846 Cadillac Dr. …
(Oh, what a great home it was...)

I wondered as I waited in my car,
if the strangers in the house
would let me come inside...
to wander around slowly 
on this, the first anniversary of my mother's death.

I explained myself to the woman who answered the door...
she welcomed me into the house my heart defined as ‘home.'
The smallest details revived memories that had frozen in time, 
waiting for someone to recognize  them.

Simple things really, made my heart stand still
as grateful tears began to fall like precious memory jewels.
The wrought iron bannister where wool sweat socks hung on Christmas morning,
unused words like 'vestibule' and 'davenport' arose, 
the cracked fireplace tile reunited with
my scarred head, and metal cabinetry with secret hiding places ...

countless meals,  loads washed, weekly shampoos,
...lessons taught and knees mended
money hidden, costumes made, gifts wrapped
words spoken, looks given, laughter shared...
children loved and raised
… without complaint

With very little effort I could see her standing there
and once again she comforted me
as she would always do
reminding me in that tone she had...
“Oh, Patty, that’s how we all feel
when we go home… now, go to bed.”

G’night Mom.  
I love you bushels and pecks
and hugs around the neck. 
See you in the mornin', Mom.

By Patricia Spreng
July 25, 2009
I went back to the home where my Mom and Dad raised all 10 of us kids … 


In Honor of Marilyn (Spreng) Szejda
Feb. 22, 1953 - Sept. 19, 2010

This Sister In Law of Mine 
by Patricia Spreng

While earthly hearts are grieving
heaven is rejoicing...
a stark contrast in passing
between death and new life
earth and heaven...
comforted only by 
faith in Christ
and the promise
of eternal life

she fought a valiant fight
this sister in law of mine

she fought
as warriors do
against a merciless enemy

with strength and dignity
no self pity or complaining
she dug in and stood her ground

sure of those who loved her
firm in her belief
strong in her convictions
not wasting any time

when most of us would crumble
she kept her spirits high
with laughter, friends and faith...
and little did we know

that on this road together
we all would somehow grow
to love her more than we imagined
and we will miss her so

thank you for your courage
the example set for us
we know that God has healed you
by faith we trust in this

until we meet again, Marilyn
I thank God you are at peace
fully healed
this sister in law of mine

One Wish… and a prayer                    
Patricia Smolenski Spreng 7/2/2008
For my brother, Michael R. Smolenski

If I had one wish granted, it would be your health fully restored...
one prayer answered affirmatively, it would be the same.

Just so you could 
putz around the cottage,
take your old wooden boat 
out on the lake,
smoke a good cigar,
take a long swig of an ice cold beer after mowing the lawn.
Throw your head back in raucous laughter the way you do.
Then you could keep loving your wife, and tease your children,
hold your grandkids with arms that love babies more than any man I know, and feel your heart swell with pride.

But I know God is not a genie and he does not grant wishes.
I try to remind myself He is God.
Always hears our prayers, always answers our prayers.
We have said it our whole lives, ‘Our Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth… of all things seen and unseen.’

And there's the rub... I can't see.. or understand...
why, with regard to restoring your health here on this earth,
His answer has been ‘no, not yet.'
I hate that answer.

Regardless of whether I agree or understand
 it rocks my faith to the core.
I'm having trouble believing 
without seeing or understanding.
My head knows how to say that God has in fact
answered “yes” to my prayer...
that he will fully restore your health and your body in His time
in a world I cannot yet see… but my heart didn't pass that comprehension test.

I know, I know, God is still powerful,
loving, compassionate, merciful, forgiving and full of grace.
In spite of our circumstances, or his answers, he is a loving God.
The giver of all good gifts…

He gave you the miracle of 7 births, the joy of love, the comfort of family,
the laughter of friends, the beauty of nature…
You have known all of these gifts.
Your cup has overflowed with abundant life, a great life.

You leave your legacy in our hearts and here at the lake. I see your
creativity, ingenuity, inventiveness, and workmanship. 
Family memories, loyalty, dedication, stubbornness.  Humor… laughter.

Your character is defined by strength, integrity, honor and you never quit.
The call of the United States Marines… “Semper Fi”
“Loyal to the end” … and you fought to the bitter end… 
proudly, stubbornly.
In your weakness, there is strength.
You leave this legacy to your children and your family and friends.

