divorce

I never had the opportunity to get to know my Grandpa Allen Luther Spencer, because he passed away before my parents were married, and 4½ years before I was born. Life was not always easy for my grandfather. His first marriage ended in divorce, following the death of his daughter, Dorothy, which was quickly followed by the birth of his son, Norman. The loss of a child can be so devastating, that many people never recover, and many marriages fail. It was a dark time for him, until he met my grandmother.

After their marriage and four more children, Laura in 1912, Bill in 1922, Allen (my dad) in 1924, and Ruth in 1925, it looked like his life was on the right track again. Of course, like many other people, this good period was followed by the Great Depression. Thankfully, my grandfather was a carpenter (mostly for the Great Northern Railway), and as near as I can tell, had a job throughout the Great Depression. Still, times were tough, and I’m sure the wages were not what a family of six really needed to live. Most people struggled during the Great Depression.

My grandfather was a product of his circumstances, and the times he lived in, and the two things together created a stressful life for him and his second family. Much more was expected of the two older children, and feelings were raw at times. The younger two children really never remember his being so hard on them. Grandpa had specific ideas of things the children should learn and do. All of the children learned to play the violin and some learned the guitar. My Aunt Laura never really liked learning to play the violin, but the rest of the children did…or at least they did later. Grandpa Spencer may not have been an easy teacher, or maybe it’s just hard to learn from your dad.

No matter what kind of a man my grandfather was, and whether circumstances led to his troubles, his children loved him very much. Like any family, kids and parents “lock horns” sometimes. That doesn’t mean you don’t love them. When my grandfather was dying, my dad drove from Casper, Wyoming to Superior, Wisconsin, 980 miles, in 17 hours. That might not seem like a big deal these days, but cars didn’t do what they can do now, and speeds were different then too. Needless to say, my dad made it home to see his dad before he passed away, and he was always thankful that he made the trip, and always thankful that he saw his dad one more time. I only wish I could have met him, and gotten to know him too. I feel like I missed out, on my grandfather and my Grandma Spencer, who passed away when I was 2½ months old. Happy birthday in Heaven Grandpa Spencer. I look forward to meeting you someday soon.

Always the BossSince I wrote the story about bossy big sisters a while back, I have wondered about Bob’s great uncle, James Ernest Schulenberg. Jim was the youngest of Bob’s great grandfather, Max Heinrich Johann Carl Schulenberg’s ten children, and Bob’s grandfather, Andrew Carl Schulenberg was the oldest. Andy was born March 12, 1906, and Jim was born June 10, 1928. That put Bob’s dad, Walter Andrew Schulenberg’s sister Marion Claudine Schulenberg, born November 29, 1927, a little over 6 months older that her Uncle Jim. Nevertheless, the three were good friends, and played together often. After Andrew’s divorce from Vina Nona Leary Schulenberg, Walt and Marion’s mother, my guess is that the children didn’t see each other as much, with the possible exception of at school. Nevertheless, as we age, friends come I and out of our lives, and we maybe aren’t as close to our cousins, or in this case, an uncle, as used to be.

By the time Jim was grown, the Korean War was in full swing, and Jim took part in that war. I don’t know if he was drafted or if he enlisted, but I know he served, because of a story in the Billings Gazette saying that upon his return from the Korean War, he and his wife, whose name I don’t know yet, made their home in West Forsyth, Montana. That would put him right back in the town he and so many of the other, more recent, Schulenberg family members were born.

At some point around 1993, Jim moved to Billings, Montana, where he would spend the rest of his life. Jim passed away on June 24, 2006. When I first saw this picture, I had the opportunity to ask my father-in-law, who he was, but for some unknown reason, I did not ask him for very much information about his Uncle Jim. Now that he is gone, there is no longer an opportunity to ask him, and I really wish that was not the case. So often, we do not realize how much that past family history will mean to us, until we no longer have the opportunity to find out about it first hand. It is a live and learn situation, but I wish I had learned about it first, and not had to live with the regret that I didn’t ask.

