Monday, July 21, 2014

First Week of Being Home Bound

Staying at home is not something I have been able to do much in recent years.  Consequently, I must confess I have really enjoyed this past week at home.  Each day I have become a little stronger and surer on my feet as I have accomplished my regular household chores and light meal preparation without breathlessness.

The lovely bouquet that Mary Ellen and Brianna brought me last Saturday is still lovely in the living room.  Jeannie’s huge flowering basket of purple petunias was just the annual summer lift I had failed to provide for the front porch this season. Together Gerald and I have kept it watered nicely.  I have slept late late late without feeling lazy, and I’ve worked slowly instead of having to hurry.

After the second shot to help thin my blood, the home health nurse reported the better figure to my doctor on Monday, and a call came from the doctor’s office that no more shots were necessary.  Now the doctor is trying to determine exactly how much warfarin (rat poison) I need each day to keep the INR figure ssteady between 2 and 3. Gerald took me to see the primary doctor on Wednesday, and the home health nurse checked me again on Friday.

I think the hospital doctor scheduled home health nurse visits for Monday, Wednesday, Friday again this week, and I am hoping by then my blood will be flowing perfectly at the correct thickness created with a stable daily dose of the correct amount of warfarin. And if my body has not yet already dissolved all the clots in my lungs as I think it has, I hope that task will have been completed by then too.   I have been emphatically told that I need to stay on warfarin for the rest of my life, and that I will be glad to do.  I was already glad to do so; but being told it was no longer necessary made me think I should follow the doctor’s advice.  I did not want to be a pill popper. I think the doctor’s advice was statistically correct, but unfortunately my genetic make-up was somewhat of an anomaly. For me going off warfarin turned out to be an expensive experiment. But now I know, and I will pop those daily pills with a clear conscience.

One of the negatives of old age is that a large number of your loved ones and friends are also.  Right before I went to the hospital, my brother Jim called from Mattoon to tell me their paper carried the obituary of a dear friend, who lived in nearby Charleston.  I guess Shirley Keller Karraker was my longest friend in the world since we were in preschool Sunday School together for at least a year before we started first grade and  then went through 14 years of school together.  Jim and his wife Vivian were inviting me up to spend the night in case I wanted to attend her funeral on Tuesday. 

Of course, I wanted to do that—especially since I have really been wanting to go see Jim and Vivian anyway—but I told him I really did not think I was up to it.  And, of course, by Tuesday I was in the hospital and glad I had declined the invitation.  But I remembered all the fun times Shirley and I had:  Sunday afternoon play dates or swimming at the creek west of town where we used to persuade a parent to take us, high school double dating, and perhaps, best of all, the long long talks on the rare nights she got the family car and we would discuss the world and all the people in it but mostly talk about ourselves—what we believed, what our plans were, and what we wanted out of life. 

Shirley had already survived two bouts of lung cancer (despite never smoking), lost her husband a few years back,  and because of medical carelessness, had lost her eye sight.  So I could not grieve for her.  She had lived well, accomplished what she was supposed to in life,  and is now in a better place   But I grieved some for myself that we would not have that final visit or even a recent letter I meant to write that her daughter could have read to her. 

Jim and I talked during last week, and on Friday  when I meant to call him to wish him a happy 86th birthday, I was thwarted again.  Since he and Vivian have busy lives that include four or five shots a day for her diabetes, and Jim also likes to sleep in, I was waiting until after lunch to see how his most recent doctor appointment had gone.  At the noon table, however, the phone rang and the name flashed up that it was a call from Jim, so I answered by singing “Happy Birthday” to him.  It was Vivian phoning to tell me Jim was in the hospital, had had a stint repaired or something of that nature that morning and would need another on Monday.  (He had four stints put in last autumn when he ended up in the hospital for a week or so instead of being able to give his granddaughter away at her wedding as he had rehearsed.)  Since that Friday phone call, I’ve been told he had a “mild heart attack.”  Whatever that means.  Needless to say, I am anxious about the procedure planned for in the morning.

