Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spring Is Springing

On the walk to the mailbox yesterday to mail a letter and pick up our newspaper from the paper box, I was pleased with all the henbit and other tiny flowers by the road. The one mound of dirt from a crawdad making a hole into the ground reminded me of long ago when our children were always fascinated by the many such holes by the pond at the edge of our yard.

The reason I was going to get the newspaper yesterday was that Gerald had left at 3 a.m. to meet Gerry for a last-minute trip to Waco to watch Erin and Texas A&M play Baylor on their home field. Walking down the lane for our newspaper is usually the first task Gerald does each day, and I am spoiled to find it on the breakfast table in the kitchen when I get up much later. Although I would have loved to see the Baylor campus and certainly been thrilled to see Erin, I thought better of tagging along on this hurriedly planned and executed trip because the arthritis that the last trip to Texas stirred up still causes me pain.

Just the trip to St. Louis on Tuesday was painful. (Of course just sitting, walking, or lying in bed can be painful at times also. Other times I am pain free.) I need lots of time to get out and walk and break up a long car trip. We had gone to St. Louis for Gerald’s six-month appointment with the cardiologist there because the ice storm prevented his doctor making his usual trip to Murphysboro for a February appointment. With this trip to Texas suddenly planned, we didn’t dally on our St. Louis jaunt as we might have otherwise, but we enjoyed the pleasant spring drive and especially the trip home since the doctor had given Gerald an excellent report.

I watched the Baylor-Texas A&M game on game tracker in Gerald’s office as usual except by myself and was delighted we won over them the second time. Gerald was still elated when he called at 10 p.m. after watching Erin play and then briefly seeing her as the team collected carry-out at a restaurant before their long bus ride back to College Station. The plan then was for him and Gerry to drive for awhile and get a motel.

Since Gerald had the car, I drove the pickup into Katherine’s this morning. She had an occupational therapist coming to help her work out more efficient ways of doing everyday activities. I was able to fix Sam an egg sandwich when he woke up and even fixed his mac and cheese for him before I left to come back home. (He is quite capable of fixing his own, but I enjoyed doing it and hearing about their two-day trip to the St. Louis zoo and science center.) I was in no hurry to get home since I assumed there was no one to fix lunch for at our house.

However, when I pulled into the garage, there was our car. And downstairs Gerald was conked out fast asleep in his easy chair in the family room. He and Gerry had just kept driving all night, and they were home before ten this morning. I served him a sandwich from the Easter ham and listened to the story of their trip.

I have spent the week gathering up Easter decorations and getting ready to put them away for next year. The bouquet of daffodils that Sharon Robinson gave me has been thrown away now, and most of the left-overs are either eaten up or stuck in the freezer.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Oh, Didn't It Rain?

The local TV station is calling the two days of rain “A Rain Event.” That seems appropriate. In fact, Jim Razor said there has never in recorded weather history been this kind of rainfall in our area. I hope it never happens again!

We are blessed to live on a hillside, and our roads to town were passable yesterday, when I carried out my plans to do numerous errands.. One corner had rain over a wider area than I had ever seen before, but there was room on the left side of road to drive safely on the gravel.

Once I got to Marion, I picked my roads carefully around town. Nevertheless, I was soaked over and over each time I had to leave the car to do one more errand. My raincoat was soaked through despite my umbrella. Wading through all the accumulated water when I stepped out of the car, my shoes and sox were constantly soggy.My slacks were wet half way to my knees. It felt wonderful to be safely back home and change clothes and put on warm fuzzy socks on my chilled feet.

Listening to the weather forecasts last night warning that today’s situation would be worse, I was almost afraid to go out despite my volunteering to help man the Southern Illinois Writers Guild table at John A. Logan College’s Club Day. My straggly hair had not recovered from yesterday's drenching. I really did not need to be seen in public! While I was still deciding if I should go, Pat Evans called that she could not make it as a friend called her just as she was heading out the door to tell her that Route 148 was closed.

Not wanting Jim Lambert to have to work the table alone, I decided to see what our roads looked like. I knew Route 13 to Carterville would be fine. I needn’t have worried. That one bad curve had drained during the night. Unfortunately, many people were not so fortunate. The damage continues to rise including two deaths that were reported tonight when a pickup drove through water and was floated away by the swift current.

At the college, the parking lots were almost full, so most of the students had made it to class despite the flooding. I hurried in to join Jim, who had our table all set up. It was fun to visit with Fog Gilbert on his way to class and then again afterwards when he came and sat at our table awhile. His students stopped by, and one young woman said he had made class so interesting that she only missed that 8 a.m. class one time—when she ran out of gas on the way to school and had to be rescued by her grandfather too late to go on to Fog’s class. And she said his class was not even in her major. Harry Mosley stopped by and visited with us as did SIWG member Deana Smith. We gave her books for her charity book basket.

I even got a glimse of Adrienne Barkley Giffen caught up in the beat as she came down the hall from the booming music in the cafeteria. I had just walked that way after hanging up flyers for our March 29th Trail of Tears Association meeting at Saline County Museum at Harrisburg. I too found myself walking to that beat also even if I am a senior citizen.

