My grand nephew, Zackery David Spethman is an eleven year old boy with a lot going for him. This past November, he took and passed the Hunter Safety course, and he can’t even go hunting until he is twelve. Not many kids would take the course a year and a half before they would even benefit from it…and I have my doubts that most kids who are just ten years old, would even be able to pass the test, but Zack did, and we are all very proud of him.
Zack is a very tenderhearted boy. His mom, my niece, Jenny Spethman says that he “loves deeply and feels deeply” about people, He doesn’t like getting his feelings hurt, and so is very careful not to hurt the feelings of others. He doesn’t ever want to be the one to inflict pain on someone. Zack is a huggy boy. He is quick to give a hug to those he loves, and very quick to try to cheer up a person who is sad. And one of his favorite things to do is to make his little sister, Aleesia laugh.
Zack is, nevertheless, all boy. He loves to play football, go bowling, go shooting with his parents, and play cops and robbers with his brothers, Xander and Isaac. For Zack, the season makes no difference. Jumping into a snow drift is just as much fun as jumping into a pile of leaves. He just loves life, and doesn’t want to miss a moment of it. He loves watching movies with his siblings, and his parents, and like most kids, the super hero movies are the best, but he has also watched a lot of war movies. His dad, Steve Spethman, was a marine, and he wants his boys to understand the need to stand up for what you believe, and even to fight for it if necessary. Steve and Jenny have taught all their children good moral values, and not to be afraid of doing what is right. These are values that so many kids are not taught these days.
Zack is not afraid of hard work. He and his brothers have often headed out after a snow storm ready to tackle the neighborhood sidewalks and driveways…for a profit, of course. They understand that if you want to have money, you need to work for it. It’s the only right way. I realize that at eleven years of age, it is a little difficult to have a steady job, but he isn’t too young to be industrious enough to make a few bucks here and there by doing work for the neighbors. Zack is just such a kid. He has lots of great plans for his life, and while he is still a kid, he is loving life on a daily basis, and isn’t that what it’s all about at eleven. Today is Zack’s 11th birthday. Happy birthday Zack!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
As each new month goes by since my mother, Collene Spencer’s passing, I find myself experiencing different feelings…different stages of grief, I suppose. Each day brings with it thoughts of Mom, now with Dad and other family members who have gone before us. They aren’t sad thoughts…exactly, because I know she is not sad, but they are lonely thoughts sometimes, because I miss her. I wish I could call her on the phone, or stop by her house to tell her something new I have discovered, or to ask her a question about something that only she would know the answer to. The last time that happened, a thought came to me that like stages of grief, sadness, or being blue, has many shades.
The first days after her passing, or the passing of my dad, Allen Spencer, or my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg, were dark days emotionally. I would be hard pressed to find a shade of blue that is dark enough, without having it turn black. Those days were so very painful. Every time I looked at the things I have of theirs, I felt lonely. I would much rather have them here than to have their things. My shades of blue must be worked through on my own. These are not steps anyone can take for me. The days when I think of them in Heaven, celebrating with God, are definitely powder blue days. It is a blue so pale that I can almost see right into Heaven. It’s a blue that is so close to white that it’s almost not blue either. All that remains of the blue is just a hint. The other days all fall into some other shade of blue, as I work through my feelings, and sometimes I slip from lighter blue to darker blue, a relapse I suppose. I know that whether people think of these days as shades of blue or not, they have the feelings I have, nevertheless.
We all experience shades of blue in life. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, the end of a friendship, the loss of a pet or job, a child moving away or going to college…the reasons are pretty endless. Nevertheless, as we walk through our daily lives, our shades of blue will vary from darkest blue to lightest powder blue. All we can do is to hang on tight to those we love during the darkest blues, and hang on tight to those we love during the lightest powder blue times too, because it is the ones we love who will help us through, and it’s the ones we love who make life worth living in the first place. While my mom has been in Heaven now for five months, and my dad and father-in-law even longer, I know they are happy…so how can I be blue for them? My shades of blue are for me alone.
