My sweet sister-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg has been in Heaven for 33 years, and yet at times it seems like she was just with us yesterday. Time is a fickle thing that way. Maybe it’s because God blurs time to help us cope with sad things. Losing Marlyce was so hard on everyone in the family. She was developmentally disabled, and yes, Mom and Dad (Joann and Walt Schulenberg), worried about what would happen to her when they were gone. Of course, they needn’t have worried, because we would have taken care of her. Nevertheless, it was their concern. Marlyce was probably 13 years old mentally…old enough to take care of her own daily needs, but no old enough to live on her own. I guess, in the end, they needn’t have worried, because she went before them.
I miss so many things Marlyce did, mostly because while they were not vital to our days, they made our days. That was really a big part of who Marlyce was. She liked bringing joy to those around her. Her baking skills were always a big hit, with her chocolate chip cookies being a big favorite. She also made stocking caps, and a lot of people were a little bit warmer as a result. Marlyce loved being useful, and she loved it when people recognized her hard work. You were her favorite person, if you appreciated her work.
As time marches on to the place where Marlyce has been gone longer than she was here, I’m having trouble sorting out just how that makes me feel. When I married into this family, Marlyce was expected to always be a part of that, but then she got cancer when she was just 39 years old. So very young to be facing cancer, especially since she didn’t really understand all that was going on. Watching her lose so much weight as she fought the cancer in her esophagus was just so hard…and even harder when she went into the hospital for the last time. Marlyce lost her battle with cancer on August 13, 1989. Her cheerful voice was silenced and the beauty that Marlyce created with her gifts was gone. While I know she is in Heaven, happy and fully restored in her mind, her presence here is forever gone, and that makes me sad. Happy birthday in Heaven, Marlyce. We love and miss you very much.
Have you ever wondered what things you might change if you could just turn back time? I can think of a number of things I would change, and I can think of many things that I would never change too. Things like my husband, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren are definitely in the “I wouldn’t change these things at all” category. My religious beliefs and career choices fall in that category as well. I have lived a blessed life. Of that fact there is not doubt. I had wonderful parents and in-laws, as well as sisters, sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, nieces, and nephews too. My aunts, uncles, and cousins are precious to me. Yes, I have been greatly blessed. In these things, I would never choose to turn back time.
Of course, we have all made mistakes in life. I think the ones that tend to haunt us the most are the things we didn’t say, when we could have. Or we might regret the things we did say, when we might have kept quiet, or said something different. Also, we might regret the time we might have spent with those we care about, but we allowed our busy lives to dictate our time, or the lack thereof. When it pertains to those we love, like parents, grandparents, aunts, or uncles, we all have wished that we had spent more time. Of course, as kids, and even as adults, there always seemed to be more time for these things later…until there wasn’t. When they are gone, we finally see just how unimportant that important thing we needed to do, really was. Of course, communication goes both ways, but some people really warrant an extra effort. Unfortunately, they don’t always let us know that they needed more of our time. They don’t want to intrude, I suppose.
If I could turn back time, I would go see my parents and in-laws more than I did. I would call and talk to siblings, siblings-in-law, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins more. I have found that for those who are online, Facebook, texting, and Messenger have helped to fill the gaps. For me, it is far easier to text or write things down, because believe it or not, I am a bashful person. I can carry on a conversation, however, and I really should do that, so I don’t regret still another “shoulda, woulda, coulda” later in my life. I guess what I am getting at is that we all need to consider the things that are important to us, and make sure that we pay those important things enough attention. That way, maybe, “If I could turn back time” could be just another song lyrics, and not a personal regret.
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.
Seven days might seem like enough time when your kids come home for a visit, but when it comes time for them to leave, you find that it is definitely not enough time. Of course, deep down, you knew it wouldn’t be, you just hoped that you could cram everything you wanted to say and do into the short amount of time you had. Then, almost before the visit started, it’s time to say goodbye again. That’s how my Casper family feels every time our Washington family comes for a visit, and I’m sure that’s how they feel whenever we go to visit there too. Included in the visit is always a certain amount stress and pressure, both for them and for us, because they are trying to make time for their family…and their friends, and we are trying to spend as much time as possible with them. No one wants to share them exactly…selfish, I know, but when they are your babies, you tend to get a little bit selfish.
This trip home for my daughter, Amy Royce and her kids, Shai and Caalab, was to attend the graduation of my youngest grandson, Josh Petersen. The trip was wonderful, as we attended his graduation party, awards ceremony, and of course, the graduation. We went out to eat, and just sat around and talked, and we even had an early birthday party for Amy. We laughed, talked, and when I was given Friday off, we even did pedicures. The kids hooked up with all their friends, and for the most part, decided that sleep was an unnecessary vice best left to old people…and apparently mornings fell into that same category. Still, they all did their best to divide their time with family and friends as fairly as possible. Nevertheless, to my “mother’s heart” it was not enough time. I found myself wishing that I could turn back time to the first day of their arrival…over and over again.