It is always stimulating to be around college students and to know how many opportunities lie ahead of them. And it is especially gratifying to meet the writers among them. We are hoping some will show up tomorrow night for our Critique Night and bring some of their writing to share.

A nice ending to the day came as we watched Texas A&M win their first conference game and beat Baylor 7-0.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Returning to Everyday Life

Note: Trying the 6th time to get the following posted. This was written before midnight last night right on the Wednesday schedule. Although blogger says it is published, it does not show up on Woodsong Notes. I hope it does this time.

Monday Gerald had to make-up the income tax appointment he missed last week with Doug Hileman. Between the time change making him lose track of time and the appointment taking longer than he expected, he didn’t make it home in time to go to Geri Ann’s volleyball game with me. Since he couldn’t make the game and he was already in Union County, he ran by Keith and Barbara’s. Yesterday he ran by Opal’s, and in the afternoon he attended the Johnston City softball game against my alma mater Anna-Jonesboro. This time I couldn’t go because I was giving the devotional at our class meeting at Sharon Odom’s at 6:30.

Today he and Keith went to Amish country across the Ohio River near Marion, Kentucky. It is a good thing they went today because the river is rising again, and the ferry is expected to close.

Keith has a beef ready for us to butcher, and they were looking for the man who had butchered for us years ago. We have been buying beef from the grocery store for a number of years now, so it will be good to have the freezer full again. While they were there, they ran by the farms of friends John and Barbara Beachey and Lester Stutzman.

They were impressed with young Ben Beachey’s harness making, and Gerald just had to have one of the belts he makes. Back at Woodsong, Gerald proudly placed a jar of freshly made maple syrup that John gave him and a jar of sugar-free blackberry jam that he said the school teacher made. I need to ask him more about that tomorrow.

Before supper, he already had a photo developed of a farmer with his plow pulled by three sturdy work horses. After supper, I watched a slide show of the river, an eagle’s nest with a eagle head poking out of it, a horse-drawn buggy, and of course a rerun of pictures of the grandchildren and family gatherings.

Sympathy cards line the fireplace mantel, and the remaining siblings are keeping in touch by phone as they resume a new phase of life without their brother.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Death and Sadness Are a Part of Life

For the last 13 months, we have lived with the knowledge that Gerald’s brother Ken had leukemia and would not be expected to live as long as we had previously taken for granted. Their dad lived a long life; and at 75, Ken was working every day and was extremely strong, in spite of suffering from arthritis that no longer allowed him to coon hunt or play softball. Many years ago he had had heart surgery, but you would have never known it.

Doctors advised that chemo would be difficult and might not be worth it at his age--if he even lived through it. Ken and his family took the challenge and went through rounds of treatment first at Barnes and then at John Cochran V.A. He went into remission and looked good and was back on his bulldozer doing work he was good at and loved. Then the leukemia returned.

Again doctors said that to try further treatment with chemo might kill him. Again Ken and his family chose to fight this disease. Just as she had during the months of previous treatments, his wife Opal stayed by his side night and day for the 44 days he underwent yet another round of treatment at John Cochran V.A. Hospital. He was hampered by a heart attack there when doctor’s orders for a transfusion were not followed promptly, but he seem to recover from that blunder rather well. Yet by Christmas Day, the family was concerned that he was not doing well. Still when his brothers went to see him that day, he assured them he had had Christmas there in the hospital room when a son-in-law read the Christmas story to him.

On January 8, he had a bone marrow test, and he and Opal were told that this final treatment had not worked. His sister made her third trip from Wyoming to visit with him. On January 10, he was told to go home and that the doctor had called in Hospice. We were all saddened at the prediction that he would not live until his 76th birthday on January 20. When he did, we all rejoiced, and a stream of people who loved him flooded their house all day long. Then he admitted that he would really like to see his expected great granddaughter. He not only lived to see Josie but to hold her and love on her many times. Again we rejoiced at this and wondered why the doctor had said this still strong man was going to die. Obviously the doctor was wrong about the expected length of time.

Adding to our illusion was a dispute between doctors when one saw the pathologist’s report and found out that person had not discovered leukemia cells. (This local oncologist said, however, that Ken that two infections that could kill him.) Nevertheless, we had an evening of hope—though a false one. The next day, the first oncologist assured the family that he himself had seen the leukemia cells and had been able to make a more accurate report than the pathologist had the tools to do. Still we had to wonder as Ken maintained life and good humor and his family fought for is recovery.

Finally the serious deterioration started. Back in the local hospital, the continued fight against the infections did no good. Ken wanted to go home, and he did. Once more people streamed into his home to show love and concern. Surrounded there in his bedroom by his wife and children, on Monday, he went into a peaceful sleep-like state. Hospice assured the family that Ken could still hear them.

If he could, he heard many vows of love and praise and appreciation. He felt loving arms and kisses. He heard prayers and favorite Bible scriptures read, which were chosen just for him. He heard his daughters singing the hymns he loved. And then after his sister called from Wyoming for a final expression of love with the phone held to his ear, he heard his wife and children's final farewells. And then he heard the angels.