years

Thinking of my parents, Allen and Collene Spencer on their 66th wedding anniversary, the first thought that comes to mind is that it has been so very long since I’ve seen them. I wonder how the years could have gone by so fast. My dad has been in Heaven since 2007, and my mom since 2015. It seems like forever…probably because we have missed them every day since they have been gone. That’s how it goes with your parents, I think. While they are gone from this Earth, they are never gone from the hearts of the children who love them. They gave you life, nurtured you through your childhood years, and then let you spread you wings and fly free. They didn’t stifle your dreams, even if it meant that your were far away from them. That is the love of parents.

My own parents were all that and more for my four sisters and me. They were our rock, grounding us with their teachings and their faith in God. We always knew that no matter what happened or what mistakes we might make, they were there for us. They always had the answers we needed to resolve any situation. We would always view our lives as perfect. It didn’t matter what we might face later in their lives, or what they might need from us, we would always be there for them, just as they were for us. In fact, we never expected that they would need help from us. They seemed invincible. I suppose that is what made it so hard to face the day they went to Heaven. The knowledge that the world as we knew it would never be the same for us again, stunned us to our very core. It had not occurred to us that we would live on this Earth without parents, even if it should have. Still, once again, their teachings sustained us and, just as they knew we would, we were able to move forward in our lives. They had raised us to become independent women, after all. They knew that we would step up and become the new matriarchs of the family, bring the next generation forward to their own independence, so they could, in turn, raise their children to that level and so on. That was still part of the love of parents for their children.

Our parents showed us how to work at life. They knew that nothing in life is guaranteed, but with hard work, you can succeed in most areas of your life. Our parents showed us that being married isn’t always roses and candy, but when you had a loving, solid marriage, it was always rewarding. Their years together, though cut short when Dad passed away in 2007, were filled with love and stability. The married years they spent on this Earth were 53 years, but while people are not married in Heaven, they will always love each other. Today would have been my parents 66th wedding anniversary. I know they are enjoying time together in Heaven, and it is a joyous day. Happy 66th anniversary in Heaven, Mom and Dad!! We love and miss you very much, and we will see you in the future.

Time waits for no man, and it doesn’t slow down or stop while we grieve a loss. As a child and on into adulthood, it never occurred to me that I would live one single day without my dad. I can’t say why I thought that, because in retrospect, it was not really a logical way to think, but then are matters of the heart ever logical. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about romantic love or the love you have for parents or siblings. They should just never leave you, whether that is logical or not.

Nevertheless, as illogical as it seemed to me, my dad, Al Spencer went home to be with the Lord eleven years ago today December 12, 2007 at precisely 12:00pm. The world seemed so empty when we left the hospital that day, and I found myself wondering how it could be that the world and time kept moving when everything for my dad stopped at that moment. Again these were not the thoughts of a person in a rational state of mind,but rather a person who had just lost a beloved parent. I knew that my dad was in Heaven,because he had always believed in Jesus as his Saviour, but he was no longer here with us…his wife, Collene Spencer; daughters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryn Schulenberg, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Ally Hadlock; and their families, and that was what made the whole world…just wrong.

As the years go by…faster than any of us ever dreamed they would, we cherish the memories of our dad more and more,because they are all we have…because our dad and our mom are in our future now. My thoughts go back to the many times my girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce and I had lunch at their house. It’s odd, I suppose that those lunches are what comes to mind, but they have been coming to my mind a lot these past few days. I remember going over to their house at lunch. Mom would make her specialties, Stuffed Tomatoes or Chicken salad with Shoe String Potatoes. As we gathered at the table to eat, the conversation covered everything from our families to how our jobs were going. Mom and Dad didn’t care what we talked about, they just wanted to be a part of our lives. Mom and Dad were always all about family. They loved their kids, grandkids, great grandkids, and great great grandkids. They felt so blessed by the family they started beginning back in 1954. Family was all they ever wanted. Family was everything. I still can’t believe that my dad has been in Heaven for eleven years today. We love you Dad, and miss you very much. We will see you in Heaven one day.

