so much in his words, but more it his way of talking about Jessi, and I hope he doesn’t mind my sharing of our conversation. It wasn’t so much in the words spoken, but rather in the look in his eyes when he speaks of Jessi.

It is the same look I have seen in Jessi’s eyes when she speaks of Jason…along with a sparkle in her eyes and a glow on her face. It is a look I think most of us know, or at least those of us who have been there. It is a look of love. It is the look on both Jessi and Jason’s faces. Theirs is love, and I believe, it is forever…a match made in Heaven. And it makes me so happy for both of them.

I think Jessi and Jason have the three most important ingredients for a good marriage…God, love, and laughter. With those ingredients, along with hard work, because no marriage works if its members won’t work at it, Jessi and Jason will have the together forever kind of marriage. I am so happy for them as they begin their life’s journey.

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