After I wrote the story about the sinking of the Bismarck, my nephew, Steve Spethman told me about a documentary he had about the man who located the Bismarck, and the search for it. Of course, I jumped at the chance to watch it, but when I was done watching it, I felt…different. It’s easy to be excited about a victory in a battle in wartime, or in a war that your dad fought in. It’s easy to set aside the thoughts of lives lost in historic battles, when you know that the battle had to be fought, and the victory would determine the course of the world stage. The problem with that thinking though, is that all too often…especially in countries governed by an evil dictator, such as Adolf Hitler, the people involved in the war, have no choice as to whether or not to fight. I know that a draft is sometimes necessary, but I would much rather have a military machine composed of volunteers than one from a draft. I think volunteers know what they are walking into. It is a cause they agree with, not one they were forced to accept.
The movie about the Bismarck’s location, while mostly about the location of a sunken ship, was very different from the documentaries I had seen about other ships, like the Titanic. While both ships were located by the same man, Robert Ballard, the feelings taken away from the Bismarck, both for Ballard and for the audience were quite different. The addition of commentary from some of the actual survivors of the Bismarck, as well as men on the ships who went in for the final sinking and the rescue of survivors, was very sobering. I was very moved by the German men who remembered the name of the man, Joe Brooks, who risked his own life to try to pull them from the water. They said, in fact, that his name was revered among German soldiers everywhere. This was a man who, in a war situation, chose to do good to his enemies…an almost unheard of act in wartime, but that act from the middle of a war, is still remembered 74 years later.
So seldom, when talking about a war, do you hear about both sides of the war. While you may hear about their goals and reasons for going to war, you don’t hear about the human factor of each side. I think that was the thing that made me feel so different…almost somber after the movie. One man said that in a sea battle, you usually never see the enemy. He saw men…just briefly as they were running across the deck of the Bismarck. That was it…until they were in the water beside his ship. Then they weren’t soldiers, but real people in dire straits, who were about to lose their lives. In the end, Robert Ballard stood alone at the back of the ship he was on when he found the Bismarck, and I could tell that he felt the same way as I did. The war and the battle had both been a necessary action on the part of the allies, because evil cannot be allowed to prevail, but that simply does not change the fact that these were real lives and real tragic situations.
The more I write, the more connected I feel to my Great Aunt Bertha Schumacher Hallgren. I have a feeling that we both used writing for much the same reason…a release of the creative side of ourselves when much of our lives were spent taking care of others. Caregiving is something that is very much an exact science. You have to give the right medicines at the right times, and caring for sick and wounded bodies takes precision and proper methods. There is no room for creativity…other than in the use of items at your disposal to make your job easier, whether it be physical items or the use of your mental abilities to work around a difficult moment in the care of a patient who isn’t ready to give over their independence to someone else, after so many years of being their own person. A caregiver has to follow the instructions of the doctors to the letter in order to insure the improvement and continued health of the patient. And Bertha was a caregiver for many more years than I have been. She knew what it took, and what must be sacrificed.
Bertha quoted Charles Lamb, who in 1890 wrote “I love to lose myself in other men’s minds.” It might seem a strange thought, to want to get lost in the thoughts of another person, but sometimes their thoughts are so interesting that it is a desirable place to be. Must of us lose ourselves in another man’s mind periodically. Every time you read a good book, your mind pictures the thoughts and images created by the writer. You can’t help yourself really. It’s just how our minds are wired to work.
I have read Aunt Bertha’s journal several times, but it just never gets old. It seems like every time I read it, I discover some new story, whether it is written in the words or simply exists between the lines. Much of what a writer is like can be found living between the lines of the words they write. That is where their feelings live in their writing. Although I don’t recall ever having the opportunity to meet Aunt Bertha, I feel like I know her well. She has poured her heart and soul into her writing. She has been brutally honest about herself. She doesn’t leave out her shortcomings, but puts them into the stories, regardless of how they might make the reader feel about the kind of person she was. Her objective is not to paint herself as a perfect person, but rather to reveal to the reader the true person she was.
I think many writers would not have the courage to put on paper exactly how they were as a child, worker, caregiver, or person, because they don’t want to show the reader the negative thoughts, or mistakes they have made in their lives. The reality, nevertheless, is that none of us are perfect, but rather human. While Aunt Bertha was not perfect, I truly like the person she was. She reminds me a little bit of myself, and yet inspires me to try to be better than I once was. In her mind, she knows the kind of person she wants to be, and while she failed sometimes, she never quit trying. I find that her mind is truly a good one to lose myself in sometimes.
