Monday, March 23, 2015

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!

Today was a special day because 85 years ago on this day Gerald was born. Everyone agrees that he does not look nor act his age, but we celebrated his age today! Hard work outside, disciplined exercise here in the house, and recent physical therapy have all had their desired result, and he remains strong and active. No, not as strong and active as five years ago, but he’s looking good. He was kept busy throughout the day answering his cell phone to receive birthday greetings. He had already had his birthday breakfast with his brothers and nephews in Jonesboro yesterday, so his calendar was freed up for today.

Our youngest daughter Mary Ellen and husband Brian picked us up for a visit to a large church that they discovered when Brianna first went to Murray State. The building is very user friendly, and Mary Ellen especially wanted us to see the children’s area with its farm theme dreamed up by the pastor, who is also a part-time cattle farmer.

I’d heard enough about it to want to see these amazing attractive rooms that have an inside barn construction two-stories high and life-size plastic tractors for children to climb on among other attractions. In one room, I also noticed multiple computers for the children to use. It was a fascinating venue for Bible study for children to grow up in, and I am sure the children enjoy it, while they learn that we reap what we sow and that God, who created this world, gives the increase.

I am also convinced that in smaller congregations children can fortunately be taught those important life lessons seated at the table with loving teachers—especially those who know children learn by doing and, thus, do not follow the “sit still while I instill” method.

Best of all, children can be taught at the kitchen table with parents or during bedtime devotions, and perhaps most importantly by observing adults at home and in the community who try to live by Jesus’ teachings. After our worship there in the attractive auditorium and enjoying Mary Ellen’s tour of the children’s spaces, we drove through beautiful Kentucky Lake roads and on to the nearby Patti’s restaurant, which also has elaborate but homespun d├ęcor.

The food was excellent and servings large enough that some had to be brought home. Service by friendly waitresses in yesteryears’ long cotton dresses were able to create a feeling of conviviality in the room we shared with other tables of guests. Gerald was one of three in our room who was celebrating a birthday, and we were invited each time to sing along with the family wishing their loved one happiness. We found ourselves sharing smiles and remarks with other guests when we exited.

We got home in time to catch the end of Oregon’s second softball game at Salt Lake against Utah. We had already been getting phone messages about the game from Gerald’s sister Ernestine and her husband Don, who had traveled there from Rock Springs to see Geri Ann play yesterday and today. Texas A&M won over South Carolina in l0 innings on Friday but was rained out yesterday, but they won two games today, so we knew Gerry was in good spirits. Oregon is supposed to play a third game tomorrow, but they too may be rained out.

On our end of the state, Katherine had enlisted help for today, so I could spend the day with Gerald. At the other end of the state, Rick was taking our Jeannie to Wisconsin to start her chemo tomorrow. I marvel at the advances and discoveries of the scientists and doctors who treat the many diseases and health problems inflicting us humans, but I am also very thankful for all the friends and the many people, many we do not even know, who have committed to praying for Jeannie.

Monday, March 16, 2015


Although we missed out on one big snow while we were gone, we came home from Texas to experience the next one. Schools were closed, and people were pretty much home bound by the ice and snow.

Our middle daughter Jeannie has been our extremely dedicated bicycle rider and healthy food advocate. We were shocked to find out that a second surgery was required after a negative biopsy. We delayed our trip up to Jeannie’s because of the fear of roads. (I felt as if the worst thing we could do was to go up and have an accident and add to family woes.) We were glad we waited. Despite the snow in the fields beside the highways for the length of state, the roads were all fine. So we arrived last Friday—the day Jeannie came home from the University of Wisconsin hospital a day early, which we thought was a very good sign.

The weather had not only gone from bad to beautiful in Freeport, but we had to laugh when Gerald reported from a phone call to our nephew DuWayne that the temperature down here was colder that where we were at the north end of the state.

Once Jeannie arrived at home, her positive attitude kicked in, and she started walking every day. She is determined to be as healthy as possible as she recovers from this unexpected adversity in her life. Since she is not allowed to ride her bike yet, she is substituting walking. Her daughter and son-in-law arrived the same day we did. Mike left Sunday with Millie and Sidney (their big dogs), but Leslie stayed to support her mother. Despite a busy high school schedule and working a shift Saturday at the thrift store where she clerks, Cecelie was in and out with her boyfriend. They impressed us with their serious chemistry study at the dining room table after we ate.

