12-21-2017 Letters and Commentary

Working the Christmas Eve night shift

Work sometimes gets in the way of life. When we are called on to work the night shift either because the shift rotation has fallen out that way, or because someone with seniority over us has dibs on Christmas Eve time off, here we are, forced to be away from our family again. This doesn’t seem right. Sometimes the extra pay isn’t worth it. Besides, our work conditions aren’t very healthy. It gets pretty cold at night at work sometimes.

Yet someone has to watch the sheep. At least that’s what we’re told. The sheep. Always the sheep. Like sheep are more important than we are! These sheep are meant for slaughter anyway. Well, maybe they are kind of important. After all, they are the ones that will be used for the Temple sacrifices. Even for the Day of Atonement celebration. Someday a Deliverer will come and every day will be a Day of Atonement – a day when the Messiah, Immanuel, will have His rightful place over all of this.

I wonder what the other shepherds are thinking. It’s so quiet tonight. The stars are beautiful. God made them, I know. But sometimes God seems so far away just like those stars. Sometimes I just wish He would come close.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

Ex-spouse benefits and how they affect you

Just like during tax season, it’s good to have all the information you need early so you can prepare and get any money you are due.

If you are age 62, unmarried, and divorced from someone entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits, you may be eligible to receive benefits based on his or her record. To be eligible, you must have been married to your ex-spouse for 10 years or more. If you have since remarried, you can’t collect benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ended by annulment, divorce, or death. Also, if you’re entitled to benefits on your own record, your benefit amount must be less than you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work. In other words, we’ll pay the higher of the two benefits for which you’re eligible, but not both.

You can apply for benefits on your former spouse’s record even if he or she hasn’t retired, as long as you divorced at least two years before applying. If, however, you decide to wait until full retirement age to apply as a divorced spouse, your benefit will be equal to half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement amount or disability benefit. The same rules apply for a deceased former spouse.

The amount of benefits you get has no effect on the benefits of your ex-spouse and his or her current spouse. Visit Retirement Planner: If You Are Divorced at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire/divspouse.html to find all the eligibility requirements you must meet to apply as a divorced spouse. Our benefits planner gives you an idea of your monthly benefit amount. If your ex-spouse died after you divorced, you may still quality for widow’s benefits. You’ll find information about that in a note at the bottom of the website.

Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire/divspouse.html today to learn whether you’re eligible for benefits on your ex-spouse’s record. That could mean a considerable amount of monthly income. What you learn may bring a smile to your face… even on tax day!

Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov.

MERRY CHRISTMAS… I hope this Christmas Holiday finds you among your loved ones and that the peace of the season is with you always.

CHRISTMAS COLUMN TRADITION OF 40 YEARS CONTINUED… this is the 41st year I have published my Christmas column as being a part of the Bayer Christmas.

Every year I seriously consider not printing it. When a memory of the column popped up on Facebook recently and I expressed doubt as to running it again, I got many responses from folks asking that I keep the tradition going. From family members and friends alike, all expressed that their own holiday memories were stimulated by my story.

This is close to the original written in 1976, as my first Christmas column as assistant editor of the Capac Journal. As it happens, it is also the only Christmas column I have ever written. With a few annual changes, this column just works for me.  Now having grandkids Willy, Karli, Ben, Elaina, Zoya, Polly, Evie, Eli, and Kendall to share those memories and to create new ones is something truly wonderful.

Last year our great-grandson William Harold Loshbough V joined the clan. Born just before Thanksgiving in 2016, he joined a clutch of newborns to the family this past year.

After all, what is Christmas without being surrounded by children, family, and friends?

My own warm, bittersweet memories of Mom and Dad; my father-in-law, Nubbs; dearest mother-in-law Elaine; and the kids and family get-togethers on Christmas morning blend with those that were in my heart when I wrote that column 40 years ago as a young father looking forward to Christmas with my kids and thinking of my Christmases past as a youngster.

From that burgeoning Chris and Margaret Bayer family of 13 children, now there are more than 270 happy souls; husbands and wives, sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandkids and great-grandkids. Our happiness in welcoming new babies and spouses to the family is mingled with the sorrow of missing those who are gone. The painful remembering of their passing, hopefully, will be lessened by the recollection of the joy, love, and good times they always shared with us. R.I.P. Mom and Dad, Nubbs and Elaine, Marian, Doug, Joan, Joe, Greg, John, Rosie, Bob, and Silky.

I hope you get some enjoyment from this column and that it evokes your own warm memories of those with whom you have shared this family and holy day… Christmas.


This is the most exciting time of the year for the little Bayer “cubs.” “How many days to Christmas?” they ask. “Is it Christmas yet? Is Christmas Jesus’ birthday? Is it today after church?”

My own favorite childhood memories of that time are the deliciously long-drawn-out hours and minutes leading up to Christmas. Then there’s that greatest time of all, Christmas morning.

As one of 13 children occupying a five-bedroom house, my childhood memories are jumbled together with the sights and sounds of living with a large family. Those memories have become a composite of many experiences; if not happening directly to me, they’ve become a part of me in the retelling of the stories.

On Christmas Eve, there were my older sisters squabbling over use of the bathroom before Midnight Mass; my older brothers would be mysteriously busy in the basement, assembling and making toys like elves. Mom and Dad’s bedroom door was kept locked; from every nook and cranny of that room peaked bits of wrapping paper and ribbon; and one never ventured to look in the trunk of Dad’s car, for we knew that’s where many of the gifts were kept.

In our house, most family gatherings centered in the huge kitchen; that’s where Mom was, always at the stove or sink.

Christmas was the exception…   that’s the day the living room was the scene of all the action. That’s where we all collected and where all of our memories were created.

The woodwork about the mantle over the fireplace and the bookshelves alongside it were festooned with greeting cards of prayers and best wishes. On the mantle itself was the nativity set laid out with plaster-of-Paris figurines, a straw manger, and a three-legged cow; somewhere off to the left, hidden behind a line of graduation pictures, the Magi waited for the cue to appear on January 6, the Epiphany.

In the corner of the long living room, up near the front windows, stood the tree… oh, that tree… Dad would go out on a Saturday morning, perilously close to “that day,” and return home with the biggest, greenest, prettiest tree in the world. He would let it lean against the back of the house for a day or two, “for the branches to drop.” He’d cut off a couple inches of the trunk and affix the stand to it by a nail.