When my mom, Collene Byer Spencer was married and moved to Superior, Wisconsin to live, she was a young woman, who for the first time in her life lived far away from her large family. I think that must have been so hard for her. She was used to living in a house with her parents, sisters, and brothers, and now it was just her and my dad, Allen Spencer. Of course, that was all she needed in most ways, but a girl needs friends too. For Mom, finding Aunt Doris Spencer there, meant a friendship, as well as a sister-in-law. The two liked each other immediately, and became instant friends. They did everything they could together.
While both of them were slender women, they always felt the need to diet. If they gained a pound, it was a big problem…I guess some things never change. Like all dieters, hunger pangs are always the worst part of dieting, so to aid in the dieting, Aunt Doris decided that each of them could have a single Puffed Wheat cereal piece to hold them over on one occasion. I’m sure this sounds crazy, but it does fit into the mentality of a dieter…and all of you who have ever dieted would be dishonest if you didn’t agree. When we look at things now, we know that like all dieters, this idea would pass as an impossible way to diet, but they tried it anyway. Whenever I hear the story of their diet antics, I have to giggle, because I can picture either one of them doing the funny things they did. They almost seemed like girlhood friends from junior high school, except they didn’t know each other then. They were just a lot alike.
They shared so much in those years, motherhood, sisterhood, and friendship. For my mom, it was like going to a scary new place and finding a bit of sunshine in the middle of the clouds of loneliness. It wasn’t like Mom was drowning in loneliness, but she really needed someone to share all of her girl talk with…someone to spend some of her spare time with, and since they lived just across the backyard fence from each other, someone to talk to while the children played or napped. Aunt Doris was a friend sent by God to help my mom through the transition, and to be there for her through the years.
After we moved to Casper, Wyoming, the two kept in touch. Even after Aunt Doris, and her husband, my Uncle Bill divorced, Mom and Aunt Doris remained friends. They wrote letters and called each other sometimes, but didn’t get to see each other for years. Then last year, my sister, Cheryl and I took Mom for a visit. It was a wonderful reunion for both of them, and we were so glad we took Mom, since it was the last time before she passed. She got to see her forever friend one more time. Today is Aunt Doris’ 91st birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Doris!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
It seems like just yesterday that our little Leap Day girl, Shai Royce was born, but it was really nineteen years and two months ago. Of course, you expect your kids and grandkids to grow up, but when they do, it still seems like the whole thing sneaked up on you…like you somehow didn’t really think it was going to happen. Then comes the time when they move out for the first time, and into an apartment of their own. Somehow it feels like Shai is about four years old, and living on her own…oh, wait, she sort of is. Being a Leap Day Baby is a unique situation, in that she only really gets a birthday every four years…making her oficially 4¾ years old. No wonder it seems like she is too young to be living on her own. Not only should she be a little girl, but officially she is a little girl. I’m not crazy., even though it might sound crazy. And to top it off, you know that no matter how grown up she, and my other grandchildren get, they will always be grandbabies to me, and I will always picture them in part, just like when they were little babies.
I think Shai’s apartment is going to be beautiful. She is a girl with very good taste, and a wonderful sense of style. She has some very nice things, and a good head on her shoulders, so, she will start to get things set up as time goes on. I don’t think a first timer to apartment living has everything they need to get started, but she seems to be doing better that most of them. She is organized and I know she will have everything in ship shape in no time.
I think the thing that I find the most interesting about Shai’s new apartment, is that in all reality it is the second time her first apartment is been in this particular apartment complex. I know that sounds odd, but when Shai was born, her parents lived in the same apartment complex, and so when she came home, it was to almost the same place. Of course, technically that apartment belonged to her parents, and this one belongs to Shai, but it is in a way, kind of like coming home for her. I don’t know how often something like that happens, but for her, that is exactly what happened.
I know that Shai has mixed feelings about making such a big move, especially since the rest of her family is moving to the Seattle, Washington area, but she will have her grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins, and other extended family members living here too, so she will get used to it. And of course, she has lots of friends as well, and I’m sure that she will be entertaining people before very long, so before she knows it this will feel like home to her. Congratulations Shai, on your first home. I know that you will be very happy there. Just don’t forget to visit your grandma and grandpa.