I find it amusing when little kids are, for lack of a better word, attracted to each other. It isn’t a sexual thing, but rather a friendship. Nevertheless, they know who they like and they aren’t afraid to show it. You might see two little kids kissing or holding hands. They don’t feel self conscious, they just know that they like each other.
That’s the way it was when my sister-in-law, Jennifer was babysitting a couple of kids the summer she was 15 and since we lived next door at the time, my daughters, Corrie and Amy were over there a lot too. Jay Dee, the little boy Jennifer was babysitting took a shine to Corrie. He decided that she was his girlfriend…sorry Kevin, this was before your time, and I don’t think Jay Dee cared anyway.
The kids played together all the time that summer, and got to be really good friends. I don’t recall if they did any kissing or not, but they did hold hands, and as you can see, Jay Dee put his arm around Corrie. Ahh…young romance.
Of course, Corrie’s young romance didn’t turn out the way her Grandma and Grandpa Schulenberg’s did. They met when he was 4 and she was 2 and theirs ended up being a forever kind of love. Corrie would go on to meet Kevin before deciding that he was the one, and I have no idea who Jay Dee married. Theirs was just a passing kid kind of young romance.
Whatever happens in those little kid or even baby young romance situations, it’s not really about any kind of real romance, it’s just about learning to express their feelings. It’s about them making their own decisions on who they like and don’t like. Kids are brutally honest about their feelings…good or bad, and sometimes that can be problematic, because while they are very willing to show how much they like other kids, they are also very willing to show that they don’t, and as I recall there was just as much fighting between those two kids as there was romance. Maybe that’s why Corrie married Kevin instead.
When my two oldest grandchildren, Chris and Shai, completed their last day of high school, they both stopped by my office to share their thoughts with me. Chris has his next three years of college all planned out, while Shai isn’t sure of what she wants to do concerning college, but that didn’t matter, because their feelings were essentially the same. Both were a little bit in shock. How could all those school years have somehow flown by so quickly? Suddenly it seemed like just yesterday that they were starting Kindergarten, middle school, and high school…so how could it possibly be over. It felt so final.
Looking back, I remember my own final day of high school, and I still remember exactly how I felt. It was a mixture of shock and sadness. It wasn’t that I wasn’t ready to move on to the new chapters of my life and all the great things my life would hold, but there was just a little sadness that my formal childhood education, and therefore my childhood were now over. Being an adult is such a change from the teenage years. You don’t have to answer to your parents, or even live under their roof, but that means that you are now responsible for your own bills, your own job, your own decisions, and your own mistakes. It is a big step, but that isn’t what is causing the feeling of, something is…not quite right here…when did I suddenly slip through this passage of time, and how could I have not noticed that it was going by.
To a kid, the school years seem like they will go on forever, and by about first grade they figure out that they have a total of thirteen years of school to go through, and that feels like a huge amount of years of school. It seems never ending. Then in the blink of an eye, they find themselves standing on the threshold of graduation, and they look back and wonder where all the years went. There is simply no way to reach this point without suddenly thinking “Whoa…wait!! I’m not sure I’m ready for this!!” Nevertheless, ready or not, here it is. You don’t have the option to go back, slow down, or stop and do things over. You are graduating, and your years of childhood education, and childhood in general are over. It is a sobering discovery, and therefore it takes a bit of getting used to, combined with that hint of sadness. I could totally relate to how Chris and Shai were feeling.
Whether a student likes school, or can’t wait until it is over, I think the reaction to that final day is the same…even if they plan to go to college. College is not the same as high school, so the feel of that is very different than anything they are used to. Their education is their own responsibility…they can do what they need to do, or they can bomb out. Of course, bombing out does mean that they have some explaining to do to their parents, but it is still up to them really. They are adults now, and their choices are their own…as are their mistakes. I know that both my grandchildren will be great!!