Try as I might, before we knew it, the last day arrived. Amy had planned a friends night to get all her friends together at once, and it went very well. I made the bold move to “horn in” on the action, even though it was supposed to be for her friends, and they graciously accepted my intrusion. My only regret was that I should have “horned in” my other daughter, Corrie and her husband, Kevin, who I thought were spending the day with their son, Josh, who went back to Bellingham with Amy, Shai, and Caalab this morning to spend his Senior Trip with them. I suppose I should have realized that Josh would be attending the graduation parties of his friends, but I wasn’t thinking very clearly, because the kids were leaving and I was dreading the tearful goodbyes I knew were inevitable. Hindsight is 20/20. As I contemplate the visit that we had, mixed with the sad goodbyes, a thought came to me…”Goodbyes are always hard, but I’m very thankful that we can look forward to the next hello.”
For a number of years now, Bob and I have made a trip to Thermopolis each year in early March in celebration of our wedding anniversary, which is March 1st. Driving through the Wind River Canyon that many times, I feel like I know the face of those canyon walls pretty well. Since rainy weather has dominated this Spring, many areas of the state of Wyoming and several other states, flooding is a word that we have all gotten used to hearing. Since our state has been in a relative draught for a number of years, the ground has had a hard time absorbing all that water that has been coming in. And then there is the fact that we have had a few fires in key areas around the state. That adds an additional danger to certain areas…one of which is the Wind River Canyon, which was hit with mudslides and rockslides earlier this year.
This morning, Bob and I decided to take a drive up to Thermopolis to see for ourselves, exactly how the canyon face had been changed by the mudslides. Our granddaughter, Shai Royce decided to come along to see it too. We had seen the pictures of it on television and on the internet when it happened, but you really can’t get a clear picture of something like that until you see it up close. So, after breakfast we set out. It was a nice drive up to the Wind River Canyon, and at first, it didn’t look so different, but then we got to the area where the main slides were. It was much different.
I expected it to look different, and it did, but what I didn’t expect was to have it occur to me that I was looking at the changing face of the canyon. I thought about how the canyon had changed over the years of its existence. The river made most of the changes that had taken place, slowly carving out the depth of it with erosion. Soon, its walls were high and filled with the hard rocks that had survived the erosion process. The trees grew along the face of the walls, and in time we all thought it wouldn’t change much, but rock and mudslides can change the face of those canyon walls overnight. I found myself thinking about how easy it was to pick out the slide path of each slide area. The coloring of the upturned earth made it stand out as if it were florescent paint. I was able to see the complete path the mud and rocks took on their way down.
I realized that this was just one event, but it didn’t matter, because I was looking at the changes brought about by time. This was the canyon’s changing face, caused by the effects of weather, water, wind, and fire to bring about an entirely new look to a canyon that had been there so long, looking, or so I thought, always the same. In reality, it was ever changing.
The other day as I was driving to work, I noticed a bird in flight, and how it had to quickly change direction to avoid the car in front of me. Funny as it seems, a thought came to me that if this bird had lived in a different time in history, it would never have had to watch out for the car. in times past, there may have been a wagon or a horse, but if you go back far enough, people had to walk, and so even if they were running, they could not have gone as fast as the car in front of me that was in all reality going pretty slow, by today’s standards. Even the light poles we all take for granted wouldn’t have existed back then. Now lights and wires seem normal to the birds. They land on them as if they were a tree or a rock…or as if they were put there just for them. Often, we think about what life might have been like if we had lived in a different time in history, but rarely do we think of what the animals might have thought as the times changed.
Consider the horses at the time in history when the car was developed. They would often turn away, rear up, or run in the opposite direction when cars first appeared on the road. Then as time passed, the cars seemed no more strange that the person riding on the horses back or the wagon the horse was harnessed to. They were simply another object that the horse now lives in the same world with. And so it was with the bird. Granted the bird had to swiftly make a course change, but that did not mean the bird feared the car. The two of them were just traveling in a direction that put them in the same space at the same time, much like a car accident would.
Animals even get used to the people who share the same space. Take, for instance, the deer that many people…at least in Wyoming, have in our yards, and while they may not let us walk all the way up to them, they do not get up and run out of our yard in fear, but rather, watch us cautiously. Even the squirrels in my yard don’t necessarily run from us. As Bob and I walked out to our garage this morning to go the breakfast, a squirrel playing near the garage stopped and looked at us. I talked to it, and still it stood there…not five feet from me. The fear of people had long since let this squirrel, possibly because of the fact that it has lived in this area all of its life, but more likely that my neighbors have long had a habit of feeding the squirrels. I suppose many people would not like the idea of feeding the squirrels, but the ones in our neighborhood don’t seem to damage the trees like the ones in other neighborhoods. Maybe because the neighbors feed them…who knows. Whatever the case may be, I can say that much has changed in the things the animals have seen as time has gone by. Like humans, they have adapted to it…getting used to the changes and seeing them as normal now. Maybe they even think, as I do, “Look how far we have come.”
