Sunday, September 21, 2014

Heading Toward Harvest

A few weeks ago the gloriously green corn stalks along our lane pleased my eyes each time I went out.  Then the tall tops and the very bottoms near the roots turned brown, but the green was still preeminent. Slowly and gradually, the length of the green was lessening. Now only a little green remains.

Around the corner onto the main road and down a bit, another experimental corn plot was evidently planted earlier—or perhaps it was a variety with a shorter growing period. Those few rows have been completely brown from top to bottom for a week or two.  Yesterday when I drove to town, I saw that swath of corn was deleted with only the stalks remaining.  (Patches on that farm are small because our neighbor’s fields are all research plots, so there is great variety. We have a standing smile that Gerald cannot keep from feeling some horror that planting weeds is sometimes one of the experiments carried on next door.)

Mary Ellen brought over all the fixings for Reubens the other evening and fixed supper for us.  Brian came over a little later because he was getting his combine ready for harvest.  He arrived all showered and clean shaven with crisp sport shirt on, and we teased him that we expected him to arrive in dusty work clothes. The days ahead will be long and hard, and dirty clothes are the proper prideful uniform of a successful farmer.  Although slack seasons had their advantages, the excitement of those over-busy lengthy days of spring planting and fall harvest were always my favorite farm times. Now in retirement, we can only participate vicariously.

I had not realized it had been a month since I had blogged. Gerald told me the other night that he did not know what was going on here at the farm since I had not blogged in so long.  I often wrote a partial blog in my head as I drove back and forth from farm to town, but once I was home, neglected duties always awaited me and I might not get to the computer.  Or if I did, I was too tired to write and would end up surfing on Facebook. 

I do enjoy getting bits of news, gossip, and updates from local people I seldom see in person anymore, and it is amazing to see photographs and news from far away loved ones and distant friends that I used to only hear from at Christmas. I was able to enjoy the first birthday party of my great great nephew Jace down in Amarillo the other night because of all the posted photos. And last night I enjoyed my friend Lois’s trip to Ireland because the beautiful photos posted out in California made me almost smell the Irish air and I could definitely feel the love of her family group traveling on this adventure together.

I notice that private messaging on Facebook has almost replaced emails and often times phone calls.  There was a time in my life when I spent most Saturday mornings phoning far-away kids or other loved ones for hour-long conversations. Now with our cell phones going with us wherever we go and sometimes with reception poor or calls inconvenient if driving or going through a store check-out line, telephone habits have changed.  I still enjoy occasional hour-long talks with my brother and sister, but otherwise our house phone seems to be used mostly for recorded messages from the pharmacy, politicians, or sales  people.

I have been trying to write a family history essay on my great great great grandfather Cedar Billy Martin down in Tennessee.  I am getting close to finishing and admit I will be glad when I complete this project.  This is the third time I have tried to write about him.  In late 1998, I had just retired from the brief career I had in family literacy, and I was trying to learn to use the Internet on Gerald’s new computer. I accidentlaly became involved with distant unknown cousins here in Illinois who had just discovered this ancestor.  

As emails flew back and forth connecting with researchers from other states, my brother’s son offered to hook us all up by creating  an e-group. So for all these years we have shared information on Cedar Billy, his siblings and children, his neighbors, and several collateral lines. Eventually I had a dozen or so notebooks about various family members. During that time, some in the e-group have died, others learned they really were not related, others gotten sick and had to drop out, others lost interest as lives got busy elsewhere, and some of us have gotten old.  Emails to the group with new information has dried up, but all our exciting discoveries and all our mistaken speculations about whose siblings or children went where are still stored in the e-group’s archives. I have been reviewing those archives and my many notebooks attempting to have this essay ready for my children for Christmas.  I like to imagine that 200 years from now some descendant will find out about Cedar Billy and be as excited as I was when I learned of his existence.


In the meantime, I hope to blog a little more faithfully so that you and Gerald can know what it happening here at Woodsong.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Looking Back on a Good Week

It was a good week.  After attending Sunday School last Sunday, I drove into Katherine’s to give her meds and feed her lunch until her afternoon aide arrived.  Back at the farm, Gerald had waited till I returned to take us out to eat dinner, and he chose my favorite restaurant where we had not been recently.

