I was born Brenda Bennett-Collins on December 26, 1944. My parents were never married however, since they lived near each other and my father's sisters were my mother's best friends it was my aunt Pearl & uncle Archie Spencer that took her in and where we lived until I was 5 years old.
My aunt & uncle lived on Fenwick Mountain in Nicholas County, West Virginia. Their home sat in the hollow of the mountains above Richwood. It was a small four room house with an attic, back porch big enough for sitting in the evenings and listening to the sounds of the night, slightly crowded but full of love. Outside the front of the house was a big dogwood tree that was in radiant bloom every Spring. The road leading down to the house was a dirt one with fields on both sides that was planted every spring with vegetables for the entire family. A year or so before I left there uncle Archie planted the field across the main road that lead down into the hollow with potatoes as the family was getting bigger and required more. On the hill to the left of the house he grew hay for the animals and nestled into that hill was aunt Pearl's cold/storm cellar. To the right back of the house was the tool shed and fenced in field and at the far back of the property was a barn. It looked so big to a 5 year old but I am sure it wasn't more than about 5 acres cleared. Down over the hill ran a little stream that watered the livestock and where I waded on those hot summer days.
These are some of the earliest memories I have of my childhood:
When I was 5 years old mom met Arthur Shoulders at church and a few weeks later they were married. I had mixed emotions about this. One I wanted a daddy but, the farm and this family was all I ever knew.
Mom had been left a 5 acre piece of land by her adopted father when he died. It was here that became my new home. I adjusted, started school in a one room schoolhouse, and still got to see all my family at church on Sunday.
In May 1951 I got a new baby sister followed the next year with another. Hazel was named for daddy Top's sister and the other sister was named Karen. Karen was just a few weeks old when I was told that the farm was sold and we were moving to Washington State. Life would never be the same.
My home today is in Massachusetts not far from Cape Cod and Plymouth. I live near all my children and grandchildren. I started doing family history in 1964 when my mother started searching for information on her natural family. She had been adopted when her mother died when she was two days old. Family history interest me for the history part of it but also because a number of health problems had surfaced and I felt the need to know where they had came from.
Hazel, my sister, had two beautiful boys but when they were very young they were both diagnosed with Duchannes Muscular Dystrophy. Daniel died when he was just 20 years old and Lance Michael was only 16. Duchannes MD is a killer of young boys. It is a disease that is passed on from the female to the male children. A few years ago we discovered my own daughter's youngest child, Jamie Nicole, is a carrier of this same disease.
My own health problems have also made me dig further into the history. I was only about 21 when I was diagnosed with three types of arthritis. Remembering back I can remember my grandpa Collins with his twisted fingers sitting on a cot in the living room with his crutches not far away. I can never remember grandpa without crutches. When I ask what was wrong with grandpa the folks would reply, "he has Collinitis".
Diabetes is also something that was passed down through the Collins line but I was cursed with it on both sides of the family so I didn't really stand a chance.
Then in 1972 when my youngest daughter was born the doctors told me of a problem they found with my kidneys. They said I had been born with the disease called "Polycystic Kidney Disease" and that there was no known cure. It is a slow progressing disease that would zap my strength , and attack other organs in my body. When they discovered it I only had a slight loss of function and stayed that way for several years. Over the years I have learned that stress is my worst enemy and as things stress me out my blood pressure went up and my kidney function went down. In one year I went from 75% down to 50% and the next year down to 35%. Today my function is down to about 28 % and at 20% I will need to make plans to go on a dialysis machine. A few years ago my two daughters were tested and they don't carry this gene. They would gladly give me a kidney that is good, however, a few years ago the disease left me with a side effect of an aneurysm on the right side of the brain. I make a very poor risk.
My family history/genealogy has been a God sent hobby that has filled my life and kept my mind active. I would hate to think how empty life would have been without it. I have meet so many wonderful people, found several relatives I didn't know existed, and when my beloved husband died last year it kept me from loosing it. When I wake each morning I give thanks to God for each new day that I am able to do for myself. Life isn't what it use to be. I can't climb over fences in a cemetery or climb the stairs in a dusty archive/library. I spend my time searching the internet from my wheelchair and enjoying my grandchildren.