Leslie was there until Thursday of this week when she back flew home to Nashville. Elijah was on spring break from Illinois State, and he arrived the day after us on Saturday in perfect timing to work the opening day at the famous Union Dairy (the place where people in Freeport go to get their ice cream cones every spring and summer). He was able to see how well his mother looked, take Leslie to the airport, and make himself useful during the week however he could. I am sure Cecelie was glad to have the companionship of her siblings during this time.

And I am sure they ate well all week, because Jeannie’s church was sending food. We enjoyed part of that good homemade food. I even came home with the recipe that the pastor’s wife sent with her Quinoa chicken salad. I had just learned its surprising pronunciation before we went to Jeannie’s, but I had never eaten it. Now if I can find it at the grocery store, maybe I will cook it and join the other gluten-free Quinoa enthusiasts. We were especially blessed Saturday evening to get to hear Leslie and Elijah practice “At the Table of the Lord,” which Jeannie had requested that they sing the next day at their morning service.

We felt we needed to leave Sunday morning instead of going to worship with them, because we wanted to stop in Mattoon to see my brother Jim, who is still recovering from the heart procedures earlier this year. After a lazy and pleasant breakfast at our motel, we took off. We knew my nephew Robert was staying with Jim and Vivian this winter helping them—they brag on his cooking. We were looking forward to seeing him for the first time in a long while. We were even more excited when we arrived to find our great nephew Sean and his two sons there visiting. I had not seen Sean since he was a young boy and had never met their toddler Lincoln (called Linc) nor Vincent Indiana Roland Jones, age 5, and called Indy. Linc had beautiful red hair, the kind we had always wished someone would inherit from Vivian. She graciously explained that Sean’s wife Paige had red hair in her family too. They soon had to leave, but Indy sparkled and entertained us while they were there, and I had to notice his excellent vocabulary.

As I had hoped, next my niece Judi dropped in. We had missed Sean’s brother Ryan from Champaign-Urbana, who visited the day before. And we had to leave before our niece Jane and her daughter Vanessa dropped in, but we still felt we had great dividends for stopping for that brief visit and seeing so many of the family.

We have had a busy week here as one of Katherine’s new aides ended up at the doctor’s with kidney stones and was unable to work all week. Fortunately that aide was friends with another woman who came part of the aide’s shifts, and I helped out as did some of Katherine’s friends who have generously given her their help. This was spring break for schools in our area, so Sam and his dad David had gone to visit a couple of colleges in the Southeast. With Trent on break to go with them, Brian and Mary Ellen traveled down to visit Brianna at Disney World. Fifi, who travels well, was able to go along because Brianna was missing her too. She was able to stay in the kennel there since Brianna had a discount. Mary Ellen and Brian must have felt rejuvenated by their trip, because they were already heads up painting the ceiling in their living room changing the brown wooden tiles to white. It was looking good when I stopped by. I got an air hug from Trent, who wasn’t feeling well. I had never had an air hug before but I imitated and sent one back.

I think all the family is back in place now, and we are hoping Katherine’s aide has no more health problems. I finally had my evaluation appointment, and I will start two weeks of physical therapy on Tuesday, Most of all, we are praying that the week goes well for Jeannie as her treatment continues. So many people are praying for her, and we would be grateful if you would too. She might get to complete her planned bicycle last lap to the Gulf Coast this summer after all.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Grass Is Greener

One of the first things I noticed on our recent trip to Texas was the green grass everywhere. I even saw one man out using his lawn mower the first day we arrived. Later we were to see both a hotel and a restaurant bordered with beautiful blooming beds of bright yellow and deep purple pansies Spring was obviously coming earlier down there.

This was our first trek down to visit our son Gerry and his family since they left Georgia and became residents in College Station, where Gerry became associate head softball coach at Texas A&M. His oldest daughter Tara Archibald also took employment in College Station, and she and husband Bryan and their three young sons (our only great grandkids) are just five minutes away from Gerry and Vickie’s. Bryan continues to work in his home and only flies to the head office when necessary.