On Monday, we drove up to Mattoon to visit my brother Jim and his wife Vivian for the first time in way too long. With beautiful weather, we had a pleasant trip up stopping at Effingham for lunch   Jim had been in the hospital in July for over a week and had a light heart attack while there and also received three scary procedures with his stints. I was relieved to see him looking so good.  He smilingly told me that he had dressed for our visit, and only the drug store visits had the same honor.  

Adding to our pleasure was their granddaughter Vanessa dropping in.  I had finally brought up her wedding present and had hated for Vivian to have to care for it, so it was great that she happened to come by on an errand on her moving day!  She and her husband are leaving Champaign and moving over to Marshall.  He was at work, but her brother Sean had helped her move that day.  I wish he’d have accidently dropped by too, but I think he is pretty busy with grad school and two or three jobs.  Vanessa walked out to finish her busy day, and our niece Judi walked in! We had a good visit with her too. We left so as not to arrive home too late as we had told them we’d do when we phoned the day before. Vivian invited us to stay for supper, but we wanted to stick to our schedule. 

We had never stopped at Salem to eat before, but feeling adventurous, decided we’d pull off there. I don’t handle pancakes well early in the morning and I am too lazy to make them often in the evening, but I could not resist when I saw the slick colorful photo in the menu. They were delicious.  We arrived home tired but not too tired.

Tuesday after lunch, I had to have an INR at the doctor’s office since the home health nurses had made their last visit at our house the previous week.  Afterwards I ran by the grocery to pick up fruit juices and milk that I knew Katherine and Sam needed before I went to their house to figure hours on aides’ pay sheets and write their checks for the next day.  As it turned out, her aide was suffering from a kidney stone and had to leave early.  So I was glad I was already there to help out.  It was 9:30 when I arrived back at the farm for a late supper and evening pills and an early bedtime.

Starting Wednesday our life on the farm was consumed with the National Pro Fastpitch Championship tourney. Our son Gerry has coached the USSSA Pride this summer.  We were thrilled last week when Pride finished the regular season with the most wins.  Yesterday our week ended with the Pride winning the tournament—the first time for a NPF team to win both the regular season championship and the Championship Series since  the Chicago Bandits did in 2008.

We knew we would be watching many of the best softball players in the world.  The skill of these great women athletes is astounding.  When games were streaming, we watched on Gerald’s computer; and when televised, we watched in the family room.  Sketchy meals were eaten as the game schedule allowed--sometimes in Gerald’s office.  Excitement continued when the Pride came through the semi-finals with two straight victories over Pennsylvania Rebellion. Several of these professionals were on the Olympic teams, and some were ones we used to cheer for at University of Georgia.  (I find it hard not to root for Taylor Schlopy, Alisa Goler, or Megan Wiggins even when they are playing against us.)

Friday started well and was especially a happy day because my friend Dorothy Rudoni finally made it to the farm—a visit we had talked about for years.  We used to see each other at various meetings, but we hadn’t had that opportunity in recent years since I’ve dropped out of most meetings.  She arrived that morning bearing freshly-baked banana bread, and Gerald and I have been so enjoying it ever since.  Best of all was catching up with each other’s lives as we talked as hard and fast as we could and could have kept on talking the rest of the day if time had allowed it.

We did not plan to watch the third game Friday afternoon to see whether the Bandits or Akron Racers ended up going into the finals against Pride.  Not because we were not interested, but because it was Gerald’s brother Garry and his wife Ginger’s 60th wedding anniversary.  Back on July 20, Gerald and I had gone to the hospital to say goodbye to Ginger and to support Garry and their children as they listened to the sad test results following her early morning seizures at the nursing home. 

She had gone to the nursing home after almost dying in a previous hospitalization.  To keep her from starving, a feeding tube was used.  At the nursing home, the family had kept almost constant vigil encouraging her in physical therapy so she could go back home after the terrible damage from the stokes and seizures in May. Actually strokes and seizures have visited her since December 2001 when she lost her short term memory. 

Nevertheless, she has had many active years before the deterioration became worst.  She kept herself attractively dressed and was able to participate very well in family and social life even though she could not remember conversations that just happened.  With excellent help from a neighbor aide to be sure Ginger was safe and to keep her meds straight, Garry was able to keep on farming. But the passing years took their toll.  