This morning we learned that our beloved sister-in-law Ginger had once again woke with seizures, not too unusual for the last 13 years since she had a stroke that took away her short term memory.   She remained well dressed and attractive and could pass at social events as healthy or at least until recent years. If she talked about the past, she did well. But if she asked you a question about recent events, she would immediately forget your answer and ask again.  (I answered the same question once eleven times within an hour, and I knew she would ask again the next time I saw her.) Gerald’s brother Garry kept a wonderful care giver with her because of her need for help with medicine and meals and her intense anxiety about where he was after he took her into town each morning for breakfast before he began his day’s work on the farm. But the seizures and strokes eventually took their toll and she was often in the hospital.  

A couple of months ago, once more the ambulance took her to the hospital, and this time she did not get well enough to return home.  Much to her family’s discomfort, there were needs that could only be met  at a nursing home, but they banded together to be sure that during most of her waking hours, she had one of them there when her regular day caretaker was not present.  They cheered for her when she was finally able to stand, and the goal was for her to become sufficiently proficient with a walker to go back to her home. Our niece Vicki Sue grieved that her mother did not show many smiles although she sat through many funny movies with her mother.  Ginger’s sister Lillian, who lost her husband after a long illness during this time, came from Missouri to visit Ginger at the nursing home. Vicki was ecstatic because her mother responded with smiles and laughter during her precious sister’s visit.

However by the end of last week, Ginger was deteriorating. This morning Ginger was awake at 4 o’clock with yet another round of seizures, and the word went out to the family that she was taken to the Cape Girardeau hospital and life support might need to be removed if a MRI showed no brain activity.  When we checked into the lobby and Gerald spoke Ginger’s name, the receptionist there told Gerald, “Oh she has the sweetest husband.”

Soon we were up in the ICU waiting room with a large circle of family members including Lillian to be with Garry and Vicki and her brother Kerry as they faced the responsibility of doing what the doctor was advising and what Ginger had said she wanted back when she was still able to make such decisions. Two by two we were going in with Garry to say goodbye to someone who did not look like anyone we used to know and could not respond. Eyes were closed, and occasional grimaces indicated some discomfort with the equipment all over her face.  Garry, who has stood tall and firm for over thirteen years, was breaking up knowing what his answer must be for the doctor. The breathing tube was taken off, and Ginger continued breathing on her own.

We came home and there was a message on the phone from our neighbor telling us  that her relative, who has also been our neighbor for more that 40 years, is in the hospital at Marion and the family is awaiting her death. 

I had not checked the news all day, and so I did long enough to determine that things are not any better internationally.   There are other sad things going on that I could have also written about, but I have shared enough that I am sure you can understand why we are not looking forward to tomorrow.   There are numerous good things also in our lives, and we are grateful.  But right now our hearts feel concern and sadness for many that we love.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Happy to Be Home from the Hospital!

After six days of being poked, pricked, and prodded, it was wonderful to wake up in my own bed this morning.  I had slept for 11 hours when Gerald came in to wake me so we would have time for him to give me the scheduled Lovenox shot before the home health nurse would be at our house right after lunch.

Last Sunday, I realized I was not only feeling much too tired, but I was also having trouble with breathlessness.   Brought back memories of 2008 when I was hospitalized in Barnes in St. Louis because that was where we happened to be for an appointment with Gerald’s heart doctor.  I still feel bad that I stole his appointment time and his doctor sent me to the hospital, where clots in my leg and heart were treated.  The doctors there were convinced the clots surely developed because three weeks before we had taken a trip to Georgia.  (Gerald suspected it was all my hours surfing and writing on the computer, and I was inclined to agree with him.)  But regardless, I got well. Mary Ellen was living in a suburb there, and she came to visit me every day until I was released with a prescription of warfarin to keep my blood thin. 

