There are lots of people who enjoy people watching. It’s a source of entertainment for them. Many of us are that way, myself included, but it is not a pastime I ever associated with animals. Maybe I should have, but somehow, the idea never crossed my mind. Oh sure, we know that our pets watch us for clues about what is going to happen, such as is it time to go for a walk, or a ride in the car, or if they jump on our laps, will we pet them. That is not really people watching, but rather owner watching. There are other animals who like to watch people, however.
Yesterday, I read an article about the Lake Superior Zoo, in Duluth, Minnesota. That one caught my eye, because I was born in Superior, Wisconsin…just over the bridge from Duluth, but as I looked around the internet, I saw that the same situation is going on in many zoos. The animals miss the people who come to the zoo. I really never gave any thought to the idea of the zoo animals watching the people who are watching them, but the do. They are interested in the goings on of humans!! Shocking, but it’s true. I guess that it is more than just the humans who are adversely affected by the quarantines and shut-downs.
The zoo keepers are finding themselves being the entertainment for the animals, and it’s not just for something different to do, it’s necessary. Like people, the animals need mental stimulation to stay healthy. Many beings, especially those in zoos, have been locked up during this time. We have talked about the elderly people in nursing homes, or even in their own homes, who can’t have visitors, and how very lonely they have become. Sadly, the animals in the zoos feel the very same way, and until the shutdowns cease, there is little that can be done about it. The job of a zookeeper is an essential one, and it’s a good thing, or these animals would see no one. One of the zookeepers at the Lake Superior Zoo, Lizzy Larson said, “You guys as visitors are the main sources of entertainment for the animals at the zoo. As much as we like watching the animals through the glass or behind a fence, they also love watching us. We walk by, we do things. It’s really exciting for them to see us.” That is a strange thought for me, but I guess it makes sense. It makes me feel sad for them, because while we at least know the reasons for the closures, they don’t, they just know that no one is coming to see them.
Most of us have either seen or heard of the television show called “The Bachelor.” The show is all about a single man in search of a bride. Of course, these days there are many ways to find the girl of his dreams, and most men would never go on television and let some reality show match him up with ten women for him to choose from. Of course, the idea of online dating sites is new and for some of us, still shocking too.
Many years ago, in the old west…especially during the gold rush days, the men in the west found themselves lonely…very lonely. They didn’t want to go back east, and few good women came to the west in those early days. Those were desperate times in the emotional lives of the gold rushers. The west was wild and unsettled, and even into the 1900s short on eligible women to marry.
There were no computers or smart phones then, and no dating apps or websites. So in an effort to find a wife, several eligible bachelors would stand in front of a log cabin, spiffed up as much as they could be, I suppose, many with beards, trying to let ok like a great catch. The photograph was then placed as an advertisement in papers back east. Personally, I don’t know if I would have been very inclined to jump on a train and head west to meet up with a man who was looking for a wife. Mail-order brides, sort of. These men would still have to woo the women, win them over, because these women weren’t slaves, and they weren’t required to stay. These bachelors would have to “sell” themselves and their lifestyle to these women, along with making the women fall in love with them.
I wondered, what kind of woman would answer such an ad. I don’t mean a loose woman, but likely a woman who was a little bit past the normal marrying age of that time. An eighteen year old girl would never be the one to go. Her parents would likely never let her, but s woman who was in her mid-twenties would be viewed as a spinster, usually a school teacher, so she could take care of herself. She could tell her family that she was taking a job in the west. I’m sure they would be upset, but it would be her choice. And her family would have known it. Some women had no one, so there might be nothing to stop them. Still, going into the unknown like that would be scary. I don’t know how many of these men successfully found wives this way, but I suppose that if even a few did, it would be a successful bachelor show…of the time, anyway.
As I visited with my Aunt Dixie Richards at the Byer family picnic, last Sunday, she talked about how her grandchildren were getting older now, and they need her less and less. She was sad about that, because this was an era that had defined her life for the past 22 years…and truly even beyond that. She was mom first, and then grandma. It was who she was. Being mom and grandma defined her completely. Aunt Dixie was always about her family, and now she was feeling like they didn’t need her anymore. Of course, she and I both knew that wasn’t technically true. She is very important to all of the members of her family, it’s just that her idea of her usefulness was in question. It wasn’t that she didn’t think she was needed at all, she just wasn’t sure what her new role would be with these less needy grandchildren.
