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.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Beginning the New Year--Slowly

The trees are down and stored away for another year.  Most of the other holiday paraphernalia is still on the guest beds waiting for me to get down the proper big boxes to put stuff away in.  The little manager scenes are yet undisturbed perhaps because I am reluctant to admit the season is over and that I should be getting on to other duties.  Or perhaps because expected and unexpected appointments have limited and confused any efforts at a regular schedule, so it has seemed easier just to continue on in vacation mode doing only the most minor but necessary tasks.  Or perhaps it is because I am old enough that energy is limited and ambition almost non-existent.

In less than a week now, the stitches will be taken out of the palm of my right hand where the carpal tunnel problem has been corrected. . I assume the “Do not get it wet” order will also be suspended then. The bulky bandage was taken off last week and replaced with just a large band-aid.   I shall be glad for this final step, although my excuse for doing nothing will be taken away from me, and I admit to sort of enjoying this lazy spell.  I was first told not to lift anything heavier than a pound, and then a therapist said she told patients it was better to not lift anything heavier than a piece of paper. The less sore the incision is the more I forget and use my right hand naturally although I am trying to be protective.  Everything about the procedure has gone very well. The pain pills that Gerald made a special trip to town to pick up for me have never needed to be opened.

Two nights before the scheduled surgery, however, I broke a front tooth out at supper.  It was one week before an appointment with a new dentist scheduled six months ago.  That was certainly discomforting. My teeth have been a mess for years—partly I assume because I was never able to adjust to wearing a partial decades ago.  That dentist was very fine and tried very hard.  I did learn to speak with the partial in, but I could not adjust to wearing it, no matter what the dentist did. Gerald always explains that if I wasn’t born with it, I can’t wear it.  After constantly taking my glasses off unconsciously and leaving them where I knew not, I have finally learned to leave them on most of the time as my eye sight has weakened through the years.  But necklaces and dentures never became something I could stand for very long at a time. Anyhow that weakness of mine is how I explain my awful teeth situation and the small fortune spent on them through the years. It also explains a slight guilt complex I have about my teeth.

When I hesitantly called the new dentist office about my crisis, I felt like an interloper not deserving attention since I had never even been there yet. The receptionist on the telephone, however, could not have been sweeter or nicer if I had been her biological sister. Fortunately there had been a couple of cancellations that very morning for the partner of the dentist I was originally scheduled to see.  Before I knew it, I was sitting in his chair and getting a root canal and being encouraged by him to believe my problem was quite fixable. Both the dentist and his staff were so conscientious and caring to make sure I understood that I was considered a person in need of attention and I was on their call-as- soon-a-s possible list when they had another cancellation. Otherwise I had an appointment for March 2 to get a new tooth to fill that awful gap in the front of my face.  On Tuesday, I received a call to come in yesterday morning. I left the office with a new tooth that matched my others perfectly since they had kept and matched the color of my broken-off tooth, which I had taken with me in a sandwich bag.  I could not have had a more heart-warming and confidence-producing introduction to my new dental office. 

Down through the years, I have heard some terrible horror stories of arrogant and unkind receptionists who poorly served patients. I have been fortunate to not have to tolerate that sort of cruelty, but I have sympathized with those who have.  I have no respect for a physician or dentist who allows discourtesy or damage to patients by underlings. Some friends have doctors in a group practice who have claimed for that reason they could not control the staff.  Thus, they acted as if they were innocent of their staff’s rudeness or even neglect to pass information onto to the doctor. I never bought that bunk for one minute.  Depending on the rarity of the specialty available in our area, however, some have had to put up with this nonsense in order to get needed care. I believe the atmosphere and behavior of his or her staff is not only the responsibility of one’s doctor but is likely created by the doctor.  I left my new dentist office totally convinced that the warmth and pleasantness I experienced there reflected and enhanced his competence and concern.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Happy Holidays Are Almost Over

