After losing his brother and his dad before he was nine years of age, my Uncle Jim Richards stepped up as a man in his family. Young as he was, he took on the role of a man, letting his family know that he would always be there for them. And so he was. Over the years, when one or the other of his family members needed help, Uncle Jim kept that promise…he was there for them. He took care of his mother, and helped with my grandparents, who were the parents of his wife, my Aunt Dixie. He helped several of his siblings and got them back on solid ground again. He proved himself to be a responsible man of the house…long after he was grown. He kept that promise to his dad, that his dad didn’t even have to ask of him. Uncle Jim did it because he wanted to show respect and honor to his dad, and because of his great love for his family.
After his marriage to my Aunt Dixie, and the arrival of their three children, Jim, Jeannie, and Raylynn…Uncle Jim set about building close family ties with his kids. His gentle ways and hard work made their home a place the family always wanted to be. Uncle Jim worked hard at his job, but when he came home…it was family time, and nothing else mattered. His kids always knew that their Dad was going to be there for them. As the kids grew up and got married, the grandchildren began to arrive. Uncle Jim was a man for whom family was the most important thing in life, and that showed with in the love he and Aunt Dixie had for their grandchildren. After his retirement, he joined Aunt Dixie, who already babysat the grandchildren, chauffeured them to and from school, and delivered an occasional payment or two to the proper places, while their children worked. His kids didn’t worry about things, because they know that their dad and mom are there for them. The grandchildren are safe and cared for, even when their parents are at work. That gives a parent a wonderful sense of peace concerning their kids, and not every parent has the option to have hands on grandparents.
Through thick and thin, sickness and health, richer and poorer, and all things in between, the Richards family has been able to count on Uncle Jim…especially in the worst of times, like the premature passing of a grandson, Jonah Williams; and now, a son-in-law, Darryl Liegman. Uncle Jim is a quiet man, but he has a strength that the family leans on in times of sorrow and need, and he is there for them. When he saw the need to help others at such a young age, he took the call seriously. He was there for every part of his family, for all the years of his life, and his loving kindness seems to radiate from him. Anyone who is around him can see it and they can feel it. Uncle Jim is just that way. His motto is: I’ll be there for you. And he has never let them down. Today is Uncle Jim’s 80th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Jim!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Israel Putnam Spencer, who is my sixth cousin twice removed, was a writer in his own right. He wrote a journal of sorts that dated back to his earliest recollections, beginning at about four or five years of age. Not everyone can remember very much about themselves at that age, although I think a number of us can. Usually it is some traumatic even, such as illness, a death, or as in my cast, an accident, in which I lost a fight with an escalator. For Israel, it was both illness and death. Israel states that he was just “getting over a spell of sickness” in the town of DeRuyter, Madison County, New York. He talks of moving to Corning, Steuben County, New York where the family lived another four years. This place had no stove, so cooking was done over the fire in the fireplace. It was in Corning that he and his sister got the measles, and his aunt, his mother’s sister died…probably also of measles, as they were very dangerous in those days. His writings tell of hard times…of moving to live with his mother’s brother, Frank Lewis. Hard times in that after finding a dog and being so excited to have a pet, they had to give the dog to a cousin. I’m sure these things all seemed extra hard to a young boy of about nine or ten. Yet, in the midst of those hard times, the family arrived at Israel’s Uncle Frank’s house, to find the dog, that they hadn’t seen in two years…and the dog remembered them, and was so excited to see them. That friendship must have felt like the sun coming out after a long raging storm.
Soon things were looking up for the family, and Israel’s dad bought a farm where the family lived until Israel was fourteen and then he traded that farm for a 100 acre farm just a sort distance away. That farm brought about a big change for the Israel and his brothers because they now have to work the farm, in order to keep up. They went to school in the winter and worked the farm in summer. Then Israel writes of reaching an age where he got a “big head” like most boys did at about 15 to 18 years of age. He said that he got to a point where he was convinced that he knew more than the teachers and his parents combined, and so he quit school at 17 years old. He got odd jobs, and made about $15.00 a month…about average for a 17 year old in those days, I suppose, but maybe less than if he had more schooling…these days anyway.
Then came the biggest change of Israel’s life…the Civil War started in 1861. His oldest brother, Morton Spencer enlisted in Company E, 23rd New York Infantry for two years. Shortly thereafter, Israel’s brother Fred Spencer enlisted, and Israel joined him. It was August 6th of 1862, and Israel was 18 years and 2 months old. Israel tells of his time spent in the war, with an insider’s view that most of us never got to hear about. The northern army, and I suspect the southern army as well, were having trouble keeping their officers. Back then, they didn’t have the came controls over the people in the army. A person could be missing for weeks before anyone really got word of it. Of course, when an officer goes missing, and you are one of his men, you know it, and that is what happened at times…especially when the war put brother against brother, as was the case in the Civil War. He survived the war, as did his brothers, but those were days of hunger and lack. He chose in later years, not to talk about them much, because who would want to remember such a time. He did write about those day, and there are many more tales to tell of the Civil War, but that is a story for another day.
Couples have a way of showing their true feelings of love for each other with their eyes. When couples have been married for a long time, there just seems to be a look, or even a tilt of the head that shows the deepness of their feelings for each other. They know each other better than anyone else in the entire world possibly could. They have been down the road together, through good and bad times, through sickness and health, through happy and sad, through arguments and solidarity…they have been there. They know how their spouse will react to different situations. They know they can count on that person being with them until death they do part. Their love has withstood the test of time, and come out victorious. It is a place every young couple hopes to arrive at someday, but many don’t. So when you see a little old couple still holding hands and looking lovingly into each other’s eyes, it is impossible not to be affected by it.
Sometimes, you can find a young couple who has that same look of love. No, that isn’t a guarantee of lasting love, but sometimes, you just know they will beat the odds. They will become that little old couple holding hands and looking lovingly into each other’s eyes…you just know they will. They have that look of, “My life was so empty, before you came into it.” or “My love for you is so strong that I can’t begin to express it in words.” It is a look that goes beyond physical attraction and into the realm of two hearts/one person…soul mates. It is a look that warms your heart, and touches you deeply. It’s a look that, while we love to catch it on film, almost makes you feel like you are intruding on a moment that should have only been between the two people involved, and yet it’s a look you want to see, because it shows just how much they love each other.
That look of love is something we all long to receive. We pray for our children to receive it someday. We are thrilled by it when we see it in our parents and grandparents. Love is the hope of the future and the promise of the past. Love is something that no one can live without…not really. We need love in our lives, and so when we see couples expressing it with their eyes, we walk away with that feeling of everything is right in the world, no matter how messed up things in this world are, my parents, my children, my nieces and nephews, my grandparents love each other. Yes, everything is right…at least in my world.