I can understand how she felt, because I have felt that way myself at different times in my life, as has Aunt Dixie. We were both caregivers…until were weren’t. We were hands-on moms…until the kids grew up, and did their own things. And now we are both hands-on grandmothers with grandchildren who no longer need our help. So, who will we be now? Will we someday soon become hands-on great grandmothers? Probably not, because the hands-on grandparents will be our children. Our role will be simply to hold and cuddle the great grandbabies sometimes, when we get the chance. It’s a strange place to be.
Of course, both Aunt Dixie and I will find our way in this new reality we live in. Our lives will be different, but that doesn’t mean the kids won’t need us, because they will. Aunt Dixie still has a younger grandchild…her only granddaughter, Mayme, but she is in school too, so she won’t have nearly as much time with her when school starts. It’s kind of a lonely feeling for Aunt Dixie, but like all of us, she will move forward, and figure out how to redefine herself, and before long it will all be ok again. Today is Aunt Dixie’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Dixie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Seldom does it seem like a person is truly the light of someone else’s life, but that is how my grand niece, Melanie Harman seemed to be for my grand nephew, Jake Harman, the first time I met her. I have to think Jake, while not old by any stretch of the imagination, thought that he would never meet that special someone who would truly complete him. It’s hard to imagine how a person can feel when they honestly think they will be alone in this life. We knew that Jake felt that way…not because he said it, but because it showed in how he was. That always made me sad, because I knew that Jake had something special to give to that person who could see something special in him, and it was hard to see that there didn’t seem to be someone out there who could see that.
Then Melanie came alone, and suddenly, Jake was complete. Melanie is such a sweet, loving girl, and when he is with her, Jake just blossoms. I suppose that sounds odd, in light of the fact that he is a man, but men can blossom too. They suddenly become the person that God had in mind for them to be. Melanie was truly a gift to Jake, from God, to bless his life in every way. Melanie brought with her, a daughter, Alice, who simply adores Jake, and now together, they have another daughter, Izabella, who is Jake’s mini-me. Life is suddenly good for both Jake and Melanie, and it will only get better and better every day, week, month, and year they spend together. Their love for each other is simply beautiful.
Melanie is loved by everyone in the family, and everyone who knows her. It’s easy to see that her special kind of personality has been such a sweet blessing for Jake, and that endears her to all of us. Jake has never been happier, and Melanie is the reason. She is an excellent mom to the girls, and they are so blessed to have her for their mom. Melanie couldn’t fit in this family any better, if she tried. Today is Melanie’s birthday. Happy birthday Melanie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Today, my grandson Chris Petersen heads back to Sheridan for his final semester of college. It has been a long two year road, and hard on all of us, but we are proud of what he has done. Nevertheless, while he has been here over a month, it seems like he just got here. Time flies by so quickly, and somehow along the way, this one or that one of your kids and grandkids seem to fly away. Some literally!! As each one goes, you are left to wonder what the draw of that place is, or sometimes, like with Chris, you know that it is not that place, but rather the dream. You know that they have to follow their dream, and you truly want them to be happy…even if that takes them far away from you.
The reality is that the future of our children is not ours to set. It is theirs. All their lives, you watch carefully, noting their talents and abilities, and wondering where their future lies. I think that for most parents, the hope is that their kids future wont take them too far away, because while we have been watching their little lives as they grew, our hearts just never planned for that moment when they would tell us that their future plans and our idea of their future plans are simply not the same. As they leave, you feel like your heart is being torn from your chest. You fell like the tears will never stop, and in reality, sometimes…when you least expect it…when you thought you were finally ok, those wretched tears come rushing back to you again.