When someone is killed in a war, we are always in the hope that they will be found quickly, and identified by their friends, so that their remains can be returned to their family for a proper burial. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Nevertheless, we hope that the time passing between death and identification is a very short amount. Unfortunately that was not the case with Carl David Dorr, who was one of the 429 sailors and Marines killed on board the USS Oklahoma when it was sunk in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Only 35 people on the ship were positively identified and buried in the years immediately following the December 7, 1941, military strike, according to the Defense Department. The unidentified remains were buried as unknowns at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, which fills the Punchbowl crater in Honolulu. For 77 years, Dorr’s family has been waiting and wondering what became of him. They knew he was at Pearl Harbor, and that he was on the USS Oklahoma. The bodies were there, but they could not be identified. I can’t think of anything that would be more frustrating than that. Sadly, the wait was beyond long…it was 77 years. When I think about his family, first losing their 27 year old son, and then not being able to bury their son. They died without that closure.

Carl’s family, like most American families, gathered around the radio on December 7, 1941. The news was grim. They didn’t know much yet, but they knew Carl’s ship had been attacked. With sinking hearts, they tied to hold out hope that by some miracle, he had survived. Then, they received the crushing news that he was missing in action…then, presumed dead. After the Defense Department began DNA collection in 2009, his family provided samples in hopes that one day it would help identify Carl’s body, his nephew said. His mother kept an heirloom photograph in her living room “so she could keep an eye on him,” Thomas Dorr said. She was able to see her son every day, even if he never made it home at all. And, of course, he never did, at least during their lifetime.

Recently, the DNA provided for identification purposed, finally paid off. Dorr’s body was finally identified, and he was going home at last. About 15 of Dorr’s relatives walked onto the tarmac of South Carolina’s Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport. As they watched, a flag-draped coffin was lowered from the plane into a hearse. “There was nothing but dead silence,” Carl’s 70-year-old nephew, Thomas Dorr, who lives in St. Johns, Florida, told CNN. “I knew that what I was experiencing was history.” Carl David Dorr was finally going to be laid to rest, and how fitting that his funeral would be held on the same day that he died, December 7, but 77 years after the day he died…Pearl Harbor Day.

When I was a little girl, my family lived in Superior, Wisconsin. Those were wonderful years, but in more recent years we had not been back to Superior for a number of years. When my mom, Collene Spencer wanted to go back to Superior, my sister, Cheryl Masterson and I took her, since our dad had passed away by then. That, Ancestry, and Facebook opened up a whole new world for Cheryl and me. We got to know our cousins, and the list of cousins we know grows every day…or at least every year. This year, with the Schumacher Family Reunion, we knew we had to go, even though it would be without Mom this time. This trip was bittersweet, because of course, Mom was missing.

Nevertheless, we have had a wonderful time. When we were here the last time, our first cousins once removed, Les and Bev Schumacher had wanted us to come to their house, but our time was do limited, that we didn’t have time to. This time, their daughter, Cathy La Porte graciously invited us for dinner this evening. We got to meet her husband, Gary, as well as to see her brother, Brian Schumacher and his wife, Lisa again. It was simply a wonderful evening. Cathy is an excellent cook and we were treated to Walleye Pike and Northern Pike that Cathy’s husband, Gary caught in North Dakota with his brother this past week. Wow!!! Was it good. Dessert was a Cherry Crumble that Lisa’s friend had given her, and everyone loved it.

The evening was very enjoyable and will always be a sweet memory from our trip. The trip has gone by so fast, and what we thought was enough time, really wasn’t…it never is, is it? Nevertheless, the friendships (cousinships) formed will last for the rest of our lives, and while our parents weren’t there this time, we know they would be smiling…happy to see their daughters and granddaughter continue to reach out to the family as if they were with us. I guess we are carrying on the connections, and that would make them happy, and it makes me happy.

BobFor as long as I have known my husband, Bob Schulenberg, he has had a job. He is a hard working man, who never quits…until now. Today, for the first time since he was sixteen years old, Bob doesn’t have a job to go to anymore. In the years I have known and been married to Bob, he has had only two jobs. The first in a uranium mine where he worked from 1973 to 1989, when he went to work for the City of Casper. He has worked at the City of Casper for a little over 27 years. One of the girls in human resources, Tracy did a little bit of figuring to come up with some interest figures about how much time that 27 years really is. According to her calculations, for Bob’s May 1, 1989 start date through his last working day for the City of Casper, June 30, 2016, figures up to be 9,922 days, or 14,287,680 minutes, or 857,260,800 seconds. Anyway you look at it, 27 years is an incredible accomplishment.