Our last expected holiday guests, granddaughter Tara’s family, left us Sunday evening to go back to her Gma Shirley’s house just a couple roads away from us.  There they would celebrate Christmas with her and Tara’s uncles’ families before they piled back into their vehicle with their three little guys—Aidan, Maddux, and Payton—for the long exhausting trip back to Texas.  We were happy for the phone call yesterday saying they were home safe and sound.  They’d visited Bryan’s northern Illinois families earlier and arrived at the farm late Saturday night. 
Gerald and I were impressed this season with how blessed we are to be experiencing life all over again with another generation.  He decided to put up outside lights for the first time in a couple of years; and in the attic over the garage where the lights were stored, he found a couple of cardboard boxes labeled:  “Little Gerry’s Trucks” and “Little Gerry’s Machinery.”  He could not resist bringing them down to the corner of the kitchen.  When we moved here, there was no one to play with them.  But I couldn’t stand to part with them despite their being all scarred and scraped from Gerry’s hard play in the dirt pile beside our house at Pondside Farm. My thought was that maybe decades from now some stranger would stumble on them in the attic and be as thrilled as I was with a dish shard that Gerald found in our garden area when we built on this spot.
But with the addition of Gerry’s three grandsons to our family, Gerald wanted to see if these boys would be interested in these ancient playthings. Oh yes, once their bellies were full of bacon and Gerald pointed out the boxes Sunday morning, they were fascinated and excited to play with these worn saved toys from two generations back.  Their family’s  plan was to go to Gma Shirley’s house that morning since that was the only time Tara’s cousin Jeremy could be there with their daughter Kinsley, who is the boys’ age and very important in their lives even though they are only able to be together a few times a year.  But they got in enough play on the kitchen floor with their grandfather’s old toys to have made it worth while for Gerald to have carried the boxes down on the fold-down ladder.
When they came back for lunch, I was delighted that Kinsley was with them as she was not content with only a couple of hours’ play.  Quickly I set another plate on the table, but when it was time to go downstairs to the family room tree and open presents, I realized she would not have anything to open.  I did not shop this year and had pretty much used up anything I had stored away in the guest room’s “gift drawers.”  But I went in to look around anyhow, and there I realized I had the perfect gift for Kinsley.  A couple weeks ago when I was taking books out of the drawer, I wondered why I still had two sets of the first two Betsy-Tacy books and wondered who I could give them to.  Quickly I stuck the two little books in a gift bag and joined the others going downstairs.
Before Tara and Bryan had to return that evening for the Johnson dinner at Gma Shirley’s before the drive back to College Station, there was plenty of time for Gerald to enjoy seeing the kids play with the new toys he had shopped and wrapped for them. Riding the farm equipment is taken for granted when the boys visit, and despite the cold, they could not resist playing in the lime pile that Gerald keeps for them under the back shed.
 It was later in the afternoon that Gerald and I were so impressed with the knowledge that family history was repeating itself for us.  One of Katherine’s aides had not shown up, and I had gone in to give meds.  But another aide came in at 4, and I was able to return before our company left.  The family room was uncannily quiet, and I asked where were the kids.  It was explained they were in the next room preparing a play.  Soon they came out in construction paper costumes thanks to a confiscated roll of scotch tape from Gerald’s office.   Ah, yes, we’ve been down this path many times. Kinsley was narrator, and while Payton was king for awhile, before it was over he too proceeded to have a sword battle with Mddux just as Aidan had done.  Madd was really good at dying, which he did more than once. This sure brought back memories of confusing but satisfying short holiday plays our grandchildren used to produce for us.
Tara’s two sisters, Erin and Geri Ann, had come in from Texas the previous Sunday and stayed through Friday morning.  We loved catching up with their lives once more and hearing about their friends as they came and went trying to see as many of their local buddies as they could.
