Monday, August 31, 2009

Multiple Sclerosis

I believe in divine healing. I wonder if my prayers for healthy babies or traveling mercies have perhaps not only been answered positively but also prevented disasters and disabilities that I never even knew about. I certainly thank God for those answered prayers. I have often prayed for ill family and friends; and with time and often medical help, they have become well again. I would never want to neglect expressing my gratitude. But the miraculous instantaneous healing that I long to see is something I have never experienced. The dramatic stories both in the New Testament and in many anecdotal accounts thrill me, and I do believe. Yet I have no such story to share.

However, it has come to me that as marvelous it would be for my prayers for instant healing for a loved one to be answered, it would be even more marvelous for research to bring about medical miracles that would heal multitudes rather than just one person. So while I continue to pray that my daughter with multiple sclerosis will walk again, I also pray for researchers everywhere. Not just those researching MS and neurofibromatosis and cancer and the diseases of my loved ones, but all those diseases that beset the human race. And the great thing is that research in one medical area often benefits other areas just as space research benefited earthly projects.

So it was good today to read in the Sunday supplement magazine that after the appropriations to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) fell by almost 20% in the last five years, last winter Congress vote to raise NIH’s budget by 3.2% and the President has asked Congress to bring NIH’s budget to $31 billion for fiscal 2010. Other groups are working to bring the budget to $40 billion in the next five years. Arlen Specter is quoted as saying there are an estimated 110 million Americans who suffer from diseases such Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, autism, and cancer.

Research is slow and often takes years before a definite safe and helpful treatment or cure can be found. (It took over 15 years for the development of Tysabri for MS, for example.) But research strikes me as one of the most effective preventive health care activities we can fund. What better way to spend out money?

Yesterday the regional chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society sponsored a dinner and a report on MS research by Dr. Becky Parks of Washington University. I drove over to the banquet room in Carbondale to listen. It has long been reported that people south of the Mason-Dixon line are less likely to get MS than those in northern climes. It is thought that less sunshine has increased the risk of northerners. As we glanced at the material handed us and saw the first entry was on Vitamin D, I had to wonder since I know my daughter was outside often in the sunshine as a child. Across the table from me, a newly diagnosed young woman said she had always been a sun worshipper.

Nevertheless, experiments have shown that mice who are given large doses of vitamin D before being injected with agents that cause a mouse version of MS do not develop the disease. When treated with high vitamin D doses after getting the mouse version of MS, the disease is mild. (Since no one knows what causes MS, I wondered what the agents were that caused the mice to get their version of the disease.) People have concluded that vitamin D plays an important role in the immune system, specifically to help prevent inflammation. Continued research on low blood levels of vitamin D is continuing. But on a practical level, the advice is to be sure your doctor checks for vitamin D and if the level is low, take high doses to bring it up to help your immune system. Dr. Parks emphasized that just your ordinary across-the-counter vitamin D would not be strong enough to increase the deficiency.

Studies have shown that smokers have increased risk of MS and that smoking contributes to MS progression with more brain atrophy and MS lesions. Someone asked about second-hand smoke, and Dr. Parks said while no studies have been specifically done for that with MS, it was common sense from more general studies on second-hand smoke that it should be avoided.

While pregnancy seems to be beneficial to women with MS, they have often been torn about wanting to nurse their infants while also being encouraged to get back on their MS therapy quickly after childbirth to prevent relapse. Dr. Parks gave the good news that new research shows that women who exclusively breastfed their babies for at least two months had a lower risk of relapse during the year after childbirth than women who did not breastfeed—if they did not supplement the breastfeeding with formula.

To replace the daily or weekly shots that many MS patients give themselves, several oral medications are being studied: Cladribine, Fingolimod, BG-12 (dimethyl fumarate) , Teriflunomide, and Laquinimod. Infusion therapies being studied are for Campath (alemtuzumab) and Rituximab. All of these are mere treatment drugs and not preventative or curative. But I had to hope that knowledge gained from these drugs’ research would enlighten us as to cause and cure and later bring about methods for rebuilding of myelin and reversing disability.