Gerald built me a little box for my feet under the computer to shift my legs onto, and I tried to remember to get up and walk around once in awhile.  However, the truth is that one reason I enjoy writing and surfing is that I go into some kind of brain zone that blocks out the world. The concentration is very pleasant to me, and when I could, I often sat for hours without realizing how much time had passed.

I continued taking warfarin, but after a few years, my primary doctor assured me I could go off the drug if I wanted.  We were getting ready to take a trip to Oklahoma City for the softball world series and on to my sister’s in Amarillo, so I turned down the offer to go off.  From then on, at my annual check-up, my primary doctor would tell me I really would not have to continue taking warfarin. I would sheepishly answer that I must be psychologically addicted to it to give me a sense of security. 

But as our daughter Katherine’s health worsened and I spent more time with her, I found it more difficult to make time for the regular INR check-ups that warfarin requires.  I began to feel silly that I was choosing to take a drug I was told I did not need.  So at this year’s annual check up, when the doctor told me I could go off, I hesitated wondering what would result if we took a trip (which we probably cannot do).  She assured me I could temporarily take a new drug and have that security for the trip.  I went off warfarin and felt free as a bird.  No more trips to get my blood checked.  No feeling bad when I got home so late it was really the next day before I actually took my supper pills including the warfarin, Taking only three pills (two of which were over-the-counter) instead of five made me feel so healthy!  

However, I continued to feel (as I had for a year or so) tired after 9 or l0 hours of sleep when I was able to get that much, but I figured that was part of being 80.  So the week before last, when I felt a bit more tired than usual, I did not think much about it.  It was not until the weekend that climbing the stairs was making me extremely breathless.  Fearing something was wrong with my heart, I decided last Sunday to call my primary doctor the very next morning.  Since I had taken no trips and I did not need warfarin any more, I did not worry about blood clots. 

The doctor’s office quickly made me a work-in appointment at 2 on Monday.  I ran into town to pick up a thyroid prescription waiting for me at Kroger.  I’d been too tired to go by for it after I had finished a shift at Katherine’s on Sunday afternoon because an aide was sick.  I got the prescription and some bananas that Gerald needs daily with one of his meds and which I have been trying to eat daily in hopes of avoiding the leg cramps I sometimes have.   Someone had suggested that Katherine might need a milk-free yogurt rather than one that might be causing her trouble.  So I ran a new supply of that yogurt by her house and offered to give her morning pills since there was no aide that morning.  By the time I had adjusted her and given her pills with juice and yogurt, I was breathing heavily enough she was noticing it as she had the day before and urging me to go home just as she did the day before.   I did not think she was as well as usual, but I was pleased an excellent aide would be there for the afternoon; and I knew if I made my appointment, I had to leave. Then the faithful and competent aide, who never misses and is always five minutes early, phoned that she was having to take another client to the hospital and might be late or not there at all.  (When I had time to call later that afternoon, I found out she had made it after all and had made sure the night aide would be there by seven.  However, she did not think Katherine was as well as usual.  And the next day Katherine was taken to her doctor and admitted to the hospital in Carbondale.)

With Gerald’s help, I made it to my appointment.  For the first time in our lives, he went in and met my long-time doctor and listened for me.  I was glad he was there because I was not thinking well and did realize that my doctor meant me to go directly from her office to the hospital for the CT scan.

All is well that ends well, I’ve heard, and all is essentially well here at the farm. Tests showed no heart damage.  The second CT scan (which was actually only over the lower half of my body although I did not realize it) was not to see if the clots were gone as I supposed, but rather to make sure I did not have the kind of cancer that could cause clots in the lungs.  The hospitalist, whom I liked very much, had already arranged for an oncologist to come if the tests showed cancer.  They did not. All this had taken place, and I had no knowledge or worry about it.  Isn’t that great?   The doctor was puzzled since there were no clots in my legs.  He asked, “Where did the clots come from?”  Blood tests sent off and already returned have so far given no answer, but I believe he said some were still out.  He did not want to expose me to an unnecessary CT scan since the thinner blood will eventually be at the right balance and the body will destroy the clots. 

