My memories of the Black Hills date back to my childhood, when our parents would take us there. We learned to love the area because of them. Then as adults, we began coming over as a bunch of families. We did everything from the fireworks to shopping to sitting around the campfire at night. I have so many memories of this area, and mom and dad’s echo lives here. It is in the trees, the monuments, and along the roads. I hear them pointing things out to us. They knew all the points of interest. The echo of their words and stories lives on in my mind whenever I’m in the Black Hills, and it doesn’t matter if we are hiking, touring, or in the towns. I can still hear them telling us about the area and their favorite places.
Mom and Dad loved coming here, to the Black Hills, and they spent a lot of time showing us all there was to see. Of course, with the hiking Bob and I do, we have found a few things to see that they have never seen, except when they looked at our many pictures. Nevertheless, we still go and see the things they always loved, and of course, we go to their favorite fireworks display in the world. The fireworks in Custer are amazing, and it’s a display that Bob and I haven’t missed in years either, except the year they were cancelled because the fire danger was too great. Even then, we didn’t mind it, because we would never want fire to destroy such a beautiful area, and having the display then, could have.
While we love coming to the Black Hills, it still felt strange to be here without either of them. I know it was especially hard on my sister, Cheryl Masterson, who always shared a room with them and later with Mom. I think for Cheryl, it felt a little bit like being at loose ends. She was in the place they had stayed for years, but she was there alone. She came over with her kids, so the trip wasn’t alone, but it was just that she was in the motel room alone. It just felt strange, and empty. In fact, she found it so empty that she chose to stay with her daughter Liz Masterson at her friend’s house the last night. I can certainly understand how she felt, because coming into the Black Hills, I felt exactly the same way. It was more than a little disconcerting. Then, at the fireworks, when all the family that had made the trip were together the subject turned to Mom and Dad. It was bittersweet, because we knew that they would be glad that we came, but we were sad that they couldn’t. A ton of bricks moment for sure…being there without them.
Of all the birthdays my son-in-law, Kevin Petersen has had, I have a feeling that this one will be the most bittersweet. This will be the first birthday in eighteen years that has passed without seeing his son, Chris, in person. I’m sure he knew that was going to happen at some point, but when you have children, you don’t think of them moving out until it happens, and then you wish it wouldn’t. Of course Kevin and my daughter, Corrie want their son to succeed in college, but it is on the special days that you find that you feel just a little bit…no, a whole lot lonely. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Kevin and Chris have worked side by side for some time now. That is going to make work very lonely for Kevin. Kevin and Chris also loved to work on their cars together, and on the boat that they bought this summer. Doing all those things together tends to make two people very close, and that is how it was with Kevin and Chris. It is going to take some getting used to for them to feel ok with this new arrangement, and that will take time. I wish there was an easier fix for them, but there is simply no easy solution. You just have to wait it out.
Kevin is such a family man. I have watched him and Corrie raising their boys to be good men, and I am so proud of the training they have given the boys. Part of raising a child is to help them become independent, and that is the point that Chris is at now. Because of his good upbringing, I know that he will do well. Of course, they still have Josh at home, and it seems that there are seasons for all things. I know that during this time, Kevin and Josh will become even closer than they were before, as they all struggle to adjust to the new living arrangements their family has taken on. That’s what life is all about…adjusting to the constant changes that happen. Nothing ever stays the same, and while we don’t like some of them, changes are important too. And in reality, we could not see what great people we have raised if they never grow up and go out in the world to make their own way, and live their own life. Nevertheless, as a mom, I know exactly how Kevin’s heart is feeling…broken and lonely.
Everything will work out for everyone in the Petersen family, and in the days to come, their joy will return…even if they are changed because of the changes in their family’s life. Chris will finish school for the year and come back home and they will have the summer months and he will come home on weekends too, and they will rejoice. For Kevin, I just hope that he will find a little bit of joy today, on his birthday, and that is ends up being a good day. Today is Kevin’s birthday. Happy birthday Kevin!! Have a good day!! We love you!!
Lately, my cousin, James Jay Spencer has been on my mind quite a bit. He passed away seven years ago today. Jim was a happy, smiley little boy, whose life ended far too soon, after he was diagnosed with Mesothelioma. It had been some time since we had seen Jim, and I really do regret that, because my cousin, Jim was a great guy, and I loved him very much.
During the time of Jim’s illness, Uncle Bill naturally focused on the time he had left with Jim. They spent as much time together as they could. In the last few years of his life, Jim went to see his dad every day, something that pleased Uncle Bill very much. They would do lots of things together…or nothing but sit and talk. It didn’t really matter. They shared a number of interests, making them very good friends. Losing a child, no matter how old, is a devastating event in a parent’s life, and one that they never really get past. It is always there, just under the surface…a bittersweet memory that can be hard to talk about, and easy to cry over.
As a little boy, Jimmy loved to play in the vacant lot across the street from their house. The neighborhood kids played there in the summer, but in the winter, it became an ice skating rink. The kids who had skates skated, and the ones who didn’t like my cousin Jim, just took a running slide on the ice. Jim quickly grew to love the ice. One day when he was about 4 years old, he came running into the house, and when his dad asked if he had been skating, he said “No, I’ve been swiding on my boots!” Soon, his love of the ice turned into a love of hockey. At first, his team couldn’t seem to win a game, but Jim always said the same thing, “We’re gonna win this one, Dad.” As time went on, the team did win and Jim got to be a great hockey player, in spite of the fact that he wasn’t real tall. Then, he passed that love of hockey onto his son, Cody who was a great player too.
Uncle Bill and Jim shared more than a love of sports. They understood each other. Jim’s loss was devastating to Uncle Bill. His mind was already slipping, and the memories of the past were quickly becoming all he had left…his children and his family history. And now, his youngest child was gone. He wrote the things he remembered of Jim’s life…the precious memories…the thoughts and feelings…all the accomplishments…all the things they had done. He set Jim’s place in the family history, and at the end of it all, he finished with the words that were the sweetest to his tired memory, “I called him Jimbo. He called me Daddio.”