Pearl Spencer 2Sometimes, it seems, people are dealt a very sad hand in life. Such was the case for my 1st cousin once removed, Pearl Ethyl Spencer. She was the daughter on my Great Uncle Clifford Herbert Spencer and his wife at the time, Annie Mae Jordan. As sometimes happens in marriage, Clifford and Annie divorced when Pearl was just a baby, and he moved to Rushville, Nebraska, where he would remarry, to a woman named Hanna (who went by Anna, making the records somewhat confusing), have 3 more children, and live out the rest of his life. To my knowledge he either saw very little of, or nothing more of, his daughter Pearl. Then, when Pearl was still very young, her mother, Annie passed away, leaving Pearl a virtual orphan. My Great Aunt Bertha always said, “Poor Pearl, she was so terribly alone!” Pearl must have had some contact with her grandparents, my Great Grandpa William MPearl Spencer 1alrose Spencer I and Grandma Viola Fuller Spencer, because Aunt Bertha Spencer Hummer knew enough about her to say that her childhood was very lonely.

Pearl grew up and married Claude Lawrence Coleman, and together they had six children, before he too would leave her around 1941. I’m sure that by this time, her children were a blessing to her, and she was no longer as lonely, but Claude’s decision to leave the family must have struck quite a blow to poor Pearl. It was about this time that Pearl and her children came to live with my Grandma, Anna Schumacher Spencer, who was her great aunt. The two families became as one, living and working together during those hard times following divorce and during World War II. They were really a big help to my grandmother, since my dad was serving in the Army Air Forces in England, My Aunt Laura was married and on her own, and Uncle Bill lived in Superior, but worked in the shipyards. Aunt Ruth was still living at home, and prior to this time, they ran the farm together, but it was hard work, and I’m sure the extra help was Claude Colemanvery nice.

Pearl’s son Claude was a hard working boy, who worked side by side with my grandmother on the farm, and his sisters helped out where needed too. Pearl’s life took many sad and difficult turns, but she raised very nice children. In later years, my Uncle Bill lost touch with Pearl, and to my knowledge never saw her again, but he reconnected with Claude in the late 1990’s, and in 2000, he sent him copies of the only pictures he had of his mother, Pearl. While the letter telling of Pearls history is a sad one, I’m sure that Claude was very pleased to get the two pictures of his mom.

I have been researching our family history, and recently I came across a site called Find A Grave. I know that seems odd, but it has been quite exciting to me. I have found the graves of several of my grandparents and great grandparents, and great great grandparents, etc. These are people I have never met, of course, such as my grandpa’s dad, Cornelius George Byer, who died in 1930, my grandmother’s mother, Estella Shaw Pattan, who died in 1959. I have also seen links to many other members of their families, as well as other branches of my family and Bob’s, and I look forward to exploring those links as well.

I also found pictures of many of these grandparents, which I had never seen before. They weren’t all real clear, but it was exciting to see the faces of my ancestors. And some were pretty clear, so I got a very good look. There was some history about some of them too. I felt like I had just found a hidden treasure chest. I knew about the site for a little while, but I hadn’t explored it much. I thought I would need a lot of information on the burial site and dates in order to find a grave, but found that I could search a last name and when I did…well, I was amazed at the treasures I discovered.

I found out that my grandmother who married my grandfather on December 24, 1927, shared her anniversary with her great grandmother who married her great grandfather on December 24, 1872. That anniversary date is also shared by my cousin, Raelynn and her husband on December 24 as well. Sorry, I’m not sure of the year on that one, but maybe this story will bring me that information.

There were also stories that I knew about before, like my great great grandfather who, to me seemed to be eccentric…even in his young years. He served in the Civil War twice. He was also married twice, but forgot to divorce either wife, and after 17 years away from his first family, his son saw him wandering around town and brought him home where he spent his remaining years. I suppose many people would think he was a scoundrel, but I think maybe he experienced an injury that caused amnesia, or that his memory was in some other way compromised. No matter who or what he was, he was my great great grandfather, and that is the way it is.

The history of one’s family is such an interesting thing. We don’t know what factors and events in our background played together to make us the people we are today, but the experiences they had were passed down to the future generations nevertheless. We can’t separate our experiences for the way we raise our own children. Our past affects our future, and the future of our kids. I have found so many things out about my family from this and other sites, and my research has been interesting and exciting. I feel like I know my ancestors a little bit. And that is worth the search.

Today is my father-in-laws birthday, he is 82 years old. He has lived a long life, and has worked hard all of it. He is a man of high values and one who believes in working hard to get where you want to go. His parents would divorce when he was young, and by the time he was 13 years old, he had moved to a neighboring milk farm. It was close enough for his mom to keep tabs on him, nevertheless, he was his own man for the rest of his life. He decided early on what kind of man he would be, and he has remained true to his values all his life.