Erin, Gerry’s middle daughter, left Corsicana and took a job teaching language arts to sixth graders in Rockdale and coaching the high school softball team there. She chose to live with her parents and drive to Rockdale even though she often has to get up at 4 to run before she makes the trip to school. She usually has the entire upstairs to herself. There is one bedroom decorated with many softball awards reserved for the youngest daughter Geri Ann, who is away most of the year. She is a junior at the University of Oregon. We slept in Geri Ann’s room, and we were happy that Erin and Tara and Bryan and Aidan, Maddux, and Payton were all so available to see each day.

Our trip was planned to coincide with Geri Ann’s softball team’s foray to Texas. We arrived on Sunday in plenty of time to drive with Gerry and Vickie and all the family to see the University of Oregon Ducks play the University of Houston on Presidents Day. Unfortunately, it rained hard on that holiday when Erin and the great grandsons were all off school. So plans were messed up, but the whole family was able to go up and have dinner with Geri Ann before she had to leave us for the team’s required study hall.

Tuesday was not only cold but very windy. By determination and cancelling other things, everyone but Erin did get to return to Houston on Tuesday to watch Geri Ann play and win their two games with the Houston host. Despite multiple layers of clothing we were cold. But the stadium with the Houston skyline rising up behind the outfield was lovely, and we were grateful for plastic seats rather than aluminum bleachers.

Wednesday was the day the Ducks were to play Texas A&M at College Station, and Gerry understood that we had to cheer for Oregon and be happy when they won. We were glad to get to see Gerry’s team and begin to learn the players’ positions. A&M had to leave on Thursday for their tournament in California, so our visit with Gerry was shortened. (And we were extremely pleased to learn after we reached home that the
Aggies had won all five of their games in that tournament.)

The Ducks were participating in a tourney hosted by Baylor University starting on Thursday, so for the next three days we drove to Waco’s beautiful campus. Undefeated Oregon played Baylor that first day and gave the Bears their first defeat this season. They then won their two Friday games, and on Saturday defeated North Texas before their final game, which was again with Baylor. This time it was Baylor who gave the Ducks their first defeat.

Despite Vickie urging us to stay longer at College Station, we left after this last game. So Vickie and Erin had come in their own vehicle, and now Gerald was driving again after enjoying being chauffeured in Houston and Waco’s city traffic. After gathering to greet Oregon at the game’s end and to say our final goodbyes and give our last hugs to Geri Ann, we traveled on to the Denton and Ponder area in Texas.

Before going back home, Gerald wanted to see friends who left Illinois and settled in
Texas. A native Texan, Bobby Sanders left our village of Crab Orchard and moved his family back home years ago. One of our neatest vacations was when we went down to visit Bobby and Katherine and then went on down to San Antonio and met up with Gerald’s air force captain. After Katherine’s untimely death, Gerald has returned several times to hunt or just to visit with Bobby briefly when Gerald was trucking nearby. We stayed up late talking and the next day had a long visit over breakfast at the local Cracker Barrel. By now, the weather predictions were pretty dire, and Bobby urged us to stay on and be safe at his house, but we had another visit we wanted to include in this trip.

When Gerald was in grad school at the University of Illinois, Don Dillow was our pastor. His wife Helen Ruth and I had toddlers the same age, and Helen Ruth was a real encouragement and mentor to me. We have had many visits and connections down through the years here in Illinois, but they finally left the Springfield area and moved into a beautiful home built by their son and became Texas citizens. Despite health problems that come with aging, they lead very active lives. They both looked great. Don still hunts and gardens. Helen Ruth still plays the piano and teaches Bible classes. We arrived in early afternoon, and talked hard and fast sharing updates with one another for a couple of hours. It was raining hard now, but ice was expected. The weather forecasts were worse and worse, and the Dillows urged us to hunker down with them and wait for good weather. It was tempting and would have been fun, but we needed to get home to Southern Illinois.

Fortunately, we kept to our plan to drive on into Arkansas, and we stayed at the same motel we stayed at on the way down. The wind and heavy rain made driving difficult, but Gerald didn’t seem to mind. Because of the predictions, we really weren’t sure how long we might stay there, but our roads were clear the next morning and we were able to complete our trip back home by late afternoon. Bobby and the Dillows were iced in for the next couple of days. Wrecks were common. I am wondering if the grass is still green under all that snow and ice,

Although we experienced rain and cold in Texas, we missed the ice and snow that shut down the schools here at home last week. (There was and is still snow on the ground, but the roads are clear.) We had a lovely welcome home thanks to two neighborhood teenagers who had come over and cleared the front sidewalk for us while they were off school.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Play Ball and Speak Up!

