The Spiker Family Gathering Place

Geneaology and History Portal

header photo

Introduction - The Secret Hidden Among the Pages of Gay's Diary

By Bobbi Spiker-Conley:


     Lillie (Missouri) Gay Zinn was born on June 23, 1884, married Jacob Spiker on April 14, 1907, and died on May 20, 1967 at the age of 82. 

     These statistics were the only things I knew of my grandmother.  I was only two years old when she died.  I do not remember her.  It was only after my father, Bob, was given Gay's diary that I began to get a glimpse into her life.  And ultimately -- and most amazingly -- it was through this diary that my father got a glimpse into his mother's heart.

    I vividly recall the day I was "introduced" to Grandmother Gay.  Daddy was sitting in his favorite chair, gently caressing the soft, brown leather of a book in his lap.  I assumed it was one of his bibles, and that the far-away look in his eyes meant he was silently rehearsing his next Sunday School lesson.  I plopped down on the couch across from him and asked, "Whatcha doin' Dad?"  His reply was, "Getting to know my mother." 

     Of course, this made no sense to me.  How could the bible in his hands tell him anything about his mother?  It was then that he opened the book -- not a bible, but a journal of writings and clippings and notes -- and began telling the tale of a long journey toward hope and love.  It went something like this...   

      On December 30, 1925, the eldest of Jacob and Gay's (then) six children, Brad, rode the horse and buggy to town.  His task was to bring back the doctor that would assist Mrs. Spiker in the delivery of my father, Robert.  Almost immediately after his birth at the Spiker home, Gay prepared breakfast for the doctor and her husband.  Leaving them to enjoy their hearty meal, she returned to their bedroom where she packed up all her personal belongings and moved them to the "girls' room".  Soon thereafter, she addressed the two men in the kitchen and matter-of-factly announced that, since she was nearly aged 42, this new baby was "an old woman's mistake."   She said she would never again sleep with Jake.  True to her word, from birth until the day he left for the military, it was Bob who shared a bedroom with his father while Gay shared a bedroom with her daughters.

      Apparently, Daddy had heard the phrase, "old woman's mistake," numerous times throughout his childhood.  It rang loudly through his mind whenever he felt he had somehow disappointed his mother or had made her angry.  And it was the phrase that haunted him with each shovelful of dirt as he prepared his mother's burial place.  He said he felt his life had driven her to an early grave and, therefore, he should have been the one to dig it. 

     As he absently stroked the diary's cover, he revealed to me that he had always believed he had been a burden to his mother and suspected that she never truly loved him.  That is, until that moment.  Until his sixties.  Until he read the book.  He carefully turned the yellowed pages, stopping when he found the words she had written, "I felt like this when Robert went away."  It was the only time I ever saw my father cry.  An article his mother had clipped and pasted in her diary below this precious inscription told of an old woman's love for her young son as he prepared to go to war. 

     Reading her diary, my father came to understand why Gay felt she could not say those three words that tore at her heart.  Indeed, he never recalled her ever saying she loved him.  But the journal painted the picture of a woman who had a child later in life and, fearful that she would be too old to care for him or that she would die while he was in his youth, she convinced herself that to love him too deeply would make him too dependent on her for his own well-being. So she denied him these words. She kept him at a distance.  She was never mean to him, never hateful, but she also never gave herself to this child as completely as a mother often does.  My father wept with joy at discovering -- for the first time in his life -- that his mother truly loved him indeed.

     I inherited the diary from my father.  He felt I would cherish it and truly appreciate it.  As one that has been journaling for as long as I can remember, the diary provided a special link to a grandmother I never knew.  Similar to my own journals, Gay's diary was not a listing of her daily activities.  Instead, it was a place to jot down ideas for tasks she would one day complete, a place to inscribe quotes that brought her joy and a place to permanently record those things that are so important to remember.  Ultimately, it provided a safe and secure outlet to express herself -- her loves, her struggles, her fears.  



        Yes, I was "introduced" to my grandmother Gay through the pages of a diary she unknowingly placed in my hands.  I met a strong-willed woman that was not afraid of hard work and that was deeply committed to family and friends. I met a caring citizen that worried along with the rest of the country about "our boys" in World War II.  I met a fragile soul that faithfully walked with God to overcome bouts with depression and to deal with a medical mystery she had hidden from everyone for years.  And just like my father had upon reading this book, I met a loving "mother of seven and two." 

     I got to know a little more about my grandmother by reading her diary.  And it is my pleasure to introduce you to Gay Spiker's world through the transcriptions provided on these pages.