I learned the difference between Phase II and Phase III trials. Phase II trials are for shorter times and with fewer patients. If comparison between those given the meds as opposed to the placebo, show good results, then with proper funding, Phase III trails may be begun with more participants and for longer periods of time. If those results are good, the studies can be submitted to the FDA for approval. As hopeful as Dr. Parks was able to be, she was also honest about the side-effects—sometimes life threatening with new drugs until proper doses and protocol are refined—and sometimes prohibitive for the drug’s use for some patients.

After the Q and A was over, people socialized a bit, and then those fortunate MS patients walked out with their limps and jagged walks and perhaps a cane or walker. Others left in their wheel chairs and scooters. I hope all of us left with a little more hope and with prayers for researchers everywhere and for increased funding for their work. We need to pray also for excellent science teachers who can help our high school and college students achieve the necessary academic ability to go into research. And the altruism to stick with it when the funding and interest are low.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tomatoes, Phone Calls, and River Lore

We have been enjoying luscious red ripe tomatoes with almost every meal. Unlike our special friend Helen Green Galloway, 87, who likes vine-ripe tomatoes with milk gravy, we don’t eat them for breakfast. They taste good to us with all other meals, however.

I filled up three sacks today and took to Katherine’s house for her and two of her aides. We took tomatoes to the brothers and wives last Friday night, and Gerald has taken some to neighbors. In the old days, I would have been canning tomato juice, but I have not canned in many years. I keep thinking someday I will again, but I probably won’t. (I did finally pass my pressure canner on to a neighbor.) Life seems too full already without canning. Gerald cut back his garden to just green onions--already gone now-- and the tomatoes, so I haven’t even had okra to put in the freezer. (I am afraid my family is going to be very disappointed this winter.)

My planned task for today was to make phone calls for my daughter Katherine to line up interviews for home health aides. The long list from a government agency of possible people gave me more disconnected phones than working ones. More and more people are cutting out their land phones and just using cells. I still like using the house phone more than my cell, which I am always misplacing, but it will be interesting to see if the custom of house phones survive in a few more years. At least today’s families don’t have to fret about their kids tying up the house phone—as my parents did and as I did when we had teens living with us.

As I called the listings, I left several messages on message machines—but some without answering machines called me back because they had caller ID. Some phones I called greeted me with music (including the call I made to granddaughter Erin), some were answered by the new owner of a phone number instead of the person I was trying to call and they were very polite even though I had bothered them unnecessarily. Many answered quite formally, and one recorded voice said: You know the routine, leave a message. Some who answered had pleasant cultivated voices and others were strident. Some, who were working elsewhere now, were very brief and business-like; some in the same circumstances were chatty. Some recommended others.

I also was reviewing today the many page report of an archeological study of Mark Wagner of the east side of the Mississippi River at the time of the Cherokee Removal in 1838-39. There in Union County was where the thousands of Cherokee had to take ferries day after day to reach the other side when the large ice floes finally allowed them to cross to Missouri. I had studied the report once before, but enough time had passed that I was no longer positive of some points. So I am re-reading it. Although the river has changed radically since then, the report opined that it might be possible yet to find archeological evidence of Willard’s Landing and Hamburg Landing, both of which once were located on the river’s bank. They provided ferries to cross the river as well as a landing for steamboats from Pennsylvania to bring goods down the Ohio and up the Mississippi to Union County or a place to load flatboats with excess farm produce to sell down in New Orleans.

It is interesting to look at the old maps of the river’s edge and see the changes from decade to decade. In the very earliest days of white pioneers, few acres in the bottoms could be cultivated because of the floods, but now most of the rich land near the river is well drained and growing productive crops.