Although they were supportive of us three kids, my parents lived their own lives and did not try to live through ours.  I have tried to emulate that.  However, I find as I am aging, it is more difficult to have an engaging life.  With sickness in the family, I am pushed to keep up even the necessary tasks for survival. I really do not feel comfortable making plans with others since I may have to cancel out at the last minute.    Being involved with outside activities is next to impossible.  So my main social life is conducted on Facebook.  Every thing takes me much longer to do than in the past, and even worse I have to schedule rest for myself during the day.  I have said all this to explain why I may be relishing life through children and grandchildren more than through my own  more boring day-to-day activities. 

Last weekend we found out what it was now like to attempt to know what was going on with two softball teams.  There were ten games in two different tournaments that  we were trying to keep up with on college websites. (It was easier for us when we had three family members together at the University of Georgia for the last two years. Of course, we actually are still very interested  in Georgia’s games since we feel quite attached to Coach Lu Harris-Champer and the young women we loved to watch play for the Dawgs.  And they did good last weekend.)

Opening-season games started on Friday with our son Gerry and the Texas A&M team at the SoCal Collegiate Classic tourney in Los Angeles  and granddaughter Geri Ann playing with the University of Oregon at the Kajikawa tourney at Tempe, AZ.  We loved knowing that Vickie was in Arizona stands watching her daughter play as she has for at least 15 years.  (Before that Vickie was watching her two older daughters play while keeping one eye on little Geri Ann playing in the sand pile beside the ball field.)

The opening Friday games went well for both our teams.  Since University of Oregon was ranked 2nd in national pre-season polls, we were not surprised that they won over Cal Poly 8-0 in their first game.  For us, the thrill was that this was Geri Ann’s first time to bat for Oregon and her first time to pitch when she went in after four innings by Karissa Hovinga and gave up only one hit in the last three innings.  Nor were we surprised when they next beat the Texas Longhorns with a run rule 9-0 score.

A&M (ranked 24th in preseason polls) beat Coach Jo Evans’ alma mater Utah  with a 5-1 score in their first game of the season, thanks to a grand slam by Cali Lanphear.. They were not so fortunate, however,  when they had to go up against UCLA, who was ranked seventh in the nation. They lost 13-0.  But since A&M lost eight seniors last year, we were comfortable with a split in the first night of the tournament.

The next day, I was prevented from spending the day in Gerald’s office hovering with him over his computer and eating lunch there. One of Katherine’s aides from another  town, who was scheuleded to be there, had the brakes go out of her car and was stuck at home till her car got out of the shop. So I went in town to do what little I can do to help Katherine.   As it turned out, her evening aide then texted that she was in the emergency room again with her two-year-old so she couldn’t come either. So it was a long day for me and mostly I had to get caught up on softball with Gerald’s accounts of the games.

Oregon continued their winning ways defeating Northwestern Wildcats 8-0 and the North Carolina Tar Heels 8-5. Our excitement was Geri Ann’s first home run for Oregon.  But there was also  good news from Texas A&M. After beating San Diego State 9-5, A&M had their revenge in a re-match with UCLA by winning 6-4.
But the best news of all that night was from granddaughter Cecelie’s speech team from Freeport High School competing in their regional tournament for individual events.  Everyone of the team members qualified to move on up to compete in the Sectionals this Saturday.  We’d heard from Jeannie and Rick as they drove down to watch the events, so we knew they had a great day. Illinois is too long a state for us to attend speech tournaments, but I am a die-hard Pretzel fan for Freeport’s team.

I was pretty tired from Saturday and I needed to sleep late and take it easy because of some leg and back pain that has been handicapping me.  So we had a lazy Sunday and were back in Gerald’s office together to watch Andy Stanley preach on the  computer.

After lunch Texas A&M lost their last game to Purdue, but Oregon won 10-2 with the run rule over the Wisconsin Badgers with Geri Ann pitching a complete game. Oregon won their sixth and final game against Nevada 12-8.  Not a bad beginning with A&M winning three of five games and Oregon winning six games. 

