Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


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Today, I’m Praying

It’s nearly February, and we haven’t had winter yet.

Weird, I know, but it’s not the first time. Every few years we have a really mild winter, then we get punished for it. Mother Nature gets us back by sending us lots more tics and other nasty critters.

And the next winter we get heavier than usual ice storms and snow falls.

I know the weird weather cycles have happened several times in my life, but the year my middle son was born really stands out in my memory. I remember going to a friend’s house for our Philomathic Study Club meeting.

The group was made up of women of all ages from mid-twenties to one hundred years old. (At least they seemed that old at the time.)

On that beautiful winter day, I took my three month old son and walked the few steps to the friend’s house. And as luck would have it, I was privileged to sit next to one of my favorite (also one of the oldest) members.

We talked about how beautiful the weather was when she said, “That’s what scares me.”

“A beautiful winter scares you?” I was surprised. “Why?”

Her sweet, quavery voice took on a steely tone. “The weather was just like this when everyone died of the influenza, back in the 1920’s.”

“Do you think the weather made them sick?” (Wouldn’t that be an odd superstition?)

She laughed softly. “No. But with the weather this pretty, everyone wants to get out and about. They go to church, visit with each other in their yards, go shopping and to social events. Even those who’re getting sick and don’t recognize it want to get out, and those poor folks share their germs without ever realizing they have.”

I keep remembering that conversation because right now, the hospital in T-Town is full of babies, sick with RSV.

Writer and nurse Jackie Kramer talks often this time of year about dealing with choking babies. When my niece had to put her baby in the hospital last week, I grabbed the phone and called Jackie.

Not only is she a great writer, nurse and friend, she’s also very good at calming Nervous Nellys. Who knew being a calming influence was a prerequisite for a peds nurse? (Answer: Me!)

Me: What does RSV stand for?

Jackie: Respiratory Syncytial Virus. You know what respiratory and virus mean.

Me: What’s Syncytial mean?

Jackie: Who knows? The point is, it’s a sick baby, and the hospital is the best place to take care of them.

She kept talking, telling me how the treatment would make our baby (she’s my great-niece, so I claim her) feel better and breathe easier.

Jackie: It’ll be much harder on Mama than it is on Baby.

Me: Mama and Grandmommy. My sister is there with her, and probably as upset as the mama is.

Jackie: (chuckle) They usually are.

I haven’t been to the hospital because they requested no visitors (RSV is one of the reasons I don’t go around new babies for a few months if I can help it) but I’m so thankful for the nurses who work overtime, saving those babies’ lives. And calming silly great-aunts who call to find out why.

(Ooh, I kind of like being a GREAT aunt. Sounds like I’m good at something.)

Preacher Dave said in church yesterday that we have between 7 and 10 kids who are in the hospital right now, so I wonder if it’s not like the spread of the influenza in the ’20’s. From newborn breathing problems to RSV to back surgery to bacterial spinal meningitis, our kids are being hard hit.

Today, I’m praying for the kiddos, nurses and docs and thanking Him for giving us all three. Who are you praying for?


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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BROTHER JEFFREY!!!

On this day when I was ten years old, Aunt Phyllis and Grandmother took me, Sister Deb, Tinny-Woo-Woo and #4 to the fair. Joanie, Phyllis’s daughter, went with us, too.

We had a great time, riding rides and seeing the animals and exhibits. Once in a while Grandmother had to sit down and rest, but most of the day was spent rushing from one ride to another. I don’t remember if we bought lunch or took sandwiches. (If the parents had been along, we definitely would have taken sandwiches. Mom was convinced Fair Food would poison us.)

Mom and Dad didn’t go to the fair, because Mom was having a baby. Our youngest sister was barely fifteen months old. So after a long day at the fair, Aunt Phyllis decided to go past the hospital and see if the baby had been born.

Back in those days, parents didn’t know what sex their babies were going to be, so they had to have two names picked out. Up until that baby–before I was born, Sister Debbie, Tinny and #4–the chosen boy name had always been Christopher Darwin.

I didn’t mind Christopher so much, but the Darwin didn’t float my childish boat. The good thing is, before kid number five was born, they changed the boy to be name to Jeffrey. Much better!

So back to that fair day so very long ago–

After the day at the fair, Aunt Phyllis decided to drive to the hospital and see if the baby had been born. The rest of us had to sit in the dark car, parked on the street in front of the hospital. (That’ll tell you how long ago this happened. You haven’t been able to park on the street in front of the hospital in a long, LONG time.)

So we waited. And waited. And waited. It seemed like another entire day passed before that front door opened again. When it did, Aunt Phyllis came running out of the hospital, her hair flying behind her, a big grin on her face.

She flew up to the car and, yanking open the door, jumped inside. “It’s a boy! It’s a boy, if it’s not a mistake!!!”

I still laugh about that last line.

There were times when he was a kid that I thought it might have been, well, not a mistake but maybe a misstep. But when he stopped crying all the time, I was thrilled to have that brother.

Maybe it’s because he’s a male, but the guy has always seen things a little bit different than the Spess Girls. When we saw a rabbit, we wondered if it had babies. When he saw one, he saw an opportunity to hunt.

A pond or lake was a great place to swim or tan for the sisters, a place for him to fish. Summers were for playing ball and spending time at the pool for the girls, a time for our bro to go to work with Granddad and Dad.

I liked to knit. He liked to use my yarn to tie me up when I fell asleep over my needles.

Later, he taught me to play tennis and loaned me his six gun for a Halloween costume. (After checking twice to make sure it wasn’t loaded.)

And when we got a call one night at the folks house that my house was on fire (G-Man was working) he was the one who went with me. (He made the mistake of thinking I couldn’t drive in an emergency such as that. Snort!)

He finally grew up, went to college, married and had kids of his own. Great kids, who I enjoy practically as much as I enjoy him.

He’s the kind of guy I enjoy talking to, who has a one-on-one relationship with the Lord and isn’t embarrassed to tell you about it.

The day we lost so many family members to a drunk driver, when nearly every person I knew was at the hospital with Omega, Brother Jeffrey saw our car arrive at the hospital and was the one who met us at our car door. He was there, ready to comfort and be comforted.

Loving us.

Remembering with us that, while Mama was no longer with us, she wasn’t lost. We knew exactly where she landed–in the arms of our Lord, telling Him how thrilled she was to see Him face to face.

Some people tolerate their siblings. I’m one of those people who knows how incredibly lucky she is to have the brother and sisters God gave her. Every one is so very special!

Happy birthday, Jeffrey! I’m so glad it wasn’t a mistake!!!

Read more about the World’s Best Brother here.