What is it about reading a story that intrigues us? It is the content, of course, but there is something more. Sometimes, we just want to take a few minutes outside ourselves…to lose ourselves in another man’s mind. It was a quote by Charles Lamb in 1890, who wrote “I love losing myself in other men’s minds” that came to me in a cover letter for my Great Aunt Bertha Schumacher Hallgren’s journal. It was written to some of her grand nieces and grand nephew, her sister, Mina’s grandchildren, when she gave them a copy of her journal…the writings of her thoughts. And when I read the letter, I was intrigued. I was very curious about her mind. I never had the opportunity to know Great Aunt Bertha, who went by Bertie, and I find that very sad. It is my opinion that she was an amazing woman. In her letter, she points out that all too often, historical writings take in simply the events as they occurred, but leave out the human side of things…the thoughts, emotions, feelings, and the impact the events had on the lives of the people who lived them. She also points out that the family stories told by the very of people who lived those stories will impact the lives of their descendants for years to come. She looks ahead to the 23rd century, and wonders what they would think of the events that shaped the lives of their ancient ancestors. After reading her letter, I realized that my stories had barely scratched the surface of the events I was writing about.
I began to think of the day to day moments of our lives, and how much of the future history is being lost, because we have not recorded the thoughts and feelings we experienced at the time that we experienced them. Great Aunt Bertie suggested that if a person was interested in writing about family history, they should question their parents about the lives of their parents and grandparents. I immediately felt a sense of loss, because my dad and my father-in-law are both gone, and the opportunity to talk with them is gone too. I also felt a sense of loss, because my mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s Disease, and doesn’t always remember the events from her past anymore. I did feel an urging to sit down with my mom to see what things she could tell me, and also with my aunts, because I still have a chance to get their perspective on things. It occurred to me that while the desire is there, time will be the biggest problem, because of work and other obligations. Still, I want to take the opportunity while I can do so, and I know that I will learn many interesting things about my family.
I look forward to reading more of Great Aunt Bertie’s journal. She was an amazing individual, and she had the presence of mind to think in the future. She knew that the past has a very important place in the future, and that the future generations will never know the great things their ancestors accomplished, unless someone tells them about it. They will never know how their ancestors felt when they made the decision to immigrate to a new country, with their future very uncertain, but knowing that they had no future where they were then. And yet, she saw the importance of the here and now too…the everyday changes in the lives of family members around us…the accomplishments, hopes, and dreams for their future. She knew the importance of documenting the everyday moments of a life. Thank you for your wisdom, Great Aunt Bertie, and thank you Julie Holmberg Carlberg for blessing me and the rest of the family with this wonderful journal and the pictures you sent too. Great Aunt Bertie’s legacy will always be our priceless treasure.
Little boys want so much to be just like their daddy. They want to do whatever their daddy is doing. Most times they aren’t much help until they are older, but if their dads don’t let them help when they are little, they most likely won’t want to when they are older. It is a challenge for those dads to find suitable jobs for those little boys though. Sometimes all they can do is point to a tool so they can get it for them. It would be much easier for that dad to do the job himself, but that would break his little boy’s heart, and he can’t have that. Of course, as those little boys eventually learn the ropes, and they can become pretty good hands, if they still want to help by that time. A kid with a little training, can learn to figure out complex problems, but a kid with no training, will have a much harder time. So, a good dad will let their little boys help out so they can learn, even if it would be easier to do it themselves, and even if their little man gets annoying at times.
Bob’s dad, my father-in-law, had two sons, and while I can’t say how Bob was as a helper when he was as a little guy, I do remember that Ron, while probably the same as Bob, was a bit of a trial. The men needed to get things done, and yet here was Ron…wanting to help. Bob was born 14 years before Ron, so by this time he and his dad worked very well together. Ron just wanted to be like his dad and his big brother. They tried to let him help as much as possible, but some of the work they were doing was too dangerous for Ron, and some of it was too complex. I’m sure it was frustrating for Ron, and the times I witnessed, I think it probably hurt his feelings some too. That made me feel bad, but then his dad would find a job to do that Ron was able to help with, and that made things a whole lot better.
As the years went by, both of the boys became their dad’s right hand man, excelling in different kinds of work at different times in his life. He very seldom had to hire work done, because if he couldn’t do it, his boys probably could. In fact, the three of them, along with grandsons Barry, JD, and Eric were usually more than enough to get any job done. Yes, even if training the littlest helpers can be frustrating at times, it usually ends up being the best move you can make.