 Facebook was full of rejoicing Freeport speech fans, and we were seeing pictures of granddaughter Brianna and her new friends in Florida.  I thought she was beautiful n her work uniform at Disney.  So even though my life is more restricted than I’d like with some muscle pain slowing me way down, I can vicariously enjoy grandchildren’s activities spread out from Florida in the east and Oregon in the west and the others in between. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

It's Friday Again--Already?

Last Friday I had gotten home from Katherine’s  and was relaxing by surfing the Internet when our daughter Jeannie and her son Elijah arrived together--Jeannie from Freeport and Lige from Illinois State at Bloomington.   Gerald was already in bed as he is an early-to-bed person and an early riser.  The other three of us hurried on to bed without visiting because we knew we needed to be early risers also for the exciting Saturday we had planned.  For the first and I am reasonably sure for the last time in our lives we were planning a one-day trip to Nashville, TN, and back home.  We achieved it. 

We left long before 8 a.m. (the absolute deadline) in order to reach Leslie and Mike’s home for an early lunch before she had to head out to the theater to perform in the matinee that we were there for. Since Elijah would be 22 on Monday, we were also to celebrate his birthday with  the lunch and birthday cake Leslie had waiting for us. We consider Leslie a cake expert since she worked at Kroger her senior year in college decorating cakes. 

Elijah’s cake was  such a reflection of their sibling sense of humor.  It came with a story of how she had one chosen and was ready for the clerk to add wishes and words with Elijah’s name.  But at that moment, she saw another cake with two little figures  on it—figures of who knew what.  Mysterious not-anythings with little faces—so Leslie had to reject the first one chosen and have the writing for Elijah put on the weird- figures cake.   I suspect the employee who goofed up and created that cake was relieved to have someone choose it. Elijah, of course, was pleased with such a unique cake, as his sister knew he would be.

Then Leslie hurried off to the Performing Arts Theater, and Gerald, Jeannie, and Elijah hurried down to the nearest Wal-Mart for Jeannie to grab some things to go with Les’s belated Christmas presents since Les and Mike could not make the trip to Freeport this year for the holidays.  I stayed behind so as not to slow the others  down with my pokey walking and to rest a bit on the living room couch. Mike had just gotten home for lunch and needed to take care of the dogs and work out a bit and planned to go to the evening show with us.

Besides musical rehearsals, dog care was one of the reasons they resisted holiday travel this year. Their big black dogs Sidney and Millie have a new playmate—a beautiful tan and black dog (also big) who showed up at their doorstep and for whom they have spent an enormous amount of time trying to find either Buddy’s former owner or a new owner.  They have located a fine shelter which I think will find Buddy a good home this week. I can vouch for Buddy’s sweet nature.  When Mike let him come bounding down from the dog room upstairs, this furiously fast canine diverted his path towards the kitchen and the backyard and in the flash had leaped into my lap and given me a luscious kiss and was on out the back door before I could say, “Hello, Buddy.”

Leslie had assured us that the venue for Ragtime the Musical was only 15-20 minutes away, and by the time the Wal-Mart purchases were put in gift bags with the other gifts, that was about all the time we had. This theater was new to us for this was the first time Leslie had performed with the Circle Players, a community theater group that participates with  Tennessee State University’s Theater Program. 

Unfortunately, our GPS would not let us put in the name of the street for Performing Arts Center, and when it seemed longer than we expected, we were relieved to see the sign for the Performing Arts Center.  Hopping out to hurriedly to claim the tickets ordered online, we left Gerald to try and find a place to park. The doors were locked, but we sped around the corner to what must be the main entrance, and rushed into the large lobby just as the show would be about to start. It was oddly empty except for a volunteer at the desk asking, “Are you here to see the museum?” Oh oh. There was no show going on in that theater.  

We got directions to the university’s Performing Arts Center, and hurriedly made a phone call to reconnect with Gerald who had finally found parking. The directions we received left a lot to be desired for strangers to the city, the GPS was not helping, and when we finally reached TSU and tried to follow the directions we received at a booth there, we found signs that led us to fenced parking lots with locked gates.  Yet another stop at a another booth on campus straightened us out and Gerald let us out in front of the building with columns while he parked across the street.

