For years, my husband, Bob and I went to visit his Aunt Linda and Uncle Bobby Cole in Kennebec, South Dakota once a year. It was something we all looked forward to. Kennebec is a really small town, with very little to do, so we had the chance to slow down our busy lives, play cards, drink coffee, and visit. For us it was a nice change, for Linda and Bobby, I suppose it was life as usual. Another nice thing was that no babysitters were needed. Our girls Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce were little at that time, and would need to be watched if we went out as couples. The played with Linda and Bobby’s kids, Sheila Gregory and Pat Cole. Everyone had a great time.
Linda and Bobby owned a small hotel in Kennebec, so a place to stay was no problem. Unfortunately, the hotel was hit by lightning, and the resulting fire was bad enough to make the hotel uninhabitable, so the trips to Kennebec just stopped. While they knew the strike was close, Linda and Bobby didn’t know it had hit the hotel, until they smelled the burning wood from the upstairs rooms. The hotel was deemed a total loss. Very few rooms were unaffected…by smoke damage, if not fire damage. The last time I saw the hotel, it was a charred shell of what it had once been. It was a sad time for everyone, because it was the beginning of change…a change that would end the yearly trips to Kennebec. After weighing the options, Linda and Bobby decided to move to Winnemucca, Nevada. While my in-laws tried to see Linda and Bobby during their snowbird days, with the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease in my mother-in-law, and the advancement of COPD in my father-in-law, their snowbird days came to an abrupt end too.
The kids were all grown and married, so the trips we made were just Bob and me…and those trips were few and far between. Nevada was just not a place we got to very often, and they didn’t travel much anymore either. After her sister, my mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Linda couldn’t bear to see her sister not remembering her anymore, so they couldn’t make themselves visit. That was probably the saddest part of all this change. Even before my mother-in-law passed away in January of 2018, Linda passed away in September of 2016. The husbands, Walt Schulenberg, my father-in-law, passed away in May of 2013 and Bobby passed away in May of 2014. In just a short time, they were all gone, and even more had changed than before. Now, all we have are the memories that surface from time to time, especially on birthdays. Today would have been Linda’s 74th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Linda. We love and miss you very much.
I can’t imagine having my first child on my own birthday, but it does happen, and did happen for my grandmother, Anna Schumacher Spencer and her first born, Laura Spencer Fredrick. Then, to top it off, it would be ten years before Grandma’s second child, my Uncle Bill was born. No one that I have talked to is sure why there would be ten years in between those first two children. After my Uncle Bill was born in 1922, my dad, Allen would follow in 1924 (15 months after Uncle Bill), and Aunt Ruth in 1925 (18½ months after my dad). Nevertheless, Aunt Laura was an only child for ten years, and during that time, she and her mom were very close. They did everything together. Of course in the early years, that made sense, since Aunt Laura was a little girl who didn’t go to school or anything, but even later, there were wonderful trips with family and friends into town and shopping.
During those early years, Grandpa Allen Spencer, worked a number of jobs. At one time, he worked in the lumber business, taking his little family to the camp in the middle of the woods. I’m sure it was rather a lonely existence for Grandma, but she had her little daughter to keep her company, and that helped a lot. For long months they didn’t really go anywhere much, but there might have been a few other wives living in the camps. Still, mostly it was Grandma and Aunt Laura. I can imagine the games they played and the walks they took. There wouldn’t have been much else to do, so mother and daughter would have bonded over the long hours spent together. It was always so obvious to me just how proud Grandma was of her well-behaved little girl.
Later, there were trips taken to see family. Grandma’s little family of three was excited to be going and the other family and friends were happy to see them. Aunt Laura always seemed to stay close to Grandma, but maybe that was just for the pictures. Aunt Laura was very well behaved, a credit to her mother’s upbringing. She was really quite grown up for her age, and in fact, when Uncle Bill arrived, she was his nanny at just ten years old. Grandma was running a hotel by then, and Grandpa had to work too, so Aunt Laura needed to help, and now she had a job too. I’m sure it made her feel grown up. She was very close to her brother, just like her mother had been with her. Like mother, like daughter. Today is the shared birthday of my grandmother and Aunt Laura. Both are in Heaven now, and we love and miss them very much.