As a little girl, I always loved my Aunt Delores Johnson. She had such a positive outlook on life, almost like she had some secret joyful memories in her mind. What a wonderful way to be. Aunt Dee and my mom were always good friends, as well as sisters. Her children, Ellen, Elmer, Darla, and Delwin were of similar age to my sisters and me, so it was always fun when we got together.
As my parents’ second child, I was at an age where I was feeling a little bit left out of things when my older sister, Cheryl got to spend the night with her friends. That said, I decided to see if I could spend the night with a friend too, and somehow the one I chose was my cousin, Elmer. Needless to say, I was at an age when the fact that he was a boy and I was a girl had no effect on my thinking. Mom and her sister decided that it would be ok for me to stay, but unbeknownst to me, the plan included the fact that I would be sleeping with Elmer’s younger sister, Darla. Now, Darla was the age of my younger sister, Caryl, so that made her three years younger than me, and not a prime choice for the sleeping arrangement, as far as I was concerned. Nevertheless, I was overruled, and the plan went on as they had decided. In the end, I had fun, but as I recall, Darla had a tendency to kick, so I don’t think I slept very well, but I did get to spend the night with a friend, so I guess I was happy about that. Still, I never forgot having to sleep with Darla, or the lesson I had learned…that when picking a friend to spend the night with, it is probably best, in my case anyway, to make it a girlfriend.
Aunt Dee was always fun to be around, even if I wasn’t spending the night, which I believe only happened once for obvious reasons. She smiled a lot, and had a very kind and loving spirit, and a great laugh. She was the kind of person who got along with everyone, but if you went up against her family, you better watch out, because she would protect them to the end, and isn’t that the kind of person you would want to have in your corner? While I must say that my spending the night experience was a bit of a disappointment, Aunt Dee did it in the kindest way possible, and I guess you might say she was protecting my honor, or my reputation, even though at my young age it probably wasn’t necessary. Nevertheless, Aunt Dee and my mom were always ones to do the right thing. Today would have been my Aunt Dee’s 83rd birthday, and I miss her very much. Happy birthday in Heaven Aunt Dee. We love you.
My life began in Superior, Wisconsin. Superior is a small town located at the tip of Lake Superior, which is the largest of the Great Lakes. I have always felt close ties to Superior and to Wisconsin, in general, because while I have not lived there since I was three years old, it was the place of my birth, and the place where my Uncle Bill Spencer and his family lived for many years, as well as many of my great grandparents’ family.
In the early years of the area, the Native American Indian Tribes called it home. The first Europeans to live there were the British and French, and the American settlers who lived in Wisconsin when it was a territory. One tribe, the Meskwaki Indians were particularly hostile toward the French, but many of the Indians got along well with the pioneers. The Great Lakes area increased dramatically after the decline of the British influence following the War of 1812. This was a land with a mix of pioneers and Indians. Of course, like most areas, the Indians were eventually placed on reservations.
Like every state in the United States, Wisconsin started as a US Territory, and when there were enough people to make statehood a necessity, each one became a state. Wisconsin initially became a terriroty on this day, April 20, 1836. Initially, it included all of the present-day states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and part of the Dakotas east of the Missouri River. Much of that territory was part of the Northwest Territory, which was ceded by Britain in 1783. The portion which is now the Dakotas was originally part of the Louisiana Purchase. Eventually, the states would separate their areas, leaving Wisconsin with the area it now occupies.
My people would arrive in the area much later, but many of them would stay in the area of Wisconsin and Minnesota for generations, and even to this day. For me, there will always be a place in my heart for Wisconsin, especially Superior, and the Great Lakes, especially Lake Superior. It is a beautiful area that my family has called home for generations, and I will always love it.
After my 2nd great grandfather, Allen Spencer passed away suddenly at the young age of just 56 years, my 2nd great grandmother, Lydia Spencer found herself in one of the hardest positions anyone ever has to face. In those days, few of the women worked outside the home, and with her husband and the bread winner of her family gone, she had some hard choices to make. She still had several children at home, including three sons and one daughter. Her daughter, Teresa would marry later that year, and eventually move to North Dakota. Her son Allen would follow his sister to North Dakota, and eventually move to Washington, where he would marry and live out his life. That left Lydia in Iowa, with her two remaining sons, Cornelius and Luther…at least for a time. That had to have been the hardest part of the time too, considering the grief she must have been feeing.