There it was the third set of doors that finally  proved to be the right ones; and someone greeted us, took us in, and hand-held us down to great seats near the front of the darkened theater with both understanding  and promises that he would see that Gerald found us. Later I learned that our host had been the Circle Players president himself.  All I know is that gracious welcoming concern made the afternoon immediately turn wonderful as we slipped into the beginning of the 20th  century when Ragtime was the top musical fad of that day.

Based on the novel by E. L. Doctorow, our program explained that three groups of Americans were in this story:  “African Americans, represented by Coalhouse Walker, Jr., a Harlem musician; upper-class suburbanites represented by Mother, the matriarch of a white upper-class family in New Rochelle, New York; and Eastern European immigrants, represented by Tateh, a Jewish immigrant from Latvia.”   It was an exciting time and a troubling time in our nation and we were reminded of how much progress has been made by the women’s movement, the labor movement, and in race and immigrant relations.  We were also frightened by how sadly timely was some of this musical about an over-a-century ago era.

Along with the large cast and choruses, in a play that was mainly moved forward by beautiful solos and delightful choreography, we were also introduced to historical characters  including Harry Houdini, Booker T. Washington, Emma Goldman. Evelyn Nesbit, Matthew Henson, Admiral Robert Peary, Henry Ford, J. P. Morgan, and Harry K. Thaw.  My desire to read the novel and do some research on these people was proof to me of how emotionally compelling the musical was.

We had been able to accept being late for the matinee with fair humor because we knew we would get to see it again that evening before we loaded in the car for the long trip back to Illinois. We met up with Mike for dinner, and even Leslie was able to get off long enough to eat with us since Mike took her back in time to be ready to go again at 7:00.  She was a historical personage I had never heard of—Evelyn Nesbit, a young  girl who made her fortune with her beauty and her fame through the scandalous trial of the century because  two wealthy men fought over her. Hearing Leslie sing is always a highlight for me, and it was  fun to see her sing in her red velvet swing and later as an attraction with Houdini at Atlantic City.

We said quick goodbyes after the night show, and Jeannie got us out of town.  But Gerald  volunteered to drive us most of the way home since Jeannie and Elijah planned very short sleep times at Woodsong.  They were already gone and on the road to Elijah’s church in Bloomington when we got up.    

At our age, it has taken Gerald and me a bit longer to recoup. Soon the music in our heads was wiped away this week’s worries, challenges, and responsibilities. And suddenly it was Friday again.  Gerald helped me finish changing  the bed linens for a new week.                                           

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Better Week

This morning started with hearing laughter in the kitchen while I was still drugged with sleep – even though it was almost nine.   I assumed it was Gerald watching television until I became more awake.  As I gradually began to think more clearly, I realized that it was conversation I was hearing and it must be Mary Ellen and Brianna at the kitchen table with Gerald.

I hopped out of bed as rapidly as I could (which is not very fast since age had made me do everything slowly) and hurried to the kitchen in my flannel pajamas to see our guests.  It was already on my agenda to be sure I saw Brianna today since this evening she is heading to Florida for her spring internship at DisneyWorld.  She and Trent grew up going there, taking Disney cruises, and celebrating at this magical place, and the internship program had been a dream for her.   She has worked so much during her first two years of college that we all are hoping (even though she is going to be working there too) that this will be a spring of fun and relaxation.

Well, finally I think all the Christmas decorations are  hidden away in closets for another year.  I used the word “think” because just like the artificial grass or even  stray jelly beans have  a way of popping up in surprising places weeks after Easter, so do remnants of the Christmas season sometime. 

I still want to look over the Christmas cards and re-read the letters. I used to always do this on New Year’s Day, but I haven’t managed that for a couple of years now.  I also  have a handful of envelopes to check to make sure the address has not changed from what I have recorded on my very worn and messy lists.  The computer lists with addresses that I once knew how to use to print address labels are long gone with long-ago computers.  There are so many things I used to know how to do on older computers that I have never learned to do on this one, which I have had for several years now.

I have always managed to transfer over essays on Elder William “Cedar Billy” Martin that  have been started and stopped for many years. My last  summer project was to update and finalize all I had discovered about my great great great grandfather as a Christmas gift for my children.  That project was abandoned back in October when I had to stop and prepare for a Trail of Tears presentation.  I had planned to finish with Cedar Billy by August 1 and then September 1.  Then I was into October and still working on it when I had brief times to write.