As Chris leaves, I think about the fact that once again, half of my children and grandchildren don’t live nearby. It makes me feel lonely. For Chris, the homesickness will flood in, because he is once again alone there, without his family, with whom he is very close. I know he would rather stay here, but he can’t. And with job placement looming ahead, we know that the distance will grow. I want Chris to go where they place him, because it is a once in a lifetime experience. He won’t have to stay there permanently. I know that his ultimate dream lies in a different place, closer to home, if not right here in Casper. But, dreams can change. He may like the place where his job placement takes him. He may choose to stay there, or go somewhere else. And if he does, we will be ok here. We will miss him terribly, and we will notice that empty chair where he should be, but we will know that he is off following his dream…like other family members before him…and we will adjust.
Change is a part of life, whether we like it or not. Our children, once grown, are not children anymore. They are adults with the right to make their own choices. We can’t live their lives for them. We are their past in a way, even though we will always be there for them, and they can always call our home their home. We are home base, but the world is out there. It is theirs to see and explore. So as each one leaves, all I can think is…and off you go. Remember where you came from, walk with God, don’t forget the way home, and while we miss you, we’ll be alright…right here, holding down the fort.
There is a time each year, when the kids are getting ready to head back to school. It is a different date for different places, and in most cases, the parents are pretty happy to have their kids back in the school routine. Some of the kids are happy about it too. I suppose it feels different when the kids are going to school in the town where they live, because they aren’t headed so far away that you won’t see them in the evening.
However, when they are off to college in another town, even if it is in the same state, there is a sense of lonliness that comes over parents, and grandparents who are used to seeing them often. That is how I am feeling today, because tomorrow, my oldest grandchild, Chris Petersen heads back to Sheridan to go to college for his second and final year. Yes, Sheridan isn’t that far from Casper, but this year, because he has a job and a Friday night class, he will only be home a few times, whereas last year, he came home most weekends, because he had a job here.
Just knowing that he will be staying in Sheridan most of the school year feels like he has moved as far away as my daughter Amy Royce, her husband Travis, and son, Caalab, who live in the Seattle area now. I have never been one to like change, and while I know that it is a part of life, I still find myself wishing that things would just stay the way they were. I know that for Chris’ parents, my daughter, Corrie Petersen, her husband, Kevin, and son Josh, tomorrow will be a very lonely day, as they drop Chris off at his dorm room, and head back home without him. They are such a close family, and this is just hard.
Nevertheless, as the new school year begins, they will have to face the facts that Chris is away again. It would be lovely we could all just teleport around the country. That way it wouldn’t matter where anyone lived, because we could see each other as often as we wanted. Since that is not to be, I guess we will all have to get used to the idea that for another school year, at least, Chris will be living in Sheridan and we will be here. I know that for his family…and for him it is going to feel like a long year.
Chris, I know this year will be a great one for you. It will be hard, but it is the culmination of all your hopes and dreams. You make us all so proud as you persue your dream of being the owner of a restaurant of your own someday. You are an amazing chef, and I know that you will be very successful in your future endeavours. So Chris, while we will miss you very much, I know that it is time for you to get back to work now. I know it will be an amazing year for you. Enjoy all of it, because before you know it, your college days will be over, and you will be in the working world like the rest of us. We love you very much.
After a month and a half of having my daughter, Amy Royce, her husband, Travis, and their son, Caalab living in the Seattle, Washington area, I find myself feeling a little bit better…in some ways. I find myself spending time on Google Earth looking over the area they live in, and hoping to find some cool thing for them to see, that they might not have realized was even there. Although, they really don’t need my help to find the sights. They have been exploring for weeks now. I know they love their new home, but I would love to turn back the hands of time, to a time when they were still here…if I could.
Recent years have take several people out of my life…some I will see on this Earth again, and some I will only see in Heaven. In most ways, I would not ever choose to turn back the hands of time, because I keep thinking of all the people who wouldn’t be in my life if I was a little girl, a teenager, or even a young mother. Not having my husband, children, or grandchildren would never be my choice, simply for the opportunity to be younger, but would that I could turn back time…maybe just fifteen years to a time when both my parents were healthy, as was my father-in-law, and my kids still lived here…I might consider it…if it were possible. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible, so I must live in the time that I am in, and with the circumstances as they exist now. That is the way life is.