Luther married Ellen Dykes in 1885, and Cornealius married Leona Stinson on February 1, 1888. By 1900, the two brothers along with their families and their mother had moved to the Deer Creek, Oklahoma area. I know that in the years following their fathers death, these two men took on the role of caregiver of sorts for their mother. It wasn’t necessarily that she needed a caregiver, at only 53 years of age, but rather that these two brothers took on the role of picking up the pieces of her shattered life and helping her through the rough transition years, during which she went from being a wife to a widow. It isn’t that she was incapable, but it would be really hard to find yourself widowed at such a young age. You had thought you and your souse would grow old together, and now you have been left to try to figure out how to move on alone.
Little has been said about the role the two brothers played in her life, and I suppose that is because it was just expected of them and so everyone assumed they just did their job. I suppose that is true to a large degree, but there were other children in the family, and yet they chose to take on this role, and she chose to go to Oklahoma with these two sons, rather than move to North Dakota, Wisconsin, or Washington with her other children. She loved the others very much, and the pictures tell me that she saw them whenever she could, but she moved to Oklahoma with Cornealius and Luther, and lived in Luther’s home until her passing in 1906, at the age of 75.
It takes a very special person to move their elderly parent into their home, and I don’t just mean that parent’s child, but the spouse of that child too. You can’t take in your parent without the ok of your spouse, because this is going to affect the whole family. In this case, it is likely that the time Lydia lived with her son Luther and his family in Oklahoma, was about ten years, but in reality, that is a long time. The last days could have been very stressful and trying, given the way, aging parents get weak and tired as they get closer to death. Yes, I think that Luther and his wife, Ellen had to be very special people to make sure that Lydia was taken care of, and not lonely. I’m sure that went a long way toward picking up the pieces of her life, after the loss of her husband, Allen. That leaves me with a lot of respect for these sons and their families.
Losing a loved one is never an easy thing, but rather seems to be an inevitable part of life. There is never a good time for it, and in fact, when it involves a baby or a child, it is always too soon. They haven’t had the chance to have a life really, not like their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even their parents. Nevertheless, losing a loved one…no matter their age, is a heart wrenching thing. Those who remain feel hollowed out inside, because there is simply an emptiness that always remains in the place that had been inhabited by the loved one who has passed. For a Christian, it isn’t about thinking they will never see that person again, because we believe that those who live in the Lord, never see each other for the last time. It’s more about not really being prepared to wait for that day to come, when they will finally get a glimpse into Heaven, and know the absolute joy their loved one has been experiencing since they went home.
None of us gets to go through life without ever losing someone…at least not if we have spent much time here on Earth. Still, the loss of a child seems to be an especially cruel type of loss. It is one I have never personally experienced. Other members of my family have, but I can’t really know the pain they feel. The loss of an infant, whether through miscarriage or after they were born, must be excruciating. The parents can’t imagine letting their baby go on ahead of them to Heaven, because they are simply too little to go somewhere alone. Nevertheless, we can’t go, because they live in Heaven now, and we do not. We are still waiting for our turn to go, so that we can finally have that first glimpse.
We have to trust in the Lord to be there with our loved one to show them the way…or maybe it is really us who need the help. We are really the ones who don’t know the way. And it’s not the way to Heaven that is lost to us, but rather the way to go on…here, that eludes us. Our hearts just feel like they are too tired to take another beat, and yet they must. There are others who depend on us too. We have to carry on. It will most likely be the hardest thing anyone ever has to do.
On this day, four years ago, my niece, Jenny and her husband, Steve Spethman received a beautiful little daughter named Laila Elizabeth. She was the gift they had waited for, the daughter after three sons. Her time here would be very short…just eighteen days, but her memory will last forever, as will her life in Heaven. Losing Laila made it very hard to move forward, but Jenny and Steve took that step in faith again and receive a little sister for Laila, named Aleesia Juliette. She would bring much joy to their still broken and fragile hearts, but Laila will never be far from their thoughts…or the thoughts of her three older brothers, Xander, Zackery, and Isaac. They will all continue to look forward to that first glimpse of Heaven, and the time when they will be united with Laila forever. Happy birthday in Heaven Princess Laila. I know it will be a wonderful day. We love you baby girl, and we can’t wait to get to know you in Heaven.