Over and over I was almost done with this grandfather’s story,  but I kept finding details that I needed to check out or questions to try to answer. I was also trying to go through entries on a family Internet group had been  made over many years about our family history.  Completion just kept being delayed.  Finally I had to discipline myself and quit writing and start reviewing what I once knew about the excruciating 1837-38 march that our government forced the Cherokees to make through our region on their way to what later became Oklahoma. 

I feel this historical journey is one that should be known by all Americans in order for us to acknowledge that we too have sometimes acted as brutal terrorists. Only one vote in the Senate caused an illegal treaty to be passed.  Yet in the midst of that sinful federal debauchery, there were many kind souls who refused to bow down to Satan and Andrew Jackson, and those people  ministered to and helped the Cherokee and the other tribes sent west.  It is  important to know some stood up for what was right regardless of the laws passed. Many of our ancestors had no way of understanding what had transpired since prominent citizens and much of the media quoting those self-serving citizens and officials gave misinformation to the masses.  Many, of course, could not read anyway since educational opportunity was scarce back then. 

 I think it is important for us to be aware that we may do terrible things and think we are fighting for righteousness. So back in October I put aside the family information I was working on.  And I struggled to get ready to talk about the terrible trek one group of humans made another group of humans take through Southern Illinois when the two bounding  rivers froze over and the snow on the ground between the rivers was spotted with blood from feet whose moccasins had worn out.  And the aged and the infants were buried in our soil.

The stack of papers and the notebooks on my grandfather has been moved around several times since then, but I have never gotten back to that undertaking, which I assumed I would start up again in November.  But I didn’t.  Now I know that  I must review, sort through all those papers and try my best to wrap up that project. Sometime. But not this weekend.  Family is coming in tonight, and I am happy and excited.  Maybe next week, I will restart.  Reckon I will have it completed for my gift to the children next Christmas? 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Difficult Week

Monday morning started with a phone call from my cousin Helen sharing the sad news that Grant Stanley, the 38-year-old son of my cousin Dick and his wife Irma, had died the previous day of a totally unexpected heart attack.  I had not seen Grant since he was a child ant then went off to college, but Dick had proudly told me when Grant got on with the railroad and lived in Texas.  And, of course, Dick and Irma were very happy when the young family with two of their grandchildren transferred back to Illinois.  Somehow I had missed out on knowing that Grant had married a young woman from our local rural community, but I soon found that out when I went on Facebook and found a grieving comment by one of her family.

I went to Katherine’s for awhile on Monday to write checks for her , but I did not go in Tuesday and Wednesday because I understood she had help.  Gerald and I both had check-up appointments on Wednesday, and when he suggested maybe we could meet up for lunch with our friends Bill and Mickey Tweedy, whom we had not seen in ages, I thought that was a great idea. He dropped me off at  the physical therapy department at the Orthopedic Institute where I was to have the stitches taken out of my hand  from the carpal tunnel surgery. Gerald went back to Marion for his appointment

Measurements were taken of the grip in both hands, and  I was taught more exercises to strengthen my grip and to prevent scar tissue.  I was warned me not lift over ten pounds and not to soak in a hot tub, but I could get the hand wet and even wash a few dishes since I was no longer having to wear a bandage.  Next  I walked down the hall for  the conveniently scheduled 10:10 appointment with the doctor.  I was impressed with their efficiency.

The building is a bit confusing with its various waiting rooms, so with help I finally found where I was supposed to check in, and I sat down to people-watch and to wait to be called in.  I figured Gerald would be done and back by eleven; and as time passed, I wondered if I would be still waiting when he came.  I wasn’t though as I think it was about ten till eleven when I was finally called in.  A nurse checked me over and left. Then I waited a bit longer. 

At that point the surgeon did not show up, but the P.A. did.  He said my hand looked good, told me not to lift anything heavier than five pounds and not to do dishes without a rubber glove and to get an appointment for another look later. Somewhere in here, he said something to the effect that he bet this was one of the shortest doctor appointments I had ever had.  Since by now, it was an hour after I was scheduled to see the doctor, I just smiled and inwardly chuckled.  Gerald was as impatiently waiting as I knew he would be by the time I found the lobby again.  He helped me find the right place to make the next appointment and we exited to the cold winter air.  We had time for one errand in Carbondale before we arrived at Denny’s for our luncheon date with Bill and Mickey, which we enjoyed immensely.