Our aunt, Linda Cole was the middle child of my husband, Bob’s Grandma and Grandpa Knox. She and her husband, Bobby moved to Kennebec, South Dakota early in their marriage, and raised their two children, Sheila Gregory and Patrick Cole. In Kennebec, Linda and Bobby owned a hotel, and when people came to visit, they always had enough room for everyone to stay. My husband, Bob and I took our girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce to visit them once a year. It was a nice trip for us and they got to see family too. Running a hotel didn’t leave much time to travel, so the family that came to visit them was often the only time the saw the rest of us. Linda’s sister, Joann Schulenberg and her husband, Walt, my in-laws went often too. We all went in the summer, so it was often really hot in Kennebec. Nevertheless, the visits were fun, and I will always be glad we went.
Later, after a fire burned most of the hotel down, the family moved to Winnemucca, Nevada, where Linda and Bobby both found work in the casinos. They really liked working there and also enjoyed gambling on their days off. I don’t know how they fared in their gambling, but they didn’t really spend a huge amount of time at it. They liked the warmth and easy winters, and enjoyed the place they had out in the country. It was quiet, and that was nice after the noise of the casinos.
My in-laws visited them periodically in their travels as snowbirds, and the sisters got to know each other again. For so many years they had lived far away from each other, that they were more like acquaintances than sisters sometimes. The girls’ younger sister, Margee lives here in Casper. She and Linda talked on the telephone often, and they were very close. It was hard on the sisters to be so far away from Linda, but as time goes on, you get used to things.
In May of 2014, Linda lost her husband, Bobby, and then Linda passed away in September of 2016. It had been a number of years since her sisters had seen Linda, and that made her passing especially sad. It always seemed as if there would be time, but when time ran out, it left only sadness where Linda had been. We can only look forward to seeing her again in Heaven. Today would have been Linda’s 73rd birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Linda. We love and miss you very much.
Having your child at work is not a new idea really. Many people have made arrangements with their boss, so that they could bring their little ones to work with them…at least until they are old enough to go to school full time. Sometimes, I think that every mom should be able to bring their baby to work while they are little. Daycare is expensive, and often makes it almost impossible for the mom to work outside the home, because they end up paying more for daycare than they earn…totally not worth it. I didn’t work when my girls were little, but when my daughters had children, they did work. While I didn’t have my grandchildren at my office all day, there were times when they did come to my office…times when they were not feeling well, were the main times. They couldn’t stay home alone, and yet their parents had to work. I was blessed in that I had a boss who allowed me to bring them to the office and let them sleep there. It made all the difference for my daughters.
Years ago, however, having the kids around was much more common. My grandmother, Anna Schumacher Spencer, ran a hotel when my Aunt Laura and Uncle Bill were little. Of course, the family lived at the hotel, so the kids were always at work with their mom. Grandpa worked somewhere else, so Grandma was in charge of the hotel. I’m not sure where the bakery came in, but I do know that the patrons of the bakery would not have been surprised to see the little ones in the bakery when they came in to make a purchase. I think that it was common to the times, and maybe something that we all could take a lesson from. Life was about the family. Nothing was more important than that. The parents were involved with the kids, and the family ate their meals together, and spent time together. The parents were role models for the kids, and the television was not the place that they got all of their information. No, it wasn’t perfect, but maybe it was just a little bit more family oriented.
For a time it seemed that our nation couldn’t decide where to put the capitol. The first capitol…for a very short time, was New York City. President George Washington occupied two executive mansions in New York City…the Samuel Osgood House and the Alexander Macomb House. New York began building Government House, but Washington never occupied it. The capitol was moved to Philadelphia. Few people realize that it all began in New York City, nor do they realize that Philadelphia was the first official capitol of the United States. Washington DC became the capitol in December, 1800.
