Saturday, February 24, 2007

Good-bye Little Sis

"Our" little sister, Ernestine, left Saint Louis today for the flight home to Salt Lake City, where her husband Don would meet her for the drive back to Rock Springs, Wyoming. After cereal, juice, and coffee here at Woodsong, Gerald took her up to see Kenny again at the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes.

Gerald came home with much enthusiasm at how good Ken was looking. He is close to two weeks into the treatment now. The last time Gerald, Keith, and Ernestine were up there, Ken had been full of extra fluid. But with gallons drained before today, Ken is through this first crisis, and his doctors say he is doing even better than they expected. Gerald said the doctor laughingly reminded Kenny he was not 25. But I bet not many 25-year-olds could sit on a dozer all day like he has. And I suspect Kenny could still tramp through the woods coon hunting as good as some 25-year-olds although he did give up hunting quite a while back, I guess because of his arthritis.

After lunch in Saint Louis with Mary Ellen and Brian, final picture taking, and final hugs, Gerald took Ernestine to Lambert, and walked with her as far as he was allowed to go. She was worrying about his driving home in possible ice, and he was worrying about her safe arrival back home. There was lots of rain for him to drive through, but no ice. Our daughter-in-law Vickie is at Palm Springs watching Notre Dame in a softball tourney there, and discussion about the games with Tara kept him awake as he drove home to Woodsong.

Vickie watches a game and makes phone call updates to Gerry in Mexico and Tara in Aurora. Erin had gone one-for-two in hitting during the first game, but unfortunately ND lost. We haven’t heard about the second game’s outcome yet, but I assume we will before the evening is over.

By now Ernestine is probably dining in Salt Lake with Don. Gerald has updated Keith and Garry on their brother, and he has gone up to see his friend "Bun" Handkins to tell him the latest news on Ken.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Battling AML

Gerald's sister Ernestine arrived from Rock Springs, Wyoming, on Tuesday in Saint Louis. Gerald had gone up on Monday, and he met her and took her to the cancer unit at Barnes Hospital to visit their brother Kenny. His intense treatment for Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) started that day.

Our son-in-law Brian picked Ernestine up and took her to their home for the night, and Mary Ellen brought her back to Barnes the next day. We went up to visit Ken on Wednesday and brought Ernestine home with us. He was in good spirits and looked so healthy. The nurses made us very welcome and, of course, we all wore masks and did not touch Ken. Meds had stopped his first touch of nausea right before we arrived.

Some or all of his children and spouses were coming in that evening for a surprise visit for Valentine's Day to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Ken's open-heart surgery. For a few years after the surgery, Opal, Ken's wife whom he was introducing to all his nurses as "Opal--my first wife" would throw a family Valentine party to celebrate the successful surgery.

So the family was surprising Ken and Opal by showing up dressed up in red finery hoping to bring cheer. The tests given on Monday had confirmed that his heart was in good shape for the chemo, which was certainly something to celebrate.

However, that night his temperature went up and he has been battling ever since. The temp will come down and then go up again. Opal and his son, Bryce, bathed him and would bring it down. When it shot up to over 104 degrees, he was packed in ice to bring it down. Next morning it normal and so it has continued up and down. A bad night. A good night. A bad night.

Blood tests were being cultured, and so far, no indication of bacteria causing infection has been found. After the temp went so high, the first two antibiotics were switched off and two new ones are being tried. Family were in and out all weekend helping Opal. We keep telephone chains going trying to keep up with reports on his condition. Sometimes he has been up enough to talk to one of the brothers on the telephone.

Now he is almost through the first week of therapy, which as I understand it--which, of course, I do not--will kill his white blood cells. Then there will be three more weeks of intense treatment. And intense prayers from his loved ones.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Trail of Tears Through Southern Illinois

Since it is after midnight, I guess I will have to date this January 10. It has been a difficult week with health and family emergencies, but I am not going to dwell on those tonight.

Instead let me share some exciting plans made at the Trail of Tears Association board meeting on Wednesday night. While Gerald attended Geri Ann’s volleyball game at Johnston City, I traveled to Carbondale where we met in the geology conference room on the Southern Illinois University campus.

The first meeting of the Illinois Trail of Tears Association in 2007 will be a very special event. Illinoisans are encouraged to come and share their family stories about the Trail of Tears. At every TOTA meeting, there are people who have descended from Cherokee that for one reason or another dropped off the Trail in Southern Illinois. We need to collect and save these priceless family stories.