Safely tucked away, in a closet in the basement of my home, sits a red box. It is a homemade hope chest, built by my dad, when I was a little girl. Dad built two of them, one for my sister, Cheryl and one for me. This was long before hope chests became popular again, or maybe they always were, and I just didn’t know it then. I loved that little hope chest. I suppose some people would have thought it plain, but it held a very special meaning to me. My daddy had made it for me, and told me that it was to keep my treasures in. The original paddle lock was lost long ago, and replaced with a new one. I have lost the key to that one, so now a bobby pin has to suffice. It really wouldn’t matter if it was unlocked, I suppose, because to most people it’s contents have no real value. It holds no gold, silver, or diamonds…just the treasures from my past.
When I opened it last night…the first time in a long time, I saw my girlhood treasures, like souvenirs from trips taken as a child, my first wrist watch, and cameo soaps I got from…who knows where. I saw my high school diploma, and my husband Bob’s, both in pristine condition. There were treasures from my children’s lives, like perfect attendance awards from church and preschool, pictures of our family at that time, cards sent to me on special occasions, and baby cigars from a number of different births…I don’t suppose anyone would want to smoke those now. There was a baby blanket I had been given, and high school pictures of my sisters and sisters-in-law. There are three model cars…remnants of Bob’s past, and a multitude of key chains from his years of collecting them. If you looked at these items, I suppose most people would think many of them to be worthless, but to me, they are treasures…they are my past.
I realize that I am a sentimental person, and that I save things with sentimental value. I have accepted this about myself. I know that many people don’t like to save things. They don’t like the clutter, and I do admit that it can create clutter. But, I don’t really want my world to be so free of my past, that it seems sterile. This isn’t an operating room, after all, it’s my life, and my memories. I like most of my past, not to mention, my family’s past, and I want to be able to see and remember it. That is simply who I am. I can think of so many fun times in my past…camping trips with my parents and sisters, hiking with Bob, vacations with our kids, just to mention a few. In my opinion, I have lead a very nice life, and I want to always remember that. As I looked through the contents of my hope chest, my mind drifted back to a time when my family was young. The years have gone by so fast. It made me feel a little bit sad.
The contents of my hope chest have changed over the years, as my hopes and dreams have changed. As a little girl, I had the trinkets of a little girl in there, and as I grew, the things in my hope chest grew to take in my new self. Once I was married, the hope chest became a memory chest, instead of a hope chest. which was designed to collect the things a girl would need for her wedding and marriage. I think I like the latest job my hope chest has, because memories come from a life filled with good things. And maybe that is a fitting end for a hope chest, because it does start out as the hopes and dreams of a girl, and ends up with the memories of a life well lived.
Things have a way of coming full circle in life. I remember, so well, the point when my daughter, Corrie and her then new husband, Kevin Petersen left their wedding reception. All of the planning, the ceremony, and now the beautiful reception were over, and the kids were on their way to their honeymoon, and then their own lives. I had held up so well, and yet, after I kissed them goodbye, and they left, I turned and said to my sister, “Well, they’re gone.” Suddenly, and without any notice, the tears welled up in my eyes. My baby was leaving home. My world was mixed up, and…well, wrong, but they were so happy. This was so right for them.
A few very short years later, my daughter, Corrie was dropping their oldest son, Christopher at my house for me to take to her sister, Amy Royce who was going to babysit him, along with her daughter, Shai. Christopher was just six weeks old, and Corrie’s maternity leave was over. As Corrie came in my door, she was already crying, and I knew just how she felt. Everything felt so mixed up, and wrong for her too. Christopher had not been away from her since his conception, and now he would be on the other side of town with her sister. While she knew he was not so far away, and she would see him at lunch, so she could nurse him and spend that precious time with him, he was, nevertheless, not with her. We normally think of this separation as only happening to the mother of the baby, but that isn’t really so. I think it’s just as hard to leave your baby, when you are the dad too.
Every milestone along the way has been rather bittersweet for Corrie, and for Kevin too. Kevin always tried to hold it together for Corrie, but this change is different, and it has hit both of them and both of their sons Chris and Josh very hard. On the 29th of this month, Corrie and Kevin took their boys on a camping trip that will always be different than any other camping trip. They went to move Chris to his college dorm in Sheridan, Wyoming. Both Corrie and Kevin are struggling with this drastic change in their lives, and it would not surprise me to hear that there were tears all around. I know it would that way for me.