Woods between the highway and the river make viewing the river impossible most of the time. The same is usually true when you drive off the highway and onto levee roads with fields and trees between the road and the river. Many years ago when we lived and farmed on one side of the 20th century levee in Union County, I would always feel I was definitely living on the river when the water rose against the levee. Other times I could forget that.

Although we were never threatened with the river going over nor the levee breaking during our three years there, nevertheless, driving with the river against the levee seemed very dramatic to me. I drove carefully at those times. One of my favorite memories is when the water was not high and we borrowed our landlord’s little pickup and took Katherine and Gerry for a picnic over by the river on the other side of the levee from our house. My brother’s family at that time lived across the river in Cape Girardeau, and I liked seeing the lights there and knowing they were just on the other side from us.

Old Man River dividing our nation in half is a fascinating phenomenon. Powerful and capable of being devastating down through the years. Yet most of the time, serenely lovely and peacefully soothing.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Closing Days of Summer

The baby martins have grown up and flown from Woodsong with their parents for other climes. Most everyone I know had their children/grandchildren start back to school this past week. Although friend Pat did tell me they still start after Labor Day up in Wisconsin, where some of her grandchildren live. I know schools now have air-conditioning and that we need to help our children keep up with the harder working students in other nations, so I try to refrain from griping about August school startings. Yet I am very glad my own children did have to start their school year as early as so many seem to do now.

I thought August ought to be for final outings and cramming in summer pleasures and that Labor Day was a perfectly lovely way to end summer schedules. Both as a child and as a parent, I loved summers. I always felt sadness when my children started back to school even though I felt their excitement and rejoiced in that.

The only exception I remember was one summer when someone came around a blind corner on our graveled country road and ran into us with a farm truck; we had to put our car in the shop for weeks. That same summer, the lawn mower kept breaking down, and finally the lawn was almost a foot high. I just wanted that summer to be over. I can imagine that some of those whose homes were severely damaged by the May 8 derecho feel the same way about this summer. Many homes still have tarps on their roofs waiting for the roofers to get to them. We will all remember this as the summer that streets were busy with pickups with attached trailers full of tree limbs. Nor was it was uncommon for limbs to have fallen off on our streets from those pickups.

Last weekend was busy with too many things we wanted to do, but this weekend our schedule was free. We enjoyed meeting Gerald’s brothers and my sisters-in-law at Triple E barbecue down at Lake of Egypt for supper Friday night for fish and/or barbecue ribs. Their bulletin board has personal for-sale items and ads with pictures of horses and dogs. Wait staff and customers were mostly in jeans and T shirts, and at least man had a huge belt buckle proving how good he is on a horse. The room was noisy and full of people glad to be off work for the weekend.

While we ate, brother Keith got a phone call telling him that their granddaughter Lauren had just won an very impressive sum of money for roping up at Lake Saint Louis. Having completed her internship at an area hospital, she will soon be back at an out-of-state university to finish her nurse’s training, but she made a killing this weekend on her horse. Her older sister Tracy, recently graduated from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, has moved to Oklahoma with her three horses, where Tracy is also working in her chosen field for a dentist.

On our way home, Gerald’s phone call about our granddaughter’s softball tourney down in Georgia did not bring such good news, but Gerry’s call last night relayed Oconee High School had three wins yesterday. I get some hints from Facebook how grandkids’ school days have gone so far, but I still need to touch base with their mothers to hear first hand. Although autumn won’t officially start for almost a month, summer is over—whether we like it or not.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Piddling Days

I don’t know about you, but I must occasionally have time for piddling days. (Some call
this leaving margins in your days’ plans.) This week has been that way for me. What
can I share with you or with Gerald at the supper table to explain my worthy use of day?

Somehow bragging that I sent two belated birthday cards, one sympathy card, and one thinking-of-you card sounds like a slight participation for a day. Yet that was all I could come up with one day this week. I have fixed left-overs and light meals for Gerald and me, superficially cleaned the kitchen afterwards, but have really done no housework.
Oh, I have checked email, Facebook, Red Room, and read the newspaper. Does that count?