This sharing will take place at a very informal meeting at Camp Ground Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Union County starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 14. The public is encouraged to bring letters, documentation, diaries, handed-down oral history, etc. to share in the church sanctuary. Copy facilities will be available for sharing with TOTA. (No one will have to leave material behind.)

For anyone too shy to share publicly, there is the option of a private interview in a classroom. If it is impossible for someone to come and share that day, a later private sharing time can be arranged. Dwight Boaz will be recording by video for those who agree to be taped. It is hoped that this event produces an ongoing collection of oral history helping us to appreciate the historic legacy in our area associated with the Trail.

Harvey Henson of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s geology department will also be on the cemetery grounds demonstrating a non-invasive way to discover burial sites. The Camp Ground cemetery and church grounds have been certified by the National Park Service as a site where many Cherokee camped on the Trail. Oral tradition has allowed us to know of the burial there in unmarked graves of those who died in that area of the Trail.

There will be displays and information to browse. The Camp Ground Church is serving refreshments to those attending.

The Illinois Trail of Tears Association meets three times a year. The purpose is to discover and share information about the 1838 Trail of Tears through Southern Illinois and to encourage the development and preservation of the Trail. The public is always invited to the meetings.

The summer TOTA meeting will be in Chicago at the Newberry Library on Saturday, June 9, at 1 p.m. Program to be announced. [Correction on February 24: This date has now been changed to June 23 at the Towner's Lounge at Newberry Library.]

The final TOTA meeting of 2007 will be Saturday, October 6, at Golconda, where many of the Cherokee entered our state crossing over the Ohio River on a ferry from Kentucky. Place and program to be announced.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Winter Book Fair on February 3 at Mall

Sometime during the night we got our first snow to really cover the ground. A very light snow even so, and it was all over by the time we woke up and looked out the windows.

It was slick enough that Gerald was willing to take me to John A. Logan College, where I was to pick up our Southern Illinois Writers Guild anthologies. Now our SIWG members can sell them at the Winter Book Fair at the Illinois Centre Mall this Saturday from 10 to 4. In fact, Gerald wanted to take the truck--partly because of the slick country roads and partly to keep the car clean. That was very generous since he has just washed his truck, and it came back from this trip dirty.

SIWG is a student organization at JALC as well open to the public. Established in 1982, SIWG has been active ever since although there were a couple of times that leadership moved and membership waned. We have been especially proud of several students who have participated in the Guild this past year. The students are very stimulating to nonstudent members, and I like to think that they can learn from older writers' experiences.

The rolling suitcase with the anthologies had been stored at the college following our participation in the AutumnFest, where SIWG had a table and authors sold their books and the anthologies. The anthologies had ended up in the upstairs storage room called "The Cage" because of the locked wire fences there protecting stored items. A student worker graciously took us up to retrieve our suitcase, and now I need to inventory what is inside in the morning.

After a couple of early anthologies produced during the beginning years, the Guild's efforts for a third one failed. Finally Carol Cross became our president, and she carried an anthology to completion in 2002. She did much more than her share of the typing and work and so did her husband Bud. Anne-Marie Legan, Hua-ling Hu, Jim Smith, and others helped her, but she was the one who got the job done. This first new effort contained poems, articles, short stories, drama by SIWG members, and it sold well for the $5 fee charged.

Inspired by that success, others have continued the editing work including Joanna Gray, Laura Warfel, Ruby Jung, Phil West, and Roger Poppen. Many members have their first publication credit through the anthology. Roger has been elected editor for the next anthology and he is already hard at work. The Guild accepted his idea of our sponsoring a contest in connection with the next anthology and opening to members and nonmembers alike. You can check the contest out at this site:>.

We are very pleased that the fifth anthology--now called The Writer's Voice Annual--is hot off the press and will be offered to the public for the first time this Saturday at the second annual Winter Book Fair at the Illinois Centre Mall from l0 to 4.

It will be an exciting day for book lovers to have the opportunity to meet all their favorite local authors in the center court. Many authors will also be reading from their works on the stage there. I have been sniffling and coughing all week since I woke up with a cold Monday morning, but I intend to be well enough to read by Saturday! I don't want to miss this special day.