As for Amy and her family, I am thankful that we will travel to see them and they will travel to see us. I am thankful for free long distance, texting, Facetime, Skype, and Facebook, because they make it so much easier to keep in touch. I see how happy they are, and it is hard to wish things were different for them. I have never met anyone who loves the rain more than Amy, so the Seattle area is really perfect for Amy. Having them there is just not perfect for me. I guess it would not matter if we were able to zip across the nation as quickly as they could on Star Trek, but we can’t, so I am left feeling lonely and thinking that it would be nice to turn back the hands of time for a little while anyway.
Our lives, nevertheless, are a series of events that once they are played out, there is very little option to go back and change them. We must live them out, following the twists and turns that our journey’s road takes us on, and just doing the best we can to live each moment to the fullest, because even if we would turn back time, we can’t turn back time. Each day once spent is over and can never be spent a second time.
Today, I have been thinking about my cousin, Greg Huhsman a lot. This has been a year of much change, and sadness, for Greg, with a little bit of gladness mixed in. Greg lost his beautiful wife, Dustine on February 18, 2015, and if you have ever lost a loved on, you know that it feels like your whole world just came crashing down on you. Before too long, you are expected to pick yourself up, and get back to your job, but your body wants to go back to bed, and hope that when you wake up again, you will find that all this was just a nightmare. Sadly, it wasn’t, so you move forward, probably a little bit mechanically at first, doing the things you need to do each day, and praying that your heart will stop hurting so badly pretty soon.
I don’t say that anything will ever take Dustine’s place in Greg’s heart, because there is nothing that can do that, but sometimes, like in Greg’s life, something else happens that while it doesn’t stop the pain, it adds a little bit of joy to balance it out a bit. Nine months ago, Greg found out that his daughter was going to have a surprise baby. The baby was not planned, nor was she going to be planned for in the future, but arrive she will, and within the next three days. Her mother, Greg’s daughter, Stephanie, found herself pregnant after a seven year time span. I don’t think Greg had expected to have any more grandchildren. He has two, Kathleen and Michael Willard, but what an exciting thing to find that you are going to be blessed with another, and really just when you need some good things in your life. This baby was due a couple of days ago, and I am still holding out hope that she will arrive on her grandpa’s birthday, but even if she doesn’t, she will be a blessing for the entire family.
Unfortunately, we can’t change the sad moments life hands us, but God is always so good to us. In the midst, of sadness, joy always seems to comes. I know this birthday will be a very different one for Greg…a very lonely one, but I’m just as sure that he knows just how much his entire family loves him. We are all praying for comfort, and the coming reintroduction of joy in his life. Greg has always been such a kind and thoughtful cousin. It breaks my heart to have him go through such loss at such a young age. I know too, though, that his family means the world to him, and this new little granddaughter will bring him great joy. I can’t wait for her arrival, and I know Greg can’t either. Nevertheless, babies come when they are ready, so we will simply have to wait. Today is Greg’s birthday. Happy birthday Greg!! I’m praying that this is your new granddaughter’s birthday too. Have a great day either way!! We love you!!
In times past, many people sent out Christmas cards. It was simply a part of the season. You always had to make sure you got them in the mail as early as possible, or they didn’t arrive in time for Christmas. As a young newlywed, I tried really hard to get that tradition started, but it seemed like I always got cards from people that I didn’t expect and then they didn’t get one from me, or the time to mail them was long gone before I could even wrap my mind around the fact that the Christmas season was once again upon us. Most often, it was all I could do to get my Christmas shopping done…much less send out Christmas cards. It just seemed a lost cause, and like most lost causes, it went the way of the wind early on in my marriage. With two kids to take care of, there just didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day for such an extra.
Christmas cards used to be something most people did. It was tradition, passed on from parent to child. My Aunt Jeanette Byer has always had her act together on the Christmas card thing, and every year…like clock work, I get a card from her right about this time. Yes, it came yesterday, so that is what prompted this story. When I get her card, and think about just how sweet she is to always think of me and so many other people at this time of year, I start to think that I really should send her a card back, and if I ever got that done, Aunt Jeanette would probably faint, because it has not happened at this point. I also got one from my cousin, Shirley Cameron last year, and of course, it was too late to send one back by then, but it did show me just how sweet my cousin, Shirley is, and it is my hope that she knows just how much I love her, even in the absence of a Christmas card.