The 1790 Residence Act named Philadelphia the temporary capital for ten years untile the White House could be built on the Potomac River in what is now Washington DC. Philadelphia housed both Continental Congresses and the Constitutional Congress. Both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written in Philadelphia. When it was decided that Washington DC would become the capitol, there was a bit of a fight over the move. While President Washington lived in Philadelphia, he lived in the Market Street mansion, which he altered in ways that may have influenced the White House. In an effort to keep the capitol in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania built a grand presidential mansion a few blocks from the Market Street mansion, but President Washigton declined to occupy it.
President Washington’s term would end before the White House was completed. John Quincy Adams became president and lived in the Market Street mansion from March 1797 to May 1800, having also declined to move into the grand presidential mansion that Pennsylvania had built. Then on June 3, 1800, President Adams moved to Washington DC. The White House was still not finished, so in what I found a shocking move, he moved into the Washington City Hotel, as it was properly named. It was called, and rightfully so, Tunnicliff’s, named after William Tunnicliff, who had it build, and owned it. The Washington City Hotel was in reality, a tavern. A tavern!! That is such a strange place for a US president to choose to live. I’m sure he was excited about moving into the White House, but it would not be finished unto the end of October. President Adams finally moved into the White House on November 1, 1800, making him the only president to live in the Philadelphia mansion, a tavern, and the White House.
Things were much different in those days, of course. I’m sure that there was no big pre-move check of the tavern and the surrouning area, like there would be now. I suppose that there was security to some degree, but in reality most Americans wouldn’t have even known that the president had moved at that time, much less that he was living in a tavern.
How could a simple trip become such an awful nightmare? Walter Alden Davis was just going on a short trip with his friend, Fred Willar to celebrate Independence Day in 1906. It was going to be a great day, and it was a great day, until the day ended. Walter and Fred rode their horses to Hay Springs, Nebraska from their homes in Rushville, Nebraska. The distance was about 12 miles. Then they took the train into Chadron, Nebraska for the festivities and to visit some friends.
Walter had seen a coyote earlier in the day, so he borrowed a revolver from a friend in case he saw another one. After a great day with friends and the Independence Day festivities, Walter and Fred took the midnight train back to Hay Springs, where they got a room at the hotel. Unfortunately, Walter had forgotten about the revolver, which was in his pocket, and when he dropped his pants on the floor, the revolver fired. The bullet went up through Walter’s hip and into his abdomen. He died a few hours later, on July 5, 1906. He was only 21 years old. The accident happened just 11 days before his 22nd birthday.
When I think of how Great Aunt Tessie and Great Uncle William must have felt when they heard the news, it makes me want to cry. They had already lost a son, Edward Allen Davis in 1893, at just 3 months of age, and a set of twins, a boy and a girl, in 1898, who died at birth, and now this. We often wonder just how much tragedy we can take, and in the 1800’s and early 1900’s, medicine was just not as good. Doctors could only do so much for poor Walter. Maybe if this had happened in this day and age, he might have been saved, but maybe not too. There is just no way to say with any certainty.
I’m sure the family wondered how they could go on without this handsome son who had been such a big help on the ranch. Nevertheless, the Davis family were a strong bunch, and they would not only survive this loss, but the loss of two more children. One before William passed away in 1925, and another the year after his death. I have to think that Great Aunt Tessie was a one of the true pioneer women of the west, because those women had to be strong enough to live through disaster and tragedy, and still come out of it unbroken. While nothing would replace their handsome boy, they would move forward, and they would survive.
When my sister, Cheryl suggested that my little granddaughter, Shai, who was only ten years old, spend the last month of her summer vacation taking care of our parents, while Dad was recovering from a very serious set of circumstances beginning with Pancreatitis, and Mom was beginning treatment for a Large Diffuse B-Cell Lymphoma of the brain, I was sceptical, but Cheryl argued that Shai was a mature ten year old, and she could do it. I worked nearby, and could easily get to my parents house in a matter of minutes, and so it was settled. Shai made me so proud. She was like a professional nurse. I checked in with her, and she called me sometimes, but I never had to go over and rescue her. I went at lunch to help out, but my girl…well, she could handle it, and there was no doubt about it. Shai saved us that August. By the time school started again, Mom was enough better to help out with Dad, and handle most things that came up.