One day I coordinated the upstairs and downstairs calendars and tried to figure out what days would be best times to ask for some upcoming med appointments, but I didn’t get any made. I called my brother to find out how his med procedure went yesterday, and that was comforted to hear he was not one of the tiny percent of people who might be left paralyzed, etc. I ran over to the village library to see a friend who used to work there who had come “home” from South Carolina to visit her siblings.

One interesting thing that happened this week was a phone call from a new friend I made the other day in the baby department at Wal-Mart while looking for a baby gift a couple weeks ago. I was looking for cloth diapers, and no clerks were in sight, of course. She was browsing the baby things while waiting for a friend to get off work. She helped me, and we became acquainted. Her daughter, whose husband has just gotten home from Iraq, is expecting. This first time grandmother-to-be had collected an array of baby clothes. Many just like new from a high-end consignment shop (Melise’s).

Now that they knew her daughter was having a girl, she did not want to store boy baby clothes for some future pregnancy. When she heard me say this single mother that I was shopping for needed boy things, she had gone home gathered them all up and phoned me to meet her in the parking lot of a local restaurant when she got off work. I received a huge tub of tiny masculine items, and Katherine and I had so much fun looking at all of them.

“Oh, that little suit with dark green velvet top would be perfect for Christmas!” “Look, this little dress-up suit with tiny tie is six months and should work for Easter!” “Oh, these little shoes remind me of Sam’s!” “There are enough socks here for two or three babies!” “Of course, you can’t have too many of anything.” We oohed and ahh-ed, day dreamed, and reminisced over the adorable outfits and pajamas and countless items—with dinosaurs, basketball, football motifs--before Katherine phoned the expectant mother and I took the clothes over to her. That was the funnest thing I did this week.

I need to be filing in my office. It is on my to-do list daily. Sometimes in big letters! Yet I don’t get around to it. Many years ago my sister and I had an agreement that if either of us died, the other one would fly to her home and get the house/fridge/whatever cleaned up before the funeral guests arrived. I think age has excused us from that duty now. Our kids will have to do that if anything is necessary. But when I survey my office and haven’t the faintest idea how to ever get through all the accumulated papers myself, I know my poor kids will need a big wastebasket. I could use a few days of piddling to straighten it up, but I probably won’t let myself get around to it.

I did finish a novel this week and looked through a couple of new magazines and a catalog that arrived. That does not take care of all the novels not even started nor the half-finished nonfiction books floating around in various rooms. I did spend an hour or so on the phone helping someone else’s research on the Trail of Tears—and I made a list of people I want to call myself on the same subject.

Tonight I am picking up a friend in town to drive over to the Critique Night at Southern Illinois Writers Guild. I may not share, but I will enjoy listening to others work even if I don’t get around to choosing something to read. Two more days and I will be through this piddling week. Maybe next week I will get something done. Or maybe not.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Week of the Granddaughters

Been too busy having fun to blog this week. Did you miss me? Our first three grandchildren--Tara, Erin, and Leslie—were all visitors this week. (I also was staying up late writing about Silkwood Inn for a regional magazine since I had promised the editor I’d do my best to get a story to him this week. I was delighted when he asked me last week because I know that only publication will save for the future what I have discovered through research. I thoroughly enjoy speaking about the Trail of Tears and the story of Priscilla, but speech is transient. The story recorded in print is what lasts.)

Monday Tara and her two little ones came through here on Interstate 57 after visiting and picking up her boys from her parents’ home in Georgia. So we were on the alert hoping they’d come out to the farm for a break on their way back to their home in northern Illinois. Three-year-old Aidan is maturing at such a rapid rate that we need to see him often just to keep up with his development. Each time, he is so much taller and talks more and more like an adult. Gerald is eager for him to come and play again in the special lime pile he has created for him to dig in. And we were eager to see and hold eight-month old Maddux. But Tara had warned us if the boys were asleep, she probably would not stop at all. She was so hungry to get home to her husband after two weeks away. We understood.

