Energy and vitality of life intermixed with the wisdom and ease of seasoned citizens, uncommon to a modern day nursing home yet a typical day at the Spencer Home. As children we were blessed with ample opportunities to join our Gram at work. I looked forward to spending the day with Gram and the residents, having Heidi there only made the day better. We traveled from one resident’s room to another, up and down the stairs, snuggling on the couch with whoever was watching television, playing board games (which so many of our children today haven’t heard of) and even finally crashing in the afternoon for a nap on the nearest resident’s bed. While Gram maintained order and operated the nursing home, we made friends and played with each other and all the wonderful residents.
The Spencer Home was located about one mile from the D & W convenience store. The building remains today but serves as a private home instead. In 1877 Anna Spencer was born to Daniel and Ruth Jerrett Spencer, their one and only daughter. She wanted to become a registered nurse but never had time to attend nursing school. Her passion for helping others developed after nursing her brother Daniel from TB. In 1937 Anna Spencer welcomed others into her home for care since nursing homes weren’t available in the area. By the second year she had five residents, her brother Richard. She hadn’t intended to open a nursing home but quickly found herself applying for her state license for operation. She had three faithful assistance, one of which was my Gram, Mary Searles to whom her legacy passed to in 1968 after her death.
Heidi and I would race up and down the halls, in and out of rooms laughing and giggling the entire way. One of our favorite things to do was ascend up the back stairs which were steeper and sometimes even “spooky” when the creaking sound echoed up the stairwell while climbing. These were considered unsafe because they were the original stairs, very narrow and steep. We didn’t notice, our feet were smaller than the steps and we would attempt to “sneak” to the top until Gram’s voice would yell from below us “Girls, off the stairs!” How did she always know we were there, I’m sure we were quiet and we always stifled our laughter as started the adventure.
Heidi and I would visit the beauty parlor and one of the residents would use the hairdresser’s tools and make us beautiful. We walked around with pink curlers and hair nets while our hair “set” and had to act like ladies. I think this was their way of keeping us calm and quiet for half an hour but we didn’t realize it. We felt like princesses as we sat in the beauty chair having our hair done.
The best part of spending the day with Gram at the nursing home was going out to the barn. Within the barn were trunks, boxes and furniture of the past. Residents that had passed away or moved to a newer location. It was the “junk” the families didn’t want and the “treasures” Gram couldn’t throw away. Instead it was stored in the top portion of the barn for us to play with. We were allowed to use the furniture, wear the cloths and play for hours as were took ourselves back to the late 1800’s or early 1900’s. Heidi always looked the cutest since she was tiny enough to wear those smaller dresses and shoes ~ my gosh women were tiny during those times.
I looked for a photo for you, but couldn’t find them but I did find the one above. The sign was repurposed from the political party by my father before recycling was mandatory with fresh paint and life restored by my mother’s talented fingers. I don’t remember Heidi and I “helping” paint as we were probably in the barn or hanging with our friends, the residents.
Family, extended family and our elders were respected and appreciated in our family. The residents were a part of our extended family, and we were theirs. Some never had family come to visit, after registration the nearest a relative came was in the form of a monthly payment.
The residents adopted us as their grandchildren yet we were the ones blessed. Heidi and I enjoyed our time together as we spent a day with Gram and her work family. One of the most important lessons I learned, “Enjoy life…you don’t know what tomorrow will bring.” I didn’t recognize it as a lesson then but as I matured ~ their words, love and time have inspired me.
Thank you for joining me in this tribute to Heidi. I can hear her tapping in oversized shoes and lacy dresses around the antique furniture as the record played the waltz with one of the residents...teaching her step by step.
Lisa M Buske
P.O. Box 323