Ginger had made it clear she did not want to linger on artificial life support, and with great grief Garry allowed the doctor to take off the horrible mask that was making her grimace in discomfort but helping her breathe.  Immediately she began breathing on her own and in three days was well enough to go home with help from Hospice and some training for the family in using the feeding tube.  Furniture was moved, and a hospital bed was secured for the living room.   

The family has worked together juggling schedules to be sure someone is with her at all times when the aide is not present.  Their reward is knowing that they brought her home as they had told her they hoped to do. There was little communication and few smiles at the nursing home, and there has been a slight improvement at home. She waves back at them often times. She enjoys visitors, and our niece Vicki urges people to come by.  So we went down and were delighted to see how much better she looked than back in July. 

Though she woke up briefly when Gerald stood beside her and called her name, she was soon back asleep.  We enjoyed visiting with her aide and with Garry. And then Ginger’s special friend since her teen years came over from Cape Girardeau with her adult son and daughter and the daughter’s three-year-old granddaughter. Ginger would so have enjoyed the little girl in times past, and she would have loved hearing JoAnn tell the story of how she arranged the blind date for Garry and Ginger to meet, She actually went with them on their first date, and while driving around, they got lost and ended up in a cornfield before dinner.  But Ginger only opened her eyes for them and then fell quickly to sleep again.  She missed the curly-headed blond granddaughter and the story.

But our niece Vicki shared on Facebook the next morning that Ginger was awake for their immediate family supper party, and evidently they let her cut the special cake they brought in for the occasion.   Since then Vicki has posted photos of decorations and the lovely floral arrangement brought in for the foot of her bed. Adult grandchildren are not likely to forget this celebration of sixty years of marriage for a couple who still love one another.  And the celebration must have done Ginger good, for Vicki (who often sleeps on an air mattress beside her mother’s bed) was elated that when she told her mother good morning, Ginger said the words back to her.  

After leaving their farm, we picked up supper from the Anna Subway, so we could eat as soon as we reached home.  We wanted to be ready to watch the first game of the finals at 7, and we found out the Akron Racers had won their second game out of three against the Bandits in the semi-finals Friday afternoon.  Both of those teams have great players and either would be a challenge.  The game began. We sat there enthralled as Cat Osterman threw a complete game shutout with 12 strikes despite being hit in the shin by a hit ball.  It took nine innings to win this tied game, but Pride did it.  We went to bed knowing Saturday would decide which team could win two out of three.


I got up early (for me) and worked as hard as I could trying to get every thing done and an early lunch prepared, so we’d be ready to start cheering Pride at 1:00.  Katherine called during lunch because her aide had to take off early to get a very sick daughter to the ER.  Katherine  did not think her afternoon aide would be able to come because she had left early the previous day for an X ray of her wrist.  So I went out and watched the game with Katherine beside her hospital bed. Mary Ellen was at the farm watching with Gerald. The afternoon aide, 21 years old, actually did show up with a wristband and a carpal tunnel diagnosis and the X ray also showed some arthritis.  I was especially tired from working so hard all morning, so after the aide came in, I went home and took a nap.

I slept very good  with a smile on my face.  After a very close game, Pride turned on in the sixth inning with seven runs. and held the Racers in their sixth and seventh innings for a final score of 8-3,   I imagine Danielle Lawrie slept well too.  It was her final game before retiring.  She had played this summer with her mother traveling with her to care for Lawrie’s baby girl.  She picked up this national tourney win in relief, allowing one run on three hits in her six innings of work.  She retired 12 of the first 13 batters she faced after coming on for the Pride.  What a nice way to exit.


Gerry, Vickie, and Geri Ann left Birmingham this morning in their three vehicles  heading to College Station, Texas, where Gerry will be an associate coach this year.  Their house closing is not until late September, so they will have to rent an apartment while they wait.  But Bryan and Tara Archibald’s family are already there in College Station getting ready for Tara’s new job while Bryan continues working out of their home just as he did in Georgia. He’ll commute to Chicago area headquarters when necessary. Tomorrow the three boys start school.  They have already met their teachers. Erin is there already since she has done some of the prep work for them, so tonight their entire family is together at Tara and Bryan’s place.   I know they must be exhausted and I hope they all sleep well. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Too Early for Summer to End

The thick wall of tall corn as we drive out of our lane reminds us that summer is nearly over.  That is ok and as it should be.  But I am having trouble reconciling my mind to the realization that the grandkids are already back in school.  Hey, I don’t think it is  time yet. Couldn’t we have a little more freedom before the fall schedule begins?