By the time we visited for a couple hours and drove back to Marion and then to the farm, the afternoon was shot and I was tired.  I have a difficult time with acknowledging to myself that I no longer have the energy that I have had in the past.  I am daily shocked at how much rest and how much sleep I need these days.  And how awkwardly and slowly I get around. I really don’t think I should say that I do not like being old, but I don’t.

In an email from my sister acknowledging my message about Grant’s death, I learned my niece in Amarillo had once more ended up in ICU with her blood sugar too low and then too high combined with all her other health problems.  She was out of ICU the next day, and that day rereleased from the hospital.  I was very grateful she had made it through the Christmas season since my sister and brother-in-law had lost one daughter after hospitalization on Christmas Eve and her death on New Year’s Day 2002.   But we know that sooner or later without a miracle that Candy’s health and other problems will defeat her.  So I absorbed that bad news and said one more prayer for her.

Then after a bite of supper, Gerald and I were both back down at our computers, and we got a PM on Facebook about upcoming surgery for yet another loved one. In the hurry to the early appointment,  I had forgotten to take my cell phone with me that morning, and so late in the evening when I went up for night pills and saw my cell phone lying there, I learned from a text that Katherine had not had help because the scheduled aide had unexpected surgery the day before for an ovarian cyst that had flared up causing her great pain.

It seemed as if bad news was coming from all over. Even though I had gotten up early that morning for the appointments, I lingered at the computer surfing to try and erase some of my sad thoughts by thinking about something else before I went to bed.  I shared with a friend on Facebook, and I phoned my sister and learned the latest news about her daughter and then surfed some more reading other people’s blogs. I used distraction to cover up or to prevent worry as I often do.  When I finally let myself go to bed, I did go to sleep without a problem.  I was grateful.

Since Katherine has good and very dependable help on Thursday mornings, I did a few things in the house, fixed Gerald lunch, cleaned the kitchen, and did not go in to Katherine’s until mid-afternoon.   A new aide was just leaving, and Katherine was finally up in her chair looking very pretty and happy over a good day she was having that included a wonderful reference letter given to Sam by one of his teachers.  She had been unable to get an aide for the evening  to replace the hospitalized one, but she left a message for  an amazing friend, a kind and strong young man who comes in an emergency to put her into bed from her chair.  He was out and not available.  Fortunately, another young man who had worked a bit for her before he had surgery last fall was able to come over and use her Hoyer to lift her into bed.  She got to see the photos on his phone of his new son now three months old.

This was early in the evening, and so I had time to stop by and see my daughter Mary Ellen.  Her picnic basket with dishes from Christmas was  in my car trunk, and we had not seen each other since they left our house on Christmas day to drive to Arizona to see Brian’s family.   She was sick while there with what Trent had before they left, and she came home possibly with the crud her mother-in-law had suffered while they were there.  I think Brian was sick sometime in this period of time also. Then Brianna had her turn with the stomach flu, so I had deliberately stayed away from their house.  We had a lot of catch-up visiting to do, and I enjoyed sitting at her kitchen table with her and seeing everyone including Fifi. Brianna will soon be going down to Disney World for her internship service there this spring, so I was especially glad to see her, but I am always glad to get my hug from Trent too.

Tonight is the funeral visitation for my cousin Dick’s son and tomorrow is his funeral. I am dreading it.  My emotions are more difficult to control than they used to be, and for that reason, I have even avoided some funerals in recent months. Dick is actually my first cousin’s son, but he was nearer my age than his mother and most of my other Martin cousins.  I always felt closer to him than many of the older cousins. He and his sister and mother lived with Dick’s grandparents at Goreville, where we spent summers. When my parents  visited them when I was a child, Dickie and I always played together even though I am a couple years older than he is.  When he moved back to Goreville from Texas many years ago and we ran into each other at a Goreville ball game, I exclaimed how glad I was to see him and without thinking called him Dickie.   Embarrassed, I said, “I bet no one calls you that any more.”  He laughed and said, “No, just you and my mother.”  In recent years during his retirement, Dick was extremely sick and I was afraid of losing him. But Irma’s determination and a change in doctor and medicines and a small miracle put him back on his feet in much better health.  How awful that he and Irma must now lose their beautiful talented son so young, his sister Libby must lose her brother, and that his wife and children must go on living without him.