Rick, our Freeport son-in-law, had taken his older daughter Leslie down to Belmont on a college tour while she was in high school, and he wanted to do the same for Cecelie and her friend Ryan.  So they planned a tour of Liberty University in Virginia during their break. Elijah had gone along to help drive and to get in on the visit to Leslie and Mike in Nashville on the way back. Jeannie was staying home preparing for their family Christmas.  Elijah had texted he thought they’d be at the farm around 9 or 10 Tuesday night.  Erin and Geri Ann already had a dinner date in town that night with their Johnson cousins, but they’d be back in time for a good visit.
I invited the Mary Ellen’s family over for the frozen lasagna I planned to bake for supper thinking that way there would be some food in the house in case any of the Eilers were hungry when they arrived later.  As it turned out, the four from Freeport arrived earlier and were able to eat with us, so the local cousins gathered in.  There were 12 instead of six for supper, and that was fine because fortunately I had put two lasagnas in the oven.
When Jeannie called me about their coming through, I assured her that would be great but the kids might have to sleep on couches since Erin and Geri Ann were already settled in the two downstairs bedrooms.  At bedtime after Erin and Geri Ann had joined the others, I was silly enough to go down and lay out some sheets and blankets for the couches.  Fortunately, unlike my previous habit, I decided these young adults were old enough to make up their own couches.
There is one “new” full-size couch in the family room probably not over a decade old.  And elsewhere there are three very old couches I have hung onto for visiting grandchildren when needed. One in my office and two in the room, which some might call a junk room.  I first chose to call it the art room for the kids.  For years they would disappear together into that room to dream up all sorts of projects sitting on little plastic chairs around  the  table created by a unused door laid on a couple of stools for their art table.  When they out grew the little chairs and the short table, a discarded kitchen table was used in that room with the two old couches and a television Gerald installed. Now it became the grandkids’ den.  I say it was silly of me to gather up sheets and blankets because once again as they did the last time they had the infrequent but cherished opportunity to visit with Geri Ann, these guys pulled an all- nighter.
As it happened, Gerald had already made a Wednesday morning breakfast date with Geri Ann and Erin to go with him to the Jonesboro breakfast place where he occasionally meets up with his brothers and nephews who are habitually there. So Geri Ann had not been to bed when they left Woodsong at five for the drive to Jonesboro.  Since Erin is one of the older and more sensible grandkids, she had.  I have been told that there was a rush for her room with its two beds for an hour or so of sleep for the partiers since Rick had told everyone they were going to leave at eight the next morning. I hated to see them go but knew they had long hours of travel ahead, and I bet they slept very well on the way to Freeport. Geri Ann caught up when she got home from breakfast!
Christmas Eve was quiet at Woodsong since Erin and Geri Ann were at the Christmas celebration at Gma Shirley’s house.  The next morning was also unusually calm here as I put the ham in the oven and started noon dinner preparations.  Katherine had arranged for her usual Thursday morning aide to come in since that wonderful aide had her family celebration the Sunday before Christmas.  She had Katherine up and dressed and into her chair for David to bring out in the van, and Sam came in his car.  
I had told Mary Ellen not to bring anything since their family were leaving that very afternoon for Arizona.  I wasn’t surprised that they brought a cookie tray someone had gifted them with and Trent and Brianna’s annual peanut butter chocolate candies that they traditionally make. I was surprised that   Mary Ellen had gotten up and decided to make a huge pot of home-made chicken and dumplings for the first time in her life. (I got lazy a long time ago and make dumplings from tortillas.)  Hers were the real thing and so delicious, and the best part was she left them for us, and we have enjoyed them the entire holiday season! 
Gerald's brother Garry had driven up from his farm in the Mississippi bottoms, so we had twelve here for dinner before we went down to open presents.  I’d also given Mary Ellen orders not to do all the dish clean up she always insists on doing. But before we left the table, she had much of the clean up accomplished.  All and all although we were disappointed Gerry and Vickie could not be with us as usual, it was a very good day. We have grown used to Jeannie’s family not being able to come down at Christmas, and they had the experience of Leslie and Mike not being able to make it up to Freeport this year.  (Besides weather and travel dangers, they had their dogs, Millie and Sidney, needing to be at home and Leslie had Ragtime rehearsals.)  Yes, families grow up and move away and traditions must change, but with great grandchildren to visit, some things seem much the same.