It is so hard to take your baby to a different town to live…even if that baby is now eighteen years old. Everything about that feels so mixed up, and seriously wrong. It’s not that it is so very far away, but rather that Chris won’t be living with them anymore…at least not for a while…like three years…other that holidays and summers. After that, it’s hard to say. Lots of kids never move back home after college, even if they move back to the same city. Things may never really be the same for them again, and that is what makes it all so terribly hard. That is what makes this so mixed up…and wrong, and yet, so right for Chris, and so necessary.
As my father-in-law’s life was winding down, we spent a lot of time together. It wasn’t always the perfect moments of his life that we shared, because he was in the hospital off and on during that time. He hated going into the hospital…hated the equipment he had to be hooked up to, food they wanted him to eat, and the constant waiting to get up, because he had to have help, but he liked the nurses and aides, and that made it tolerable, I guess. Nevertheless, he hated to be there, because life just seemed to pass him by when he was in the hospital. Still, since I needed to be there to talk to the doctors, and since I worked nearby, I went up several times a day. I know it meant a lot to him.
When we would first go to the hospital emergency room, my father-in-law would always ask me to take care of his watch and pocket knife. They were so important to him. That almost seems strange, because he normally didn’t have to be anywhere at any certain time, and he very seldom ever used the pocket knife. Nevertheless, they were very important to him, and I was always entrusted with their care, and because it was so important to him, it became important to me. When he passed away, the watch and pocket knife were not claimed by any of his children, so once again, I have been entrusted with their care. They are a treasure to me, and each time I look at them, I can see his sweet face, a little worried about what this hospital visit was going to bring, and yet still so protective of those two prized possessions.
I don’t know if they were given to him, or if they were just something he liked and bought for himself, but in his last days, and probably even longer than that, I know that they meant a lot to him. The knife is an Old Timer Knife. Old Timer Knives were manufactured by the Imperial Schrade Corporation, who closed their doors July 30, 2004, after 100 years of business. They were something he looked on as being of great value. It might have been just a guy thing to have a pocket knife or something, because it does seem that a lot of guys have and keep good track of their pocket knives. I don’t know the story on his watch either, except to say that the only time he was without it was when he was in the hospital, in bed, or the shower. That says that it was something he treasured too. Neither of these were very expensive items. The watch may have come from Walmart, for all I know. It’s monetary value isn’t important to me. It’s real value is in what it meant to my father-in-law. Today would have been my father-in-law’s 85th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Dad. We love and miss you very much.
My husband, Bob doesn’t often give the past a lot of thought. He is one of those here and now types of people. It isn’t that he doesn’t remember the past, or even that he doesn’t think about it once in a while, but if he does, he doesn’t mention too many things that he is thinking about. Nevertheless, he made an exception while we were on our cruise.
As is the case with most cruises, you see a variety of people…many of them children. And, you get a variety of behaviors from these children. Obviously, you will see the well behaved children, and the misbehaving children…and everything in between. But, it was neither of these types of children that caught Bob’s eye, but rather a little blonde girl skipping along with her family on their way to breakfast.
After they passed us, Bob turned to me and said, “Did you see that little girl?” When I said that I didn’t, he told me that she reminded him of our Amy when she was little. Amy never walked anywhere. She either skipped, ran, or at home, it was far more often somersaulting down the hallway. I mean, why walk when you can somersault…right? Amy just couldn’t stand to waste a perfectly good hallway, or any other carpeted area, on simple walking. Carpets were much like a tumbling map, and that was all it took to get Amy tumbling merrily on her way from room to room. We always laughed about that, because it was so cute to see her rolling down the hallway and then getting up to go into her room and play.
As we thought about the little girl he had just seen, it was easy to imagine that she was a girl who was excited about life, and just couldn’t stand to simply walk. That was exactly what Amy was like as a little girl. If she wasn’t swinging on the table like only a tiny girl could, then she was somersaulting down the hall, or swinging from the bars on the swing set. She could easily have been Tarzan’s baby…swinging from the trees. Or you might just as likely find her up on the bumper of Bob’s truck, helping her daddy. Amy was always excited about the next thing coming her way.
Amy and her family recently took a cruise too, and she was so excited about going. I know she is a grown woman now, but I have a feeling that it was all she could do not to go skipping along on the deck of the ship heading to breakfast with her family, or anywhere else that she went for that matter. Those old habits die hard, and when you are a skipper, you find that it’s really hard to contain all that excitement…just like that little girl Bob had seen.