Time just seems to fly by after you lose someone. I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg has been gone now for two years. Sometimes, I think that our minds blur things, because it’s easier for us to deal with things that way.
My father-in-law was a hard working man, to whom family meant everything. I remember when he found out that he was going to be a grandfather for the first time. It was the next logical step in his life, but to him it almost seemed like he felt like the first person to ever become a grandparent. I can relate to that, because that is almost how I felt when I became a grandmother. I really wish I could take those early days back sometimes, because it is so hard to have people pass away. Time marches on, and the lifetime of one family member begins, while the lifetime of another ends.
My father-in-law was born in Forsyth, Montana, which is a small town between Billings and Miles City. Many of the people who live there come from long standing family lines in the area. Unfortunately for his family, there was not much work there in the 1950s, so the family moved to Wyoming. For me, that was a good thing, because that is the only way I would have met my husband and married into this great family. For my father-in-law, the simple things in life were the best. He didn’t require expensive or fancy things, just the love of his family and the joy of spending time with them.
My father-in-law had one sweetheart…my mother-in-law, Joann Knox Schulenberg. I truly think he loved her from the time he first met her when he was just four years old and she was two. When they married in June of 1949, he set a goal to take care of her for the rest of her life. Even when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, he patiently cared for her until he could no longer handle it alone. Then, his family stepped in to help him with her care, and to keep them in their home as long as possible. In the end, he would go home before she would, but she continues to believe that she is still taking care of him. Alzheimer’s Disease can be kind in that way. They are gone, but not for the one who has Alzheimer’s Disease. No, for my mother-in-law, he is simply in the garage, or at Walmart, or visiting the neighbors. And maybe it would be nice if we could all think that way. It has been two years since you went home. We love and miss you Dad.
My niece, Michelle Stevens has, in her mother’s words, always been a character. If she wasn’t up to one thing, she was up to another. Michelle is in college working toward a teaching degree. She plans to be an art teacher. I think that might have been why she dreamed so many things up in her lifetime…even as a small child, she imagined things quite different than a non-artist might.
When Michelle was about 2 1/2, my sister, Alena Stevens, who is Michelle’s mom, put her down for a rare nap. Michelle was one of those kids who didn’t like to sleep at night, if she had a nap during the day. Nevertheless, since Alena was pregnant with Michelle’s brother, Garrett, and pretty close to full term, with an very active 2 1/2 year daughter, she was exhausted and in need of a nap. The plan was to put Michelle down for a nap, and take one herself, and it was working out quite well too. Then, Michelle woke up and came out of her room. As usual, she yelled out, “Mom!” Alena didn’t answer right away, because she just assumed that Michelle would come into the bedroom. But, Michelle didn’t come into the bedroom, and then Alena heard her trying to comfort herself by saying, “She be right back” in a pretty shaky, almost crying voice…”She be right back.” Alena immediately called out, “Michelle, I’m in the bedroom.” Michelle ran into the bedroom and jumped up on the bed. Alena cuddled with her and told her that I would never leave her alone…thinking sadly to herself that this must be how abandoned children feel.
Of course, most Michelle stories aren’t a mix of sad and funny. There was a funny incident in Sunday School, when they made a clock as a project. The clock face said “Jesus has time for…” The child was supposed to write their name in the space. For some strange reason, Michelle wrote her name as EMOP. Alena and her husband, Mike Stevens thought it was so funny that the clock hung on their refrigerator for a year. That name stuck, and they still call her EMOP sometimes, even though she is 27 years old. I have to wonder what she was thinking when she wrote EMOP, because she knew how to write her name by then.
Kids say the funniest things, and they don’t think about what they are saying, they just say what’s on their mind. Alena was video taping Michelle one time as she was singing the alphabet. Michelle was only about 2, and like all little ones, she got stuck on one of the letters. Since she was taping this and she wanted it to be perfect, Alena whispered the letter to Michelle, so as not to ruin the video. Well, Michelle understood about whispering, but not necessarily the whispering was supposed to be speaking really quietly. So she whispered back really loudly, “What Mom? What’d ya say?” Of course, all this was being recorded, and it looked so funny on the video. Needless to say, this…like the other stories here are all time favorites of Alena’s. They are the treasures of a child’s life. Today is Michelle’s birthday. Thanks, Michelle, for giving us something to smile about today. Happy birthday Michelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
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!!
I 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, the 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.