When the phone call came, she suggested we meet her at Marion’s McDonald’s to let Aidan run off energy in the play land there while they ate a quick hamburger supper. I know she thought it would be easier to get away from there than out at our house, and we were glad to cooperate because we too were dreading her long trip upstate.

The brief respite was a success although that did not stop Aidan’s tears when it was time to go. He wanted to come to the farm, and most of all, he did not want more traveling. Who could blame him? Yet the boys both sleep very well in their car seats, and Tara is a remarkable mother at keeping her sons happy even in difficult situations. The boys and their daddy were needing each other, so the lime pile has to wait.

With last hugs and kisses and a prayer in our hearts for safe traveling, we waved goodbye and came back to the farm feeling a little lonely but filled with new images in our heads of two little humans we adore. Any visit to McDonald’s also brings back images of being there with little Tara, who was capable of conning Gerald into stopping at every one they passed coming back from hauling hogs to market in the old days.

On Wednesday, we had the same sort of quick visit with Leslie, who was returning from her visit with her family at Freeport. It was fun to hear about her time with friends back home and her plans for the new school year at Belmont. She had to go back early for training as a R.A. in her dorm, in order to be ready to greet the new freshmen arriving on campus soon. She couldn’t stay long because she had a dinner date waiting for her in Nashville. We understood that too. Yet there is always a vacancy when the little blond with great presence leaves us.

That evening Erin arrived from Texas with two A&M softball friends, Rhea and Kara. They were going to stay awhile and that was better! They have been in and out with friends coming here to fish with them at the lake, riding the “mule,” going up to swim in someone’s farm pond, spending the night at Brooke’s (she who was home from Belmont), going up to worship at Erin’s family church at West Frankfort, and catching up on their sleep. We loved getting to see Erin’s friend Toni again after much too long.

Gma Shirley—just down the country road and a few miles around the corner from us—hosted a family gathering for them Thursday night. She made her wonderful chicken and dumplings just like Erin ordered. Shirley, my daughter-in-law’s mother, is one of my heroes. Actually I think she is a community hero. For years, she watched over her mother next door and her little sister Janice, who has lived far longer than most adults with Down’s syndrome. Even before their mother’s recent death, however, Janice’s health had seriously deteriorated. Caring for her now has necessitated Shirley moving in next door and staying there. Yet Shirley stays cheerful, and Erin commented on her grandmother’s great sense of humor. They enjoyed dinner with her again today and looking through family photo books.

Yesterday we took the girls down beautiful Rocky Comfort Road and then up Buffalo Gap Road to one of one of Gerald’s cousins. We were greeted in the yard by five-year-old Kristin, who was charmingly friendly like her grandmother Judy. Judy’s niece and daughter, Mary and Becky, were up from Florida for the weekend, and this was our only chance to see them.

Judy, a retired nurse from Marion hospital, and Morris, who is called Moose for a reason, had taken them to breakfast at Giant City Lodge and then stopped at the orchard for peaches. Folks were sitting at a big table in their home peeling peaches and having a great time. Their son, an ag teacher and basketball coach, and others were down in the tomato patch picking tomatoes, but he came in later to eat a peach. People were coming and going to share the peaches and tomatoes. Granddaughter Cora was making brownies because a pizza party with home-made pizza was planned for the evening.

Judy explained to me she goes to New Burnside to play piano at a little church there on Sundays, a village quite away from their rural community. (Small rural churches often have trouble acquiring a pianist.) Judy puts meat into the oven and makes preparations for the noon meal. Then two high school granddaughters finish the meal when as many as twenty-five arrive to enjoy the home-cooked Sunday dinner. Judy said when she arrives back home, she just has to fill her plate and join them at the tables. Obviously this active woman had recovered from a bad fall from a horse that happened after her retirement.