There are girls…and boys too, who just have that capability. They understand the things that need to be done, and they aren’t afraid to step up and do what is needed. They don’t look at the enormity of the situation, failure never enters their mind, they don’t seem to know the word can’t…they just do. I don’t say that my girl was the only girl like that, but I couldn’t have been more proud of how she handled that situation.
I was looking through some information in my Uncle Bill’s family history books, and I came across something that I didn’t know about before, but found very interesting. When my Uncle Bill was just a baby, my grandparents owned a hotel in Tomahawk, Wisconsin. The family lived in the hotel, and grandma ran it, while my grandfather was working at the papermill. It’s pretty hard to run a hotel, which most likely included cooking meals to sell to the guests, and still take care of a baby and a ten year old girl. But, my Aunt Laura was not an ordinary ten year old girl…she was a mature ten year old girl, like someone else I know. While her dad worked at the papermill and her mom ran the hotel, my Aunt Laura took care of her little brother, Bill. He was a tiny little baby, and needed a lot of care, but that didn’t faze that ten year old girl. She had a job to do, and according to Uncle Bill’s writing, she did it very well. Taking care of a baby is no easy job…especially for a ten year old girl with little training. It didn’t matter. She was a mature ten year old, and she learned quickly, and in the end, her care for her little brother not only made her parents proud…it made her little brother very proud of what his big sister had done for him. A ten year old girl…can be amazing indeed, sometimes.
Imagine a world where nothing really makes sense to you anymore. Things just don’t add up. Try as you might, you can’t figure it out. You don’t remember what you did today, or yesterday…so you make things up that seem to fall in line with things you used to do. Still, nothing really makes sense, but you are sure that you remember doing that recently. This is Alzheimer’s, and my mother-in-law has it. She is 80 years old, but she would tell you that she is 65, because she doesn’t remember differently.
I spent yesterday afternoon and evening at the hospital with her for some other potentially serious health issues, and it was so hard, because she doesn’t know what is going on or why. It doesn’t do any good to tell her, because she won’t remember what you told her 10 minutes ago. When the blood pressure cuff would start to check her blood pressure, she always seemed shocked that it hurt, and wanted me to take it off. I guess that is a blessing in disguise in that she also doesn’t remember any other pain that she is in once the spasm, poke, or prod is over. She kept picking at the IV needles and their bandages. And she couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t bring her any supper. I’m sure she thought this was the worst hotel she had ever stayed in. In fact, she told me she wasn’t staying at all.
Probably the most heart wrenching part of Alzheimer’s is the fact that while the patient doesn’t remember much of the things they should, the one thing that seems very clear to them, is the fact that this whole thing just isn’t right! I can’t count the number of times that she has look at one of us and said, “What’s wrong with me?” Few things tear you up more that to have someone say that to you and you just don’t know what to tell them. And even worse, is the fact that they will ask you again in 10 minutes.
Thankfully, she still knows most of her family…the ones that are around her often, that is. There are some that she never asks about, because they live too far away and don’t come often, but the good news on that is that she doesn’t know that she doesn’t know them, or know that they don’t come around. It’s hard to feel hurt about that when you don’t know that they even exist. Personally, I feel sorry for those people, because regret will come later for them, when there is nothing they can do about it. I will say, that if you know someone with Alzheimer’s, do yourself a favor, and be around for them, you will never regret it. There is great blessing in being someone they do remember.
We still don’t know for sure what else is going on with her. More tests today will help determine that, and it is with a degree of dread that we move into the day. No matter what is found, we will do what we can do for her, and keep her comfortable as much as possible. Please keep her in prayers as you go through your day today. Your prayers will be much appreciated.