When our nephew and wife were here earlier in the summer, they told us their Wyoming school does not start until after Labor Day.  That is what I call a proper starting time.  But they (both teachers) admitted they don’t like getting out so late in June. Since it has been many years since the school bus stops at our house, I know my opinion is not important nor should it be.

I suspect that eventually school may be all year long.  And when that time comes, it probably will be what people think best. Even now in many families with two working parents, kids might profit and be safer with year-round school.  Not all kids live in the country where they can make mud pies or go down to the creek and swing on grapevines.

Our grandchildren and everyone I know seem to pack so much activity into summer that I am not sure anyone enjoys lazy hazy days of summer with nothing to do anymore.  I always loved having the kids home in the summertime, and I thought their getting bored was sometimes a very positive thing. That is when they had to figure out what to do with their boredom and creativity was sparked.  (They were not supposed to tell me when they were bored, but, of course, they did.  And I would usually scold something to the effect that only boring people are bored.)  But now kids’ schedules are so crammed  that I am not certain they have the privilege of being bored.  But maybe it is better that way.

All the camps, theater activities, 4-H and Scout projects, athletic participation, plus summer assignments in advanced placement classes keep many youth engaged with learning activities all summer, but these at least are fun and different than sitting in the classroom.  Unfortunately, many families cannot afford the extra expense of these pleasant forms of education.  It takes gas and someone to take a child to meetings and sports events.  It takes money for sport or dance shoes and sometimes for costumes or ball bats.  That is why is it so important that working parents make wages that pay for more than just food, rent, and utility bills. 


I started out to just gripe about my grandkids already being back in school. I did not mean to meander into my desire for minimum wages to be raised, so the public could pay less taxes to provide food stamps and noon meals for kids of working parents.  I’d like to see the corporations pay fair wages, so the public did not have to pay for the corporations’ employees health care. I’ve read reports of good results in states that have raised minimum wage. So whether I intended to end up blogging about this or not, my thoughts have ended up here.  I really was just wanting to say summer is drawing to a close and we need to enjoy it all we can.  But if you can afford next summer to buy some kid a pair of sports shoes or pay the fee for his or her participation on the swim team when his parents can’t, that’s a good use of money.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Good Times in the Summer on the Farm

Just viewing our neighbor’s  beautiful field of corn along our driveway and our son-in-law’s soybean field on the corner has been a constant summer pleasure.  Both crops are lusciously gorgeous, and so are the crops up at Wayside on the Pittsburg Road when Gerald occasionally drives us by there. (Yeah, I know that all the great crops means the price will go down, but we don’t want to think about that right now.)

Gerald rebuilt our dock down at the lake, and a favorite summer memory is when he let me take all the time I needed to crawl from the dock into the boat for a ride around the lake.  At that time the other side of our little island was abloom with white Queen Anne’s lace and  yellow black-eyed Susans growing in a background  of  tall brown grass.  The memory of riding through the channel while enjoying this natural artistic mural will likely linger through winter.

Another summer pleasure has been a visit from Jake.  With the Glasco and Archibald families down in Athens, Georgia, and Orlando, Florida, being in a state of transition this summer, Gerry had a buddy bring a couple of dogs up for the rest of the summer.  Jake was delivered to our house, and once again I have enjoyed being able to look out the window and see that little black and white creature with his tail curled above his back exploring the countryside. 

It has been a few years since our main summer social life was attending ball games at local parks watching granddaughters play softball.  But this summer with Gerry coaching USSSA Pride, Gerald and I have watched softball games not just during the college season but all summer.  Often we are eating light suppers in his office—sometimes watching streaming video of the game  and sometimes with Game Tracker.  And we really enjoyed the few televised games that let us watch on the bigger TV in the family room.  So far the Pride is ahead in their league.

Of course, the best summer pleasure has been visits from children,  grandchildren, and far-off relatives.  Our first visitors were our nephew, wife, and son—John and Rhonda Gamble and Tim from Rock Springs, Wyoming.  They were here staying in Marion and exploring our area while visiting family.  Like our great grandsons, Tim liked riding the tractor with Gerald, and we were very impressed at Tim’s patience and politeness with mostly only adults around.  A Glasco gathering at Giant City lodge in their honor was special because we finally met some other new additions to our family.

