Many people say that we shouldn’t dwell on the past, and to a degree, I can understand their opinion on that, but there is more than one way to dwell on the past. One way is harmful to us, and the other establishes our place in history. To dwell on past mistakes is harmful, of course, because we often sit and regret our past mistakes, but to look back on history or our family lineage, is a different thing altogether. There is a sad side to that too, because many of the people we think about are gone now, and we really wish they weren’t. Parents and grandparents, as well as siblings and cousins too, have passed away, and we are left with their memories, and the desire to see them again.
As I was looking through my Uncle Bill Spencer’s family history information, I came across some really cute pictures of my cousin Jim Spencer, Jimmy to my sisters and me, and Jimbo to his dad. Jimmy was such a character. You almost never saw him without a smile on his face. Jimmy was just that kind of kid. When he smiled, his whole face smiled, and since he found life to be the coolest thing, he smiled and laughed a lot. It was like he had the secret to fun inside himself, and all you had to do was hang out in the general vicinity to have fun too. Jimmy always tried hard to mind his parents, but sometimes I must say that he was cutting it close. It was then that he would use that great smile to his advantage. After all, who could resist that smile. His parents usually melted, and he got away with it.
Jimmy loved the ice. I think he probably waited all summer for winter to come so that he could be out on it. He didn’t even need skates either. Like the kids who didn’t have skates, he just took a run at the ice and slid across it. When four year old little Jimmy would come home from the vacant lot across the street from their house, where he had been “skating,” his dad would ask if he had been out skating, and he would say, “No, I was swiding on my boots!” I’m not sure if he was just clarifying, or if he was getting out of trouble with that one, but he got away with it either way. I really miss my cousin Jimmy, and I think about him often…especially when I see the picture of him peeking out of his parents bedroom at about two years old. Love you Jimmy.
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.”