From Judy and Morris’s, we took our visiting trio on down one of America’s national historic trails—Route 146, the official auto route for the Trail of Tears—and on to the Garden of the Gods state park. We intended to hike, and we did a bit before rain came and drove us back to our car. Gerald kept up with the fleet-footed softball players and came back with the umbrella to shield me in my last lap of my retreat. My thin blouse dried in a hurry as we traveled back to Harrisburg to stop at Mackie’s Pizza, where their thin-crusted pizza was a special childhood memory that Erin wanted to share with her Texas buddies.

There was another fishing time down at the lake tonight, and Toni came back. Sonje from next door brought Katie over on the four-wheeler to the lake to meet the softball players. (They will be able to someday brag about meeting Katie, the swimming champ. She too is a dedicated athlete.) After a late supper followed by watching TV and giggling, the downstairs laundry room (my office) is humming as they prepare for the long trip back in the morning.

Woodsong will seem very quiet tomorrow as Gerald and I re-adjust to just to just the two of us.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Good Times and Good Memories

A weekend of memories and good times ended with worship last night and this morning at the 100th anniversary celebration of Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church in Urbana.

Friday night we met with ten members of Gerald’s high school class of sixteen plus several spouses and friends. The informal gathering at the rustic Fox Hollow at East Cape Girardeau to celebrate the Wolf Lake Class of 1948 brought back memories and many laughs. If Donald Johnson is one of your classmates, you will definitely have laughs. A natural comedian, who has not been hushed by age, Don cannot walk or talk without being funny. Gerald was able to crop the class photo to cut out Don’s hi jinks. But in real life, no one wants to eliminate the fun Don brings to any group. He has always made our lives richer and given us stories to tell and quips to repeat after any event he attends. Don and Ervina went to Cape and picked up “Doc,” the first classmate to need a walker, and I bet Don had Doc laughing all the way home while Ervina just shook her head and smiled as she has down through the years.

Saturday morning we were up early (early for me—not for Gerald) to meet up with his brothers and wives and others to celebrate his brother Keith’s birthday. After a lingering breakfast at the Old Home Place in Goreville, also with laughs and memories, some left to prepare for a roping at nephew Tim’s farm and Keith left to bail hay on his birthday. We came home to Woodsong to get ready to leave for our next weekend pleasantry.

During the one year that Gerald was in grad school at the University of Illinois, we joined Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church. When our son was in Urbana for Gerry to finish his degree after two years in local community college, he too became a member of the same church. (After Vickie’s graduation from Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s physical therapist assistant program, they were married and Vickie started her career in Champaign-Urbana and joined him at PABC.) When our youngest daughter, Mary Ellen, was a freshman at U of I, we went up and visited the church. We have kept in touch with many of our friends from that special year in our lives although many have now passed away.

The church was actually started in 1909 in a railroad car turned into a chapel. An area in town by the railroad tracks was without a church. A group brought in a car and parked it there for a chapel. Three years later, a congregation had emerged and the Herald of Hope Baptist Church was established in a small white stucco building. By the time we arrived in 1957, the crowded little building was black with coal dust, but the congregation was hard at work on a new building on Pennsylvania Avenue. During the week, the men of the church took turns working on the building, and I remember making cup cakes or some kind of food to carry in when Gerald helped. We were immediately welcomed by older members and other students our own age and we felt loved and cared for.

Don Dillow, a young man from Dongola was pastor, and he and his wife Helen Ruth were fresh out of seminary. They had been there long enough to have a second son, and Helen Ruth was a wonderful mentor for me as I coped alone with our first born Katherine. She provided emotional support for my parental uncertainties as well as practical advice, such as bringing Kathy in sleepers for the evening service, so she would be ready for the crib when she fell asleep on the car ride home. Without family in that area, I felt the social interaction and the teaching that Kathy had in their church’s nursery program was invaluable.