Katherine was released from the hospital on Friday.  Her aide Katie, who lost her brother in a tragic accident so recently, is helping Katherine again.  Am I worried about her?  Terribly, but I cannot do much about it.  In fact I never could. Advanced multiple sclerosis progresses as it chooses weakening and destroying the body of the one it inhabits.   Do I believe in prayer?  Yes, and I am grateful that all over the nation people have and do pray for Katherine.  Long ago her friend in Nashville became angry when a prayer meeting she arranged did not stop the disease.  My cousin rode his motorcycle all the way from California to apply oil and pray for her recovery. I am grateful.  We allowed him to come if he promised not to get angry.  I really believed his prayers might bring about a remission or recovery.  Instead the disease continued to grow worse.   Many believing praying cancer victims die of their disease.  I did not even know I might have cancer causing the clots and uttered no prayer against cancer, and I got the wonderful news I was cancer free.  Life is not fair by human understanding. The writer of Hebrews tells us some get their promises fulfilled here on earth and some do not, but all are fulfilled.

That is where faith is helpful. Faith helps you to know when the answers you want are not given to you, perhaps there are reasons beyond human understanding.  Things that are seen are not the evidence of faith.  Rather faith is the evidence of things not seen.  So I believe and ask God to help my unbelief. 

Jesus taught us that pain is redemptive.  The two young girls hurt in same accident as the one that took Chris Williams’ life are recovering. The orange ribbons still deck the nearby church yard fence beside the highway. Hundreds (perhaps thousands) have prayed; and  just like the girls’ parents, the community is so grateful for the prayers and for the continued healing. Will something good come from the awful pain the wreck brought?  I believe so.

So right now I am home bound.  I am feeling pretty good, and I think the Vitamin B-12 shots given me are helping me with the fatigue I’ve had for a year or so.  Maybe being 80 is not the cause. That too is good news!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

A Sad Sad Week

Orange tiger lilies, queen Anne’s lace, and yellow black-eyed Susans line our country roads now. Gerald is eating onions from his garden, and some neighbors already have tomatoes for their table.  Our former baby rabbits are big enough that we see them often.  Everything is beautiful. Summer is here, and the corn is tall thanks to the frequent rains.

Unfortunately, tears  have also been  frequent in our community and in near-by communities this past week.  Hearts have been broken, parents terrified, and lives changed forever.  In small communities, there is such an entanglement of ties between people that a tragic accident can impact almost everyone, and that has happened to us.  

A group of families here started a new congregation a few years ago.  They named themselves Living Stone Church and eventually were able to buy a small church building in the tiny village of New Dennison, where an older congregation had lost almost all its members to death and people moving away. I was thrilled that the new congregation bought this nearby building in our farm neighborhood by giving a generous amount to the Baptist Children’s Home in Carmi.  I felt that was such a fine memorial to the ones who had built and belonged to the congregation that died.   Their building would not only continue to used for worship and education, but the children at the Carmi home would benefit.

Continuing their interest in children, Living Stone congregation recently called  Christopher Shane Williams to be a youth pastor, and evidently he had already succeeded in creating influential friendships with these kids just as he had when he worked with youth at Marion Third and wherever he went.  Living Stone Church planned a mission trip for the kids to work all day at a homeless shelter in nearby Evansville, IN.  Then they would stay overnight and be treated to fun at Holiday World before coming back home.  They stopped to have a final supper together before the group started back to Illinois, and Chris gave a devotional.