Since work, camps, and school schedules did not allow our grandchildren to work in our village Vacation Bible School this summer, Elijah and Cecelie came down before his Chicago internship so that five of the six youngest grandkids were able to hang out a couple of days. As usual Geri Ann was the one not here; she moved to Georgia before these kids changed from students to helpers in VBS, but her older sisters and Leslie helped in VBS before this younger crew. I missed hearing them plan VBS skits this year, but I always love seeing them together.

Elijah’s internship was through Illinois State and its purpose was to enlist students to later teach in the Chicago schools. After the internship ended, he came down to see us again, and I so enjoyed hearing him talk about the experience and the excitement of teaching. He lived with a host family and worked in Little Village and spent mornings teaching catch-up math to kids about to enter high school,  Afternoons were spent working in a community center there, and evening classes kept them busy until 8 p.m.  He had not been told he would be teaching math, so he said he spent late evening time on the computer getting ready for the next day’s class.  Even though he is not a math major, he was a good math student whose father taught math, so I am sure he did fine.  (I must confess that the one time I had to sub in an 8th grade math class, I was lost.  Students and taxpayers were cheated that day.) Of course, once Lige arrived at the farm, Sam, Trent, and Brianna were over visiting too.  (Cecelie couldn’t come this time as she was at speech camp.)

A couple of days after Lige arrived, our daughter-in-law Vickie, Geri Ann, and her older sister Tara and three boys—Aidan, Maddux, and Payton—arrived from Georgia around midnight. And shortly before they arrived, Brianna came over to spend the night for this infrequent chance to see Geri Ann. All that driving is hard on little boys, so Tara had it figured out that the little guys could play hard on the farm for a day before the four of them continued their travel to Chicago to watch USSSA Pride play and visit with her dad and then on to her mother-in-law’s home where her husband would be joining them when he did one of his check-ins with his company headquarters nearby. 

The two Georgia families have traveled back and forth to Orlando this summer to be with Gerry and have seen a lot of Disney World, but last week they were checking in here for visits with family since they will be moving to Texas next week.  After the Pride season is over, Gerry will be joining them and their middle daughter Erin at College Station as he starts his new position as associate head softball coach for A&M.  Erin will be teaching and coaching at a different school this year much closer to College Station, and she is excited that her parents and Tara’s family are going to be there with her.

Tara and Bryan already have their house rented and the boys enrolled in school thanks to Erin’s help. (Gerry and Vickie have a realtor finding them a place in this booming region.) Tara will be working with the establishment of a sports complex that is being built there, and her husband Bryan will continue working for his Chicago-area firm flying in and out when need be, but otherwise keeping office hours in their home. 

Geri Ann is transferring to the University of Oregon, and will be playing softball with the Ducks this year.  So this visit at home with her families and with friends from her years growing up in Johnston City was very important to her and all of us.  We already  don’t see enough of her, and now we know we will see even less of her in the near future.  Oregon is known for an outstanding special education school, so that played into Geri Ann’s choice.  Elijah was excited to get to talk shop about special ed with Geri Ann.

We did not know it, but Vickie’s mother (G’ma Shirley) broke an ankle the same day I went into the hospital, so Vickie spent  most of her time at her mother’s house, but she did get to fish a couple of times down at the lake—once even with her brother and nephew.  Mary Ellen joined that boat ride, and some of us feasted afterward with the barbecued pork sandwiches that Mary Ellen brought over.

Even though grandkids were getting together and coming and going with their planned activities, I was thinking they were not as involved with hi-jinks as usual and they too were getting old!  (Who knows what hi-jinks happened that I did not know about?  And maybe that is for the best.) Lige had taken me in to help Katherine one evening, and Geri Ann and Brianna showed up there to visit with Sam. (He has been super busy all summer with various camps and projects including all-day marching band last week and this. They are getting ready for the fall football season). 

Lige took me home, and I left the front door unlocked when I went to bed because he said the girls were going to rent a movie and be out soon. The next morning, I woke up to laughter on the deck outside the bedroom. Lige, Geri Ann, and Brianna were sitting there leaning against the wall looking out over the lake awaiting the sunrise.  They had pulled an all-nighter while watching old tapes of family gatherings when they were little.  Before I rolled over and went back to sleep until the middle of the morning, I could not help but smile that they were still quite young and going strong.  