Bob has never been a man who sits around, and his retirement will be no different. He loves working on cars for family and friends, and already has several jobs lined up to keep him busy…after he takes a couple of weeks off that is. After all, he is going to have to get used to this new direction his life is taking, and what better way than to relax for a couple of weeks before diving into the new ventures he is bound to take on.
Retirement plaque
Of course, being retired will mean that he has more time for our favorite pastime…hiking. We are planning several trips in the near future to go hiking, some just for a weekend, because, after all, I am not retired yet, and others for a week at a time. Of course, no matter how long we are able to go for, we always enjoy our hiking. We love getting out in nature, and especially getting back in the trees.

I don’t know if Bob feels like not having a job is as strange as I feel like it is, but I’m sure he will quickly get used to it. It’s like getting a drivers license. At first it’s strange to be free to go when you want to, but then you get used to it, and it’s just normal. Before very long, retirement will be the same. So without further ado, Bob is calling it a career, and now he is off to new adventures. Congratulations on your retirement Honey!! I know your new adventures are going to be amazing. You’ve earned it.

Our Wedding_editedWith each passing year, I find myself feeling more and more amazed that of all the young marriages there have been over the years, Bob and I managed to find each other and be one of those “made in Heaven” marriages that withstand the test of time. Bob and I were married when I was eighteen, and he was twenty…fairly young by any standards. I know that family and friends never expected it to last, and many have told us how surprised they have been over the years, that it has lasted. I can’t say why it has lasted, except that we just love each other. There is no magic formula…just love each other. Love is the glue in a marriage.

For a long time, Bob and I have taken a trip to Thermopolis on one of the weekends around our anniversary, and we always look forward to that. It is a time in a small town, where there isn’t much to do…except to be together. We walk along the trails, soak in the hot mineral tubs, and enjoy wonderful meals. We talk and just renew our commitment to each other. If there is anything special that we have done for our marriage, this would be it. Doing things as a couple is such a great way to bond. Bob and I love to hike, Our 25th Anniversaryand that makes Winter a less than favorite season, but we love the rest provided it’s not too cold. We find hiking to be a great way to exercise, as well as getting outside and getting some fresh air.

I can’t say if these things are what has kept us close, but we are close, so maybe they are. All I know is that I love Bob more today that when we first married. He is my soulmate, and my one and only. I don’t know what brought us together, other than God, but I’m certainly glad God did bring us together, because my life has been wonderful since the day I met Bob. God knew what I needed, when He sent Bob to me. Today is our 41st wedding annversary. Happy anniversary Honey!! I love you!!

Corrie and Kevin Petersen Wedding Day July 17, 1993It’s strange to think that your children have been married twenty two years, and together twenty five years, but that is exactly where I find myself today. I can’t believe that so many years have passed since those two kids got married. They were babies really!! How could they possibly know who they wanted to spend the rest of their lives with? That seemed to like such a strange thought to me, and yet Bob and I married at about that age too, and we have been married forty years. You can know for yourself, but it just feels different for your kids. And to top it off, they just seem younger than you were…somehow. Much like when I look at kids in high school these days. They just seem so much younger than I was then.

Nevertheless, these two young people made the decision to stay together for life, and they have stuck to it…through thick and thin. There is no marriage on this earth, and I don’t care whose it is, that manages to go along with no storm clouds in it. That is simply not how life in this world works, but troubles or not, it is the fighters…the ones who are determined to make it work, who will endure to the end. I have often said that the Corrie & Kevin Weddingmain reason Bob and I stayed together all these years, is stubbornness…pure stubbornness. We were just to stubborn to quit. That’s how Corrie and Kevin were too. When tough times came, the tough got going. Their marriage has not been stress free…but it has stayed together through anything, and today, before me I see two wonderful people who have stood the test of time, and have come out victorious!! People talk about stubbornness as if it is a bad thing, and maybe sometimes it is, but from what I have seen, that stubbornness, when used in the right way for the right things…such as a marriage, is one of the best assets a couple can have. And so it has been for Corrie and Kevin all these wonderful years of their marriage.