Shortly after that, the unthinkable happened when one van blew a tire and somehow  was hit by a semi truck going in the same direction.  Chris, 28, was killed leaving behind his beloved Aimee, their 13-month old daughter Abbi, and a baby expected in November.  The semi driver and five others were hurt.  Literally hundreds and hundreds have been praying for these injured as well as for the Williams family.  One by one, the hurt were treated and released from the hospital except two recent eighth grade graduates, who were the most seriously injured. I did not know the girls personally but knew their families.  These two girls were close friends with our next door neighbor, who also just finished eighth grade.

One of the girls has been in critical condition in a medically induced coma fighting for her life.   The other in serious condition has had surgery and will be in a wheelchair and having physical therapy for a long time to come, but today she was allowed to go home from the Evansville hospital. Her photo on Facebook on the site dedicated to the two girls has a photo of her absolutely beaming and telling us she went in to her friend’s room  and waved goodbye.  Both girls have a long way to go, but their parents on the Facebook site are reporting all the answered prayers, and the community is rejoicing. Orange ribbons (Crab Orchard school color) dot the highway fence at New Dennison left behind from a prayer rally a day or so after the accident at Living Stone Church.

On their eighth wedding anniversary a short time ago, Chris’s wife Aimee wrote a beautiful tribute on Facebook to Chris and cited all he had done for her.  Aimee’s family are all writers and they express themselves well through the written word. Aimee was able to assure us since the accident that despite her enormous grief and the impossibility of understanding why this accident happened, she has faith in the love and purpose of God just as Chris did.  Aimee has just been through watching Sam White, her father. fight leukemia and then endured his death, which happened on Valentine’s Day.   Her father had been pastor for nine years in our village church in Crab Orchard,  and Aimee and Chris met and were married there. We had watched Pam and her three adult  children, while holding down challenging careers, struggle to help Sam in the Saint Louis hospital for most of  his almost year of illness. We were all so hopeful when Sam’s brother Cecil came from California and gave what was first thought was a successful stem cell implant. But sadly our hope was denied that Sam would be well again and able to use his education and experience and prepared syllabi to enhance the education of the students  at Morthland College.

Thus, we grieved for Pam becoming such a young widow and the three young adult siblings losing their father and Chris losing his father-in-law. Then when Aimee, after only eight year of marriage, had to write, “I am a widow,” her mother’s widowhood did not seem so young.  Before all this, we had earlier watched with approval as their family demonstrated faith and creativity in coping with their grief over Sam, and they continued to serve others.  The day of the wreck was also Sam’s birthday, and the siblings spent the day at the Saint Louis zoo in memory of their father who loved the zoo. No one could imagine that day would end with yet another death. We can only be grateful that pregnant Aimee and baby Abbi were not in that wrecked vehicle. 

Although I had heard great things about Chris, and I’d enjoyed his beaming smile on every photograph posted on Facebook often with baby Abbi smiling too, a smile that  reminded me of Sam’s and made me happy just by seeing it, I had not realized until the tributes poured in just how many lives Chris and Aimee have impacted.  Chris was one of those amazing energetic people who loved to have fun and work hard and who also loved everyone to a degree that they felt his love.

 Our family was impacted not only by our grief for Aimee and her family, but also with our grief for Chris’s only sister—Katie Barger—who had married Jared Barger on May 17—and who was a loving care giver to our daughter Katherine. Katie was so close to her big brother that this loss is enormous for her.  I am grateful that she has such good memories of Chris and Aimee at her wedding.

Because I did not know Chris that well, I had never realized how broad and how full Chris’s life was for such a young man until peoples’ stories poured in for his loved ones telling them what Chris meant to them.  His last Facebook entry was prophetic when he quoted Job 42:17: And so he died, old and full of years.  Chris then commented, Thus it must be possible to die old and not full of years. What things can we cut out of our lives to ensure our lives are full and not just long? What good is a long life if it not also full?”