The three great grandsons’ visiting  is always especially fun for Gerald and them. He will have the lime pile ready for them to dig it, and he’s prepared to give rides.  We have had some tractor trouble this summer and a slow repairman that did not come when he was supposed to.  So there were no tractor rides on the stop here on the way up to Chicago.  I do not think the boys minded because there were other things to ride on, and Aidan has been declared responsible enough to drive the all-terrain vehicle.  Fortunately on their way back through, the tractor was ready, and Gerald was able to satisfy that tradition. They  were even able to ride along in the cab’s buddy seat as he  knocked down a few little trees on the edge of the woods.  Summer time on the farm is a good place to be.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Good Reports

Last Sunday Gerald took us down to Cape Girardeau to the hospital to join others there to offer our emotional support to his brother Garry, who had been told his wife needed to have her life support stopped.  With great anguish and emotional trauma, Garry did what Ginger had said she wanted under these conditions.  And she started breathing on her own.  Her daughter Vicki spent the night with Ginger, and by the next day, Ginger even said a word or two to Garry. 

He and their son Kerry began making the arrangements to take Ginger home to the farm—just as they had been explaining to her they were trying to accomplish while she was in the nursing home those three months.   They secured a hospital bed and hospice was made available to them.  They received some training about her care. By Tuesday late, the ambulance took Ginger home.  All reports are that Ginger is very happy and peaceful being back at her beloved home, and her family is very happy to have her there.  She is communicating some, and everyone feels good that God is in charge of her life now—not artificial support.

My brother Jim was in the hospital waiting more repair or some kind of work done on stints following the surgery done Friday on his 86th birthday.  On Monday that work was postponed until the next day to let his kidneys recover more from Friday’s procedure.  Tuesday’s phone call said he had the surgery on the stint on his right side of heart but was being kept in the hospital over night following that morning’s work just to be sure all was well.  Later he could face what needed to be done of the left side.  However, evidently the problems on the left side were more serious than hoped because he still had more chest pains. So yesterday his wife Vivian’s phone call explained that another surgery had worked on his left side.  He was supposed to go home today unless I heard differently.  His two daughters live locally, and their only son has come down from the quad city area to stay with them and help during this recuperation just as Robert did last fall following the four stints put in at Springfield. So I am relieved that my brother is home where I know he wants to be, and Vivian and their children are there taking care of him. 

Other good reports include the local news that the two young girls who were injured in the tragic accident coming home from Evansville are doing good and preparing for their start soon as new high school students.  I am sure that they both have much work and pain ahead of them before their recovery is complete.  But since one had not even been expected to live (and might have never recovered if she did live), people are so happy and excited about progress that one doctor described as a miracle.  It has been satisfying to know of the prayers and the concern that our community had shown for these young people as well as for the family who lost their loved one in that accident.

Katherine’s hospital stay at Carbondale, which coincided with mine in Marion, seems to have helped her not only to get over her latest UTI but in other ways also made her stronger.  When Gerald and I have gone by, she looked good and was cheerful, the house looked well kept, and things seemed to be going as well as when I was going in to help.  

Our long-time neighbor Edith Tanner, whom we had received a message about when we returned home last Sunday, did pass away on Tuesday.  And so did Russell Stapleton, our neighbor on the other side of our Pondside Farm house. Our children played with their children, and we know how much they loved their parents.  Russ served through terrible times while in service during World War II, but he never complained about it.

Then he and Mildred endured the deaths of their two oldest sons in recent years.  I liked seeing the photos of their younger days displayed at the visitation Wednesday night.  And I loved the story Bruce Beasley told me as we visited together as our long line moved forward toward the casket. Mildred had told Bruce she knew Russ really loved her because when they were dating, he walked up from Pope County each weekend to stay with his relatives so he could visit her and take her to church.  Then he would walk back home to Pope County. Yes, that is certainly proof of true love as was his faithful care of his family and his long years in the coal mines. What their many years of service meant to our community is immeasurable.  Russell and Edith were both wonderful neighbors, but both had lived long lives and were no longer healthy or able to do the things they loved.  I consider death a wonderful blessing as we age, and I know that both are in a better place experiencing a happiness we cannot even imagine.


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!