The wedding day flew by so fast. We remember some things, such as the fact that just as Pastor Dan said, “Dearly beloved…” a clap of thunder was heard, and the rain poured down. The kids, who had thought about an outdoor wedding, looked at each other, and were glad they were inside on their special day. It was rather comical, because when they suggested an outdoor wedding, I told them that you can’t be sure of the weather. They were a little miffed at me…until that moment. Nevertheless, if it had been outside, we would have made it work too. Their ride across town to the reception was quite unique too, in that they were transported in a fire truck. Bob was the mechanic for the fire department, and the firemen did it as a special favor. Very cool, and 1917770_1259144074264_5141635_nsomething we would never forget. Still, even with these special memories of that special day, it is the years since then that have been the most amazing. The births of their sons, Christopher and Joshua, the blessings they have been to me and to our whole family over the years…especially in our parents times of need. I always knew that I could count on them to be there for me, whenever I needed them, and Bob knew it too, as did any of the family who ever needed them. Corrie and Kevin have always been people you could count on. Things like that can never be repaid. Before me today, I see two wonderful people, and I wish them both many more years of wedded bliss and the very best that God can give, for the rest of their lives. Happy anniversary Corrie and Kevin!! We love you!!

Military BallWhen men get home from the service, or come home on leave, they are usually is really good shape…and as most of us know, boys will be boys, and men will be men…meaning when issued a challenge, each wants to prove that they are better, stronger, or more capable of something than the other. Such was the case with my dad, Allen Spencer and my uncle, George Hushman. The two of them were at my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer’s house, and somehow the challenge was made to see who could do the most pushups.  Dad and Uncle George were good friends, and this was to be a friendly challenge between two future brothers-in-law. Nevertheless, it was going to be a challenge.

The two men laid down on the floor. It had been decided that two men in military condition would not find it much of a challenge to do a bunch of pushups. No, there had to be a way to make this a real challenge. In the end they seated the two kids who were the closest in size, Aunt Dixie and Aunt Sandy, on their backs in order to do the pushups. That was not the only challenge they faced, either. These pushups had to be done in a specific and rather hard way. As the men pushed down, the girls weight was a challenge, and as they came up, the fact that they had to very quickly clap their hands together mid-pushup, and without losing the girl on their back made it even harder.

As Aunt Sandy told me the story, I could tell that the whole thing had left quite an impression on her. Being the youngest child, she thought of the brothers-in-law as brothers all her life, and these two taking such a challenge, must have made her think that they were very strong…and maybe they were. I also think that the girls had to have been fairly small, but then I couldn’t even attempt push ups in the way they did them that Sandy Byer, Bonnie Byer, Dixie Byer, Susie Hushmanday. I suppose it is possible that they found additional strength in trying to impress their girls, my mom and Aunt Evelyn. Either way, I think it was a challenge.

Aunt Sandy didn’t say who won the challenge, and maybe she doesn’t even recall after all these years. I don’t think that the winner was as impressive as the challenge itself. I suppose that they could have called it a draw in the end too. Either, way, Aunt Sandy will never forget the day that she and her sister Dixie became part of a military push up challenge. Of course, it might have been something that was talked about for months or even years after. It was after all and challenge, and deserving of attention, and Aunt Sandy was a little girl who was impressed with her future brothers-in-law.

What a Special Person my Sister-in-law Caryn is!

Guest Writer BRCaryn became part of our family on March 1, 1975…40 years ago this year!!! Little did I know at that time that Caryn would become such an important part of the Schulenberg Family. I don’t really remember too much of my life without Caryn being a part of it. She has been a major part of our family for so many years now…and I would never want to imagine our family with her not a part of it.

In the early years, Caryn spent most of her time raising her two girls, my nieces, Corrie and Amy. Then, before we knew it along came her four grandchildren my great nieces and nephews, Chris, Shai, Caalab and Josh. All of them are true gifts to Caryn. She really enjoys being a Mother and Grandma….and maybe someday soon (I hope not too soon) a Great Grandma! In August, Caryn’s oldest Grandson Chris moved to Sheridan to go to Culinary School and boy that was a tough adjustment for all of his family. Luckily Sheridan is not too far away but it is still hard. Caryn’s youngest daughter Amy, husband Travis and son Caalab will be moving to Washington State very soon and this too is going to be very hard for Caryn and the rest of us. We know that it will be a great adventure for them….but it is so hard when someone we love moves so far away….but maybe someday they will be back to stay!

A few years back when Caryn’s dad, Al Spencer suddenly became very sick she became an instant caregiver to him. She had help from her mom, Collene and her sisters Cheryl, Caryl, Alena, and Allyn along with all of their children and grandchildren. It took all of them. They all then became caregivers for Caryn’s mom, Collene Spencer when she was ill during the years. On February 22, 2015 Caryn’s mom went to Heaven. While I know Caryn and her sisters are missing her, they know that Collene is truly in a better place now.