Your life is etched within our hearts…

and we hold you as our treasure.

To make a donation to the MSA Research fund in memory of Mike
click on the link below

A Sunday Drive with Dad...
October 26, 2009 

My daughters, Rachel, Kara and I visited with Dad today and took him on a Fall Color Tour.  An old fashioned Sunday drive, just like we used to do. What did he call them? ... remember? … an “Uncley Wiggley Adventure.”  I asked him where he'd like to go and he said "Let's go to John Ball Park Zoo,” so off we went. Now, my Dad's short term memory is shot... and I know he won't even remember that we were there, or that we even went out today.  I'm telling you that even though I couldn’t remember how to get to the zoo exactly, he could. He knew exactly where he was and he was telling me where to go and how to get there.  It was wonderful. I did everything he said, no questions asked. That was a first!

     We drove past Uncle Bart and Aunt Edie's home on Bristol.  My Mom never liked that house. Though thoroughly contemporary in its day, it was totally trashed now. Aunt Edie would have a cow if she saw it.  We stopped at his childhood home (across the street from the zoo) where he was born 90 years ago on Valley Ave., past his best friend's house, through the zoo park where he spent lots of time skating on the pond. He told us the story again of the time when a monkey escaped from the zoo and climbed a tree in his yard and the zookeeper shot it down out of the tree. The zoo was technically closed. But we parked right next to the John Ball statue, and Dad watched as the girls and I climbed over the little fence so I could get this picture of them with the John Ball statue. I remember the fun we had climbing all over that statue as kids. Then we went past his elementary school, Sacred Heart; then past the floral shop where his Dad would get a daily boutonniere; then on up Fulton past his Uncle Mike's grocery store. He told me his Dad helped his Uncle Mike quite a bit financially. I wanted to ask more of the details as to the reasons he thought his Uncle Mike took his life. Was it because of The Depression? I wondered what kind of story I would get, but I left it alone in order to preserve the beauty of the day. It was the past. Then we drove around Reeds Lake and headed home. The colors were supreme and the yellows were simply stunning. It was a gift to behold.

     Before we left on our Sunday drive, I was checking to make sure his motorized chair was unplugged from the charging mechanism. I said "OK, Dad, you're unplugged and ready to go".  Without missing a beat, he replied ... "Patty,  ... you can say that again. That's true in more ways than one."   While he made me laugh with his quick wit and wisdom, my heart was simultaneously gripped with the sadness of losing him.   How cruel is the aging process that one could lose the short term memory and yet still be keenly aware that you are failing (or 'succeeding' in that process, as the case may be.) Right away, as trite as this may sound, I started counting his blessings out loud for him... so he could remember ... and so I could keep from crying. We have so much to be thankful for Dad, I said....

1. You're not out on the streets.
2. Your view looks out on a golf course.

3. You have the resources to care for yourself and live in a beautiful, safe place.
4. You are loved. (He replied... "that's right, and I'm not mad at anyone.")

5. You have your most beautiful daughter standing in front of you.... (he laughed at that one... not too hard though :)
6. You have your vision.
7. You have your hearing.
8. You can walk.
9. Your cancer was healed when you were 89 years old.
10. You get 3 squares a day.
11. You love God.
12. God has been faithful to you your whole life and HE has given you all these blessings.

     By the end of it, we were both smiling.... maybe 'cause he was glad I was finished with my little diatribe.  But I know when I’m down, I am simply forgetting the things that are right in front of my face. God is never closer than when I simply open my eyes to see what He has given me... and say 'thank You".

(post note:  My Dad passed away on
February 12, 2010.  He had just turned 91 years old.  He was such a loving but stern, life of the party kind of guy, who had the gift of being able to laugh at himself.  He had very high expectations of his nine daughters and one son.  But we all knew he loved us.  He loved to line us all up like the VonTrapp family and often had us sing in public places.  He always had a song in his heart and would sing it to you whenever you asked him to.  Recently, one of my sisters gave me a cd of him singing "I Left My Heart In San Francisco."  I will treasure the sound of his voice always.)