Those who grieve Chris are immensely comforted that Chris’s years were very full and very worthwhile.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Kiss and Roses and an Odd Anniversary Experience

Our 58th wedding anniversary last Sunday started with a good morning kiss and a hand-picked bouquet with roses on the breakfast table. I spent the morning at Katherine’s giving meds and breakfast.  Since it was also Father’s Day, I met up with Gerald and our  daughter Mary Ellen and her husband Brian after church, and they drove us  down to the floating restaurant at Elizabeth for dinner.  Gerald and I had talked about going there since we like being on the river, and we like the boat’s  somewhat primitive atmosphere The Taylors had never been, and it seemed the perfect beautiful drive to climax with fish from the Ohio River.  We all had hoped Trent might go along and he almost did, but as I will explain in a minute, we ended up being glad he had chosen to stay home.

By the time we drove there, it was a late dinner hour and we were hungry.  The cars lining the river bank warned us that many fathers thought their fish dinner was a good idea for Father’s Day, but that was to be expected.  In recent years, a double deck extra room has been attached to the original boat, and we also noted a couple of families had pulled their boats up on one side for a drive-in dinner.  Inside we were sent back to the outside to climb up into the extra room where they thought we would find seating.  

The waitress there explained there was no communication between the inside and outside and all tables were taken.  Rather than stand there in the narrow aisles looking like hungry vultures waiting for other customers’ table, we climbed back down and decided to enjoy the wooden walkway over the river on the other side of the boat.  Gerald went back in and put our names on the inside waiting list.  Actually it was not that long before our name was called although we figured already that Trent would have had his fill of waiting by then and we laughed at his wise choice. 

It is customary to share tables, and the waitress sat another couple at the end of our long table and we acknowledged each other with smiles and nods as they carried on their conversation and we continued ours.   A long time later menus arrived and our table’s orders taken.   And we continued visiting.  Until we ran out of anything to talk about except wondering when they were going to bring our food. 

By now we had started conversing with the couple on the end of our table and found out they had been at the Marion race track the evening before although they lived in another area town. The man was a long-time hobby race car driver and the wife his fan,  Although none of us had ever been at that rural track, we have always been able to hear the pleasant buzz of the racing cars on Saturday night. The couple knew all kinds of people we knew, and soon we were well acquainted and enjoyed being distracted from our hunger. They said usually on Sunday they go to the Red Onion in Equality for a wonderful menu of home cooking. But they decided to do something different; by the time they saw all the parked cars at the boat, it was too late to make it to Equality before the 3 o’clock closing time. We had never heard of the Red Onion, but their description made us salivate. Others around us were growing increasingly impatient and grumbling loudly that it was well over an hour since their orders were taken.  Some walked out.  We held our breaths when someone was testy thinking perhaps one table finally served may have come in after their order was taken. It was getting ridiculous.

Fortunately Mary Ellen and Brian were pleasant companions, and we all knew that fate had been kind that  21-year-old Trent had elected to stay home to eat and happily enjoy his games and many close Internet geek friends and skyping with his girl friend in New Jersey.  We made dumb jokes about their having to fish out the back of the boat in order to have the fish to cook for our orders.  But we were hungry.  And there were no snacks served nor any explanations.

Finally the two very young waitresses arrived with trays of food for both ends of our table.  They started to leave us with no utensils to eat with and fortunately the woman on the end told them we needed silverware.  Before I knew it, I had snapped, “And an apology.”  Immediately the good manners the  two young women had received from their parents kicked in, and they both spoke sincere-founding apologies.  No explanations, however.

When we realized we lacked catsup and tartar sauce, I retrieved them from a nearby table now empty.  I was feeling sheepish about my rude remark, but at the same time, I thought it was good the young waitresses got the instruction the management failed to give them, and I hoped they gave the apology to the other hungry waiting customers.  As far as I know, no apology, explanation, nor adjustment of the bill was given to Brian, but he was gracious enough to sum up the experience with the remark, “The fish was good!” 