He has been a wonderful husband to my mother-in-law for the last 62 years, taking care of her largely alone for the past 5 or 6 years since we found that she has Alzheimer’s Disease. His children and grandchildren help as much as they can, but as we all work, he is alone much of the time. His love for her very evident, he continues to patiently create a home where she is kept safe and happy for as long as possible. He ia a man whose life commands respect, simply because if his unending love for those around him. Happy birthday Dad!! We all love you!!

Almost 6 decades later, my niece Lindsay would be born on my father-in-law’s birthday. Lindsay carries many of the same traites my father-in-law does, though they are not related. Lindsay is the daughter of my sister, Allyn and brother-in-law Chris. But, Lindsay possesses the same strong work ethic that my father-in-law does, working hard to become first a fire fighter with a Associates Degree in Fire Science, and then obtain her Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology and Health Promotion, and now is going on the graduate school to obtain her Masters Degree.

Lindsay is the kind of person who cares about everyone she meets. She has no enemies. She seems to know everyone, and a stranger is just a friend she hasn’t met yet. She loves the Lord and desires to do his will in her life…to be a blessing. She will ultimately succeed in whichever of the several fields that her degrees will prepare her for, and will make a wonderful employee to anyone who hires her, and a great business owner, should she decide to go into business for herself. Lindsay has always had a positive spirit, and a joy about her. I guess that is why people are drawn to her. What else could they do? You are a wonderful woman Lindsay, and I’m proud of you. Happy birthday Lindsay!! We love you!!

Everyone hopes that the marriages in their family will last forever, but sadly that is not always the way things work out. Bob’s grandparents on his dad’s side divorced when his dad was about 5, I believe and for many years, Bob’s dad would have nothing to do with his real dad. In fact, Bob would be a grown man with two daughters of his own before we would know anything more than that his grandpa was the sheriff of Forsyth, Montana for many years before he retired. The one thing we did know is that if your last name was Schulenberg in Forsyth, Montana, they knew who you were related to…the sheriff. He was a much loved sheriff for a long time.

My father-in-law finally reconnected with his dad at a family reunion about 1980. We went to the family reunion the next time, and my girls were able to meet their great grandpa for the first time. We knew about the hard feelings from the past, but my father-in-law had decided to put that all behind him and be friends with his dad, so we felt comfortable getting to know him, knowing that we would not be hurting my father-in-law’s feelings.

The years had changed him from the man who could not seem to get along with grandma, to a much more mellow person…someone who maybe realized what he had missed out on through those many years of no contact. Bob and his family had visited Forsyth many times after moving to Wyoming, but the kids would not have known their grandpa if they saw him on the street…unless he was in uniform of course, but Bob doesn’t recall ever meeting him.

Grandpa would pass away before we got a chance to see him again, and much about him remains a mystery to us. We know that he remarried after the divorce, and had another son, who has stayed in contact with my father-in-law, and is a very nice man. We know that during his retirement years he made wooden lawn chairs, and he gave one to each of his great granddaughters. It will be the only thing they will have to remember him by…other than a couple of pictures. It is sad that so much of their heritage is lost to them, but that is the way it goes sometimes in a divorce. I will always be grateful that we had the chance to meet him, even if it was only once.

There is an old saying by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that goes like this. “Into each life a little rain must fall.” There is no way for each and every day of our lives to be filled with happiness. Things in life are always changing, and sometimes those changes make us unhappy. Things like parents divorcing, a loved one dying or moving far away, job losses, fights with friends, etc, can cause a wide range of emotions, not the lease of which is sadness and anger. So, how do we deal with these emotions in a positive way? We can’t stop sadness or anger from happening. They are a part of life. Then there is the problem of negative feelings multiplying in us when we think on them too much.

One possible solution to this problem goes along with one of my favorite Bible verses which I believe is best said in the Message version of the Bible. “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” Philippians 4:8-9. God’s most excellent harmonies is just where I want to be. So if we think about the things mentioned in these verses, then we are basically thinking of the good things and not the bad, so…something to smile about. I like that idea.

Now, I have never been a person who liked being told to “Smile!!!” It always annoyed me because I wasn’t sad or mad, just not smiling, but maybe I was having a negative effect on others. Also something to think about. So, I am going to start looking around me and thinking on good things so that I will have something to smile about, and I believe I will feel better because of it.

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