As the years have gone by, I have started receiving fewer and fewer Christmas cards, and while it could be because I never get any sent out, I have a feeling that fewer and fewer people send them out anymore. With the closer connections we have through Facebook, and the ability to send out e-cards, I think the practice of sending out Christmas cards is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Modern technology has a way of doing that, and while modern technology is vital to our way of life, maybe it is a little bit sad to see traditions like letters and Christmas cards go by the wayside. I know my Uncle Bill Spencer would feel that way, because he loved letters. He wanted the handwriting of the individual to have as a keepsake for all time. I can understand that now, where I could not before. Every time I see Uncle Bill’s handwriting, I know it instantly. I have seen it so often that it is as much him as he is. That is a tribute to the amount of writing he did on the family history all these years.
My dad loved Christmastime. As a Christian, it marks the birth of our Lord and Saviour, so it is a day that is important to us. I know that every time I see my dad’s handwriting, it makes my heart jump a little bit. It is like a connection to him that lives on here, even though he lives in Heaven now. For that love of handwriting, I have to thank my Uncle Bill, because it was he who first pointed out its importance. I came across a Christmas card sent home to Uncle Bill, from my dad during World War II, while he was in training in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was among the things that my grandmother kept, and then gave back to him later on, and while the only handwriting on it is simply my dad’s name, I know that the card was among the things that were dear to his brother’s heart, because it was sent to him from his brother, Allen Spencer, who was spending Christmas far from family in 1943. I’m sure that it was a lonely time for both of them, because they were very close, and it was a way for my dad to reach out across the miles and let his brother know, that he loved him. I guess that is really what Christmas cards, or any other cards are all about. Christmas is simply a season for showing your love, whether you mail a card, write a letter, send an e-card, or make an announcement on Facebook. It’s all about showing your love.
I’ll admit it, I’ve never liked change. I like being in my comfort zone, where I know the way things are going to play out. Having those I love grow up and live their own lives makes me feel pretty lonely. My grandkids are all grown up now, and busily working and going to school, and I don’t get to see as much of them, because they have things to do…their own lives to live. It’s easy for them to think, “I’ll go see Grandma tomorrow…or the next day.” But then something comes up and they are off in another direction again. It’s not that they never come to see me, it’s just that life has them running here and there, and the time they get to spend with me is far more limited than it used to be. That is change…having your kids and grandkids grow up and start their own lives. I don’t like it much. No, the kids and grandkids aren’t ignoring me, and seeing less of them isn’t something they are doing intentionally. They aren’t mad at me…just busy.
I remember when my girls were little. They would come home from school, and we would be together as a family. Oh sure, we didn’t spend every moment that they were home together. They went outside to play, or played in their rooms, or went to a friend’s house, and maybe I took those moments for granted…like we all do, but I cherished those moments, nevertheless. Family has always been important to me, and I don’t like to have those close days end. And yet, it is inevitable…for every family. We go from seeing our parents every day to seeing them once a week, and sometimes longer than that. Kids head off to college and the relationship changes to one of calling, texting, Facebook, and Skype…and we are thankful for those things, because that old long distance calling was expensive and you couldn’t do that several times a day.
Life gets that way for everyone at some point. We all have our own schedules and responsibilities. I remember my dad saying something similar to me. In fact, what he said was, “You need to come over hand have lunch with us once a week, so we can see you!” Dad never was one to mince words exactly. If you needed to do something, you just needed to do it, and he didn’t mind telling you about it. It wasn’t that he was mad at us, because he wasn’t. He just wanted us to know that he loved his family and wanted to be around them. He knew we were busy, as we all worked, but he decided that we could take one lunch hour to spend with our parents…and he was right. I mean, we had to eat anyway. It has worked well for us, and even though Dad is in Heaven now, we still have lunch with Mom once a week, and I have dinner once a week too. It’s just important to do these things to stay close. And after all, wasn’t that what Dad was after anyway…being able to stay close to his family. We must cherish those moments, because all too soon, they are gone.