We had another lovely drive home going through the Garden of the Gods enjoying the cliffs and all the greenery there.  Southern Illinois is beautiful this time of year.  We swung through historic Equality and saw the Red Onion.  I am sure we will go back to the boat someday, but it will not be on a Sunday or holiday.  But maybe the Red Onion will be tried this summer.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Grandkids' Visit

Sometime after midnight, Elijah and Cecelie arrived on Thursday from northern Illinois.  We’d texted, and I told them the door was open and to find their beds and make themselves at home.  I’ve been busy with appointments lately; and later in the morning, they were still asleep when I had to keep a dentist appointment.

By the time I came home and fixed lunch, Brianna had already come over and carried them away.   After lunch, I saw Sam’s car zoom up with Anna aboard, and then there were three cars parked in the front yard.  The cousins were having a confab on the little circle of grass under the tree in the driveway probably plannning their activities for the two days they could be together. Later Trent joined them. I enjoyed having the familiar giggling and piano sounds once more as they came in and out of the house.  Their shoes in the front foyer told me who was present when and who was sleeping over .

They are mostly all grown up, and I know their together times will grow fewer in the busy years ahead. Makes me sad and proud all at the same time. For years, a special treat for me was for them to come and attend Vacation Bible School in our village church. Then one by one, as they outgrew Vacation Bible School as students, they pitched in to help as leaders.

They had originally been scheduled to work in our VBS this week, but our leaders had to change the date.  Thus, our kids had this time available to get together before all their other summer activities began.  Even so, Brianna was working longer hours at the local Dairy Queen so she could be away next week joining her high school friends from Raymond in central Illinois in their trip to work in VBS in Florida.  Nevertheless, she crowded it all in and was packed to leave early this morning.  I have enjoyed seeing the photos they posted as they traveled south today.

Katherine’s aide had  become sick and had to leave early yesterday, so I went in to help after an earlier evening gathering.  Seeing the beautiful full moon as I drove home was my reward.  I found Elijah still at the computer when I went down to make sure he and Cecelie had seen the “Honey Moon” so close to the earth that it looked larger. They had, and I went to bed assuming they would be sleeping late this morning.

Full moons happen on Friday the 13th more often, but  this was the first “Honey Moon” on Friday the 13th since 1919, according to what I  read on the Internet. I won’t be around to see the next one. 

No one was scheduled at Katherine’s this morning and I went in to give her morning pills. I was disappointed when I returned home  and found Lige and Cecelie’s note on the breakfast table that they had needed to leave at ten for their long trip north. As always, the house seems very quiet when Gerald and I are here alone after gramdkids visit. 

 I am excited, however, about the internship Elijah will be participating in this summer in Chicago.  As I understand it, he will be one of 24 Illinois State University students spending their mornings helping a lead teacher in different  neighborhood schools and their afternoons with some community organization,  Then they will meet together for evening classes to complete their 8 to 8 daily schedule.    Sam and Cecelie, the only  grandchildren we have now still in high school, will both be going to camps and on various trips that I hope to hear about.  Trent will be in summer school when he is not gaming or living in his virtual world, but he has plans to go to New York, and I will definitely want to hear about that.  Living vicariously through grandchildren’s lives and activities is definitely broadening.

After supper this evening, Gerald and I went down to his office computer to watch the USSSA Pride, which our son Gerry is coaching this summer.  They are in Chicago this weekend and Monday playing the Bandits.  Pride lost to Monica Abbot’s great pitching, but it was so fun to see players we have watched down through the years playing professional softball now.  Gerald remembers Gerry having him walk over to another field during a travel team tournament one summer to watch Monica Abbott pitch while she was still in high school.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Blossoms Brighten Our Lifes

I search for distractions and/or blessings to encourage me these days. Seeing one’s child suffer is excruciating. Recently a beautiful bouquet was waiting  on the dining room table when I came home from Katherine’s house.  Deep pink peonies mixed with lavender blue blooms filled a gorgeous vase and lifted my late-night tiredness and depression. The next morning Gerald told me the story behind the bouquet:  my neighbor Mary Lea Kahlor Burnham had come in and left them for us and phoned Gerald to tell him “a burgler” had been in the house.  