Caryn was the lead caregiver to my parents, Walt and Joann Schulenberg. She had help from myself and my siblings, Bob, Jennifer, Debbie, and Ron along with my nieces and nephews, Corrie, Amy, Machelle, Susan, Barry, JD, Eric, Riley, and Tucker, all of the great nieces and nephews and my Aunt Margee Kountz and her granddaughter Staci. Everyone helped when they could, in any way they could even if it was just to stop by or call for a visit…but we could not have kept either one of my parents at home as long as we did without Caryn. She was their primary caregiver and didn’t bat an eye about doing it. She is still helping with my Mom by checking on her out at Shepherd of the Valley Care Center, going to all of her doctor appointments with her and keeping all of us up to date as to how she is doing.

In October 2013 when I got sick…who did I call first? Of course, I called Caryn. She convinced me that I need to get checked out to see what was wrong. Little did I know then that Caryn saved my life. I truly believe that if she had not talked me into going to the hospital that I would have died very soon. She has been with me all the way…from going to the hospital, to my rehab at Elkhorn Rehabilitation Hospital and then once I was home she would do whatever I needed help with. She slept in a recliner chair the night that I had my sleep study done because I couldn’t get my legs up into the bed on my own. She stayed with me my first two nights home from Elkhorn because she didn’t think I should stay alone…I was grateful to have her there with me because I had nurses, aids and therapists with me 24/7 for almost a month. Caryn and my sister Jennifer…and my entire family, friends and coworkers have all been very supportive during my 18 month recovery and weight loss journey. I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Caryn will be traveling with me to Fort Collins next week to see a doctor about my skin removal surgery…and when I have it done in Fort Collins or even here in Casper she will be there with me through all of it and I know she will be very helpful to me during my recovery too.

Caryn - 12-02-2011_editedI don’t even want to think of what the past several years would have been like for either Caryn’s family or my family if it hadn’t been for Caryn and her dedication of her time and her heart to care for all four aging parents and myself. We couldn’t have and wouldn’t have wanted to go through any of this without Caryn.

Caryn is an amazing woman! She is one of the best Sisters-in-law (I consider her my Sister) that I could ever ask for and I know that my Parents felt the same way…she was and is one great Daughter-in-law.

Today is Caryn’s birthday and I just want to say Happy Birthday Caryn. We all love you and appreciate you very, very much!!!!

Aunt Sandy nowI talked to my Aunt Sandy Pattan yesterday. She wanted me to post that the family picnic was coming up. That is a common event each year, but what surprises me is that so many people do not attend. I know what they are thinking…there’s always time next year, but what if there isn’t. As Aunt Sandy said, we are all getting older…and the older ones are getting fewer and fewer. We have lost so many over the last few years…Aunt Deloris Johnson, Uncle Elmer Johnson, my dad, Al Spencer, Uncle Larry Byer, and Uncle Jack McDaniels…and our cousin, Forrest Beadle, along with various other cousins that passed as babies. For these, there is no more time. We will not see them again in this life. And there is no time table that we are privy to that tells us just how much time we have with each of our other family members.

For me, there is a loneliness that comes with each passing. I always wish that I had more time. I kick myself for thinking that there was always time to go visit them. We are all busy, but on this one day, and the Christmas party day, it is easy to go see several of them at once. When they come together in one group it is a joyous occasion and the stories fly. It really is a blessed time. It’s a time to meet any family members you might not know or at least, not well, because as we grow, it becomes harder to know everyone well.

For Aunt Sandy, the youngest of the nine siblings, the passing of each brother-in-law, feels like it did to lose her own sister and brother, because some of them have been a part of her family since she was a little girl. She told me that they are as much her brothers as her own brothers. Sometimes, you don’t think about that. They have always been there, it seems, and the thought that they might not be someday is a hard thing to think about. The older we get, CCI06282012_00015_editeddthe more that realization comes to us. Regret is a cruel emotion, and one that only you can avoid. Never look back on life thinking I wish…! It is the hardest thing to do. So many moments present themselves each and every day, to do things that we give us peace…or as much peace as is possible after a loved one dies…that we did everything we could to let them know we love them, and that we enjoy being around them. Don’t wait…there isn’t always time…the time is now.

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