fam

Donna asked that I fill in the blank with my family (ies) so she could keep things straight. Like Paul sang in “She came in through the bathroom window” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVv7IzEVf3M “oh, look out!”


So we need to start with the family I grew up with.  I’ve been unable to unearth the photobooks of mine from those times, so you’ll be spared a bit.  See here Dad and me outside the Cleveland Indians Winter Haven winter facility in March ’02 where we took the short drive from Cocoa Beach to see our Tigers visit.  Yes, he was a short fellow.  Whenever others asked, and he didn’t want to get into the whole adoption thing, he’d just say “vitamins”.  This pic comes from a trip Kathy basically arranged.  Part of her NASA job was to arrange groupings at launches.  This time, she picked her family.  Besides Dad, she invited down one Bo Schembechler, with whom Dad got to bond.  That was March of ’02.  He’d be dead the next March after 9 years of metastatic colon cancer.  His own dad, my dear Dutch grandpa, had his colon cancer cut totally out – no bag – in his late 80s and lived to 104, titillating all the girls in the Holland Home. 

Hard to beat a Spring Training game

Two old fellas killin’ time before the launch


My mom’s side deserves mention. As I said before, I can’t find my old picture books so you’re spare many pictures of little Bobby. Mom’s family.the Slaters, came from farm stock on both sides. Even though Grandpa became a Grand Rapids fireman, he helped his 8 strapping brothers as they provided threshing services to local farmers, fed profusely by the farm wives at the sites they serviced. Here’s the Slater clan sometime in the Great Depression.

Mom’s the perky one at the top. To the side with the bow was Doris. The family decided she was not marriageable, so off to nursing school she went. A bout with TB kept her out of the med-surg nursing she loved, so she became a psych nurse. The little guy is my Uncle Jim, who died last year. He played trumpet in the MSU marching band at the ’54 Rose Bowl, got a PhD from Ohio State, married social worker Joan, and together they had kids in double figures, all but a couple theirs. He spent his career as an upper level bureaucrat at the Department of the Interior and retired to a farm in Kings County, where he was a regular vendor at the local farmer’s market. His apples and peaches were prized.

Here’s Mom when she was young and pretty:

She was everything a mom could be. She died suddenly 5/17/63. I was 10. I was the first to find her as I came home for lunch. No, I’ll never get over it.

After Aunt Dorie put in a decade or so at an insane asylum (Kalamazoo State Hospital) one of her mentors suggested she had something more in her, so she enrolled at Wayne State. Two degrees and a little time later she was head of the department. All along, she was able to spoil me rotten. She’s the most responsible for nudging me into medicine, and probably most proud for what I’ve accomplished. She died day after Halloween ’03, a holiday she loved for all the little kids it brought to her house. My inheritance from her substantial estate funded much of the wonderful refurbishing of the house my wife and I enjoy now.

But what about this other family?  I’d known from earliest times I was adopted, and it didn’t matter.  In dad’s last year, he tossed an envelope of papers onto my bed “here are your adoption papers”.  There in great detail on yellow legal paper were handwritten descriptions of both my adoptive family and my birth family.  I let it sit for quite a while, dabbling on the net seeking some of them.  I think I found Uncle Don but later learned from my mom he was already dead.  Finally, on Memorial Day week ’09, I took the packet to a local private investigator I’d picked out of the phonebook.  Boy, did I get results.  Within 2 days I was on the phone to my birth mom and my birth dad.  Both were affable sorts, and we made plans to meet up.  Mom’s was more dramatic, as my wife Kathy rented a plane and flew to Canadian Lakes airstrip, near Mom’s house. Mom pulled up in a red sports car with the top down, so we both made an entrance.

For Dad it took a train to Toronto, a trip to a Blue Jays game, and of course dinner at one of his favorite restaurants.  I made up a tryptych to see about family resemblances.  I guess I have his nose.  I hope I have her eyes.


Let me introduce you.   First the Speis.  Here are Dad and the kids outside of one of their northern Michigan haunts ~summer ’07. 

My beautiful picture

Of course, I’m not in there.   Going across, there’s Marty, the artist. (https://martinspei.com/). Much of his work is based on figures that look suspiciously like Dad. Elise, the sweetheart, died 2 summers ago of non-smoker’s lung cancer.   Her husband, Dan, is president of the Detroit area Parrotheads, so he’s still fun.  Then comes Cari, who lives in her plain clothes in upstate New York where she and husband Dan founded a very successful natural supplements business, now run by their son Tom in Kidron Ohio (https://natureswarehouse.net/).  Then Suzanne, the eldest girl, who settled in Hudson, near Cedar Point.  She and husband Mike made a killing in Northern Ohio telecommunications.  They’re both avid hunters.  Then there’s Nick.  He came 11 months after me, so Dad wasted no time.  Nick owns and operates his own truck, as does his oldest son Jake.  He’s a hunter and gun aficionado, who says he’d help me get an AK-47 if I wanted.  He had COVID earlier this year and came out clean, no hospital. Last there’s my baby sister Jazz (Jasmine), daughter of Dick’s 3rd (Chinese) wife, Grace. Jazz has a law degree from McGill and works in the entertainment industry.

Then there’s Mom’s side.  See this pic of us in the thumb ~’15 to get our characters straight. 

That’s John, MSU law now a wheeler dealer and Scientenologist,  Di is a CPA working for the state and also volunteer coach of the MSU women’s rowing team (she was an Olympic caliber rower screwed by Carter’s withdrawal from the ’80 Olympics), me (of course), Jolene (a pharmacist, next eldest after me), then Mom and Ian, John’s son, now 6’2″.  He’s an avid Wolverine fan, much to the chagrin of his Spartan dad, an inclination Kathy and I do our best to nurture. Missing is baby sister Amy, who basically lived as a ski bum in CO till her mate of many years dropped dead.  Here’s a pic of all of us last October as we celebrated Mom’s annual escape to Mazatlán Mexico for the winter.

Amy’s moved back, gotten certification as a surveyor at Ferris, and now has her own place in Grand Rapids. In the a pic of all of us celebrating her push off last October – rough babes, eh? – Amy is the one in the middle with the Ireland sweatshirt.


There you have my family, such as it is.  I’m happy to have a couple of those.  More Ike the lucky dog https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LJLIgIv0NM

Published by rike52

I retired from the Rheumatology division of Michigan Medicine end of June '19 after 36 years there. Upon hitting Ann Arbor for the second time (I went to school here) it took me almost 8 months to meet Kathy, 17 months to buy her a house (on Harbal, where we still live), and 37 months to marry her. Kids never came, but we've been blessed with a crowd of colleagues, friends, neighbors and family that continues to grow. Lots of them are going to show up in this log eventually. Stay tuned.

2 thoughts on “fam

  1. Glad you liked it, Rajiv. I didn’t have full mental capacity when I wrote it last night. I’ve made some corrections and additions this morning. Might be worth a second look.

    Like

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