Gerald often does an extra chore that I have always done in the past or brings me blooms from outside. (His roses are getting quite beautiful now.)  And he too brought me a  couple of little bouquets not long after Mary Lea did.  As Mary Lea’s bouquet faded, I mixed the last blossoms with Gerald’s to stretch my enjoyment as long as possible.  She had told Gerald the lavender blue blooms from her late mother’s garden were “praying hands” closing up at night and opening during the day.   I have enjoyed watching them do just that.  I tried looking them up on Google, but the only praying hands there were hostas, and it was the leaves that folded in prayer, not the blossoms. So I am curious of another name for these small sweet blooms.

This made me remember how in my childhood I liked watching to see how my piano teacher’s row of four-o-clocks  by her sidewalk always opened their red blossoms in the late afternoon.  Blooms have often been a source not just of beauty but of fun.  One summer down at Mt. Airy Farm, my mother had snap dragons, and I enjoyed a lot of fascinating play snapping them. Of course, in those days, you could also tell if someone liked butter by holding a dandelion under the chin.  If the yellow were reflected, you could announce that the person liked butter.  And the hollow dandelion stems could be put together into a ring and added to others to make a chain much like the classic red and green construction paper chains at Christmas. Even prettier chains were made by knotting white clover stems around the blossoms.  I hope today’s children are still enjoying these gifts from nature.

I watched with pleasure in May when once again a large ring of mayflowers showed up in Mary Lea’s meadow.  I wanted to stop and go over and look under the green umbrella tops to see the little white mayflower beneath the leaves.  But I didn’t. There really is not a very good place to park right there on our country road.  That together with the fear of ticks, which is rightfully high in our family right now since grandson Sam contracted Lyme, prevented me from stopping.  So I use my imagination to see the blossoms as I pass by on my frequent trips to Katherine’s. 

Now the golden day lilies that our neighbors Scott and Sonje Cully gave us when we first moved here have just started blooming again. Profusely. They make a cheerful wall of welcome beside our house as we come up the driveway and into the garage.  I am grateful for the color and the cheer that good neighbors and bright flowers add to life.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Honeysuckle Adds Fragrance to the June Air

Honeysuckle decorates our country roadsides with charming beauty right now. Climbing upward and over small trees or spreading along untended fence rows, the honeysuckle’s white and yellow blossoms are thick and lovely on this beginning of June.

I have a strong emotional attachment to honeysuckle going back to my childhood.  At the end of our front porch across from the school in Jonesboro, there was a wall of honeysuckle giving off its wonderful aroma when we sat down to rest or swing on the glider there.  Someone taught me how to pick a bloom and suck the sweetness out. I have used honeysuckle in flower arrangements for weddings or everyday bouquets.  And I have fond long-ago memories when we first moved to this country road of rolling down the car windows to smell the honeysuckle along our road when I came home late at night from play practices. Later when we first built this house, Gerald even planted some on the end of our deck outside our bedroom door. 

It took over and became troublesome, and we had to give it up, although there is plenty over on our tiny island in the lake. Nevertheless, when I first heard the term “invasive species” about my beloved honeysuckle, I felt personally attacked.  It took a hike along with the school children following a worker at Shawnee National Forest to convince me that maybe that word was more accurate than I wished.  The worker explained how necessary to was for them to make forays into the forest to cut out the honeysuckle lest it completely crowd out other plant life.

So in spite of myself, I think of that when I enjoy the abundant roadside honeysuckle in all its glory right now.  The birds will spread its berry seeds in places where it will be unwelcome. In the meantime, the bees and hummingbirds and I will enjoy it just as the early pioneers did when it twined around their cabin doors.