Don and Helen Ruth have now retired near a son in Texas, but they drove up for this celebration and typically their agenda included acts of service to friends and family along their way here and for their trip back home. Now in his 80s, Don preached last night, with all the vigor of youth and all the wisdom of his age. When he shared a favorite quotation about constancy of purpose, it stuck with me as a touchstone to use in my own life because I have observed how that constancy has brought about wonderful results in many lives as Don and Helen Ruth have ministered to so many of us as they shared the good news and teachings of Jesus.

Today we heard Nate Adams preach, and he emphasized the importance of our local church and the people in it as a vehicle for changing the world. We went home refreshed by beautiful music, the joyful singing, the heart-warming testimonies, the visual stimulation of signing by the group with hearing impairment, the stories of international students as we ate together in the fellowship hall, and the stimulation of observing the cumulative results of a church started in a railroad car a century ago.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

My Day

Note: Evidently, I posted after midnight on Monday, which must explain why that day's post says August 4. Now onto tonight's post before midnight--
After a lazy start to my day, I sat down to my bowl of cereal at 9. By the time I read the paper, drank coffee, watched a bit of news on the kitchen TV, and heard Gerald’s plans for the day when he came through the kitchen, it was close to 10:30 when I went downstairs for a brief time in my office.

Gerald was going back to Missouri for parts of some kind and then to Anna to pick up the sharpened chain saws that were not yet ready when he went down Thursday. His two brothers are there, and he was also hoping to find time for coffee with the boys at Dixie Barbecue in Jonesboro. I knew he would not be back for lunch, so I felt no time pressure.

I ran by Katherine’s house and then onto Senior Citizens Day at Krogers. I have missed for a couple of months, so I bought way too many groceries. By the time I unloaded the car and put away those that needed to be in the fridge or freezer, I was ready for a snack and TV news break.

I really wanted to take a nap, but didn’t since I had an early Trail of Tears board meeting at 5 on the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus, where one of our board members works it out for us to meet in the conference room of the geology department. I left home in time to run by Katherine’s again since we really did not get to visit this morning and then onto Carbondale.

Vickie Devenport of WSIU was invited to talk to us about a grant to help promote a PBS special series this fall, and she has suggested we cooperate on a fall tour. After a great deal of brainstorming about this exciting venture, we turned next to watch the latest Rich-Heape video on “How to Trace Your Native American Heritage.” We decided this video would make a good winter program, and Gary Hacker invited us to show it in conjunction with the Johnson County Historical and Genealogical Society which meets at the Vienna library.

Finally, we were down to our business meeting. Since we had only the briefest of meeting actually held in a parking lot in June and none since, we were not out until 8:30. After a brief exchange with another board member as we tried to catch up on personal/family news in the darkened campus parking garage, we went our opposite ways on Route 51. I drove the 45 minute trip home under a full August moon, ate a sandwich for a belated supper and brought the mail down to Gerald on my way to the computer.

He just came into tell me that Tara’s 18U Southern Force lost their two games today. First, the Atlanta Vipers beat them 3-1, and this afternoon, California’s Corona Angels won over them 2-1. In a double elimination tourney, that means she is now free to drive from Oklahoma to Georgia to pick up her sons and head back to her husband in northern Illinois. The Force had done well in practice/pool games, and I am sure this is not what Tara expected or wanted. But seeing her family sooner is also a nice reward. We will still be following the tournament, but not with the intense interest we would have had.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A Visit With My Big Brother

The phone rang at 6:15 this morning, and a half hour later, I decided I wouldn’t go back to sleep. That was good because I had some put-away chores to do before I left to drive up to central Illinois to see my brother Jim and his wife Vivian. I drank coffee with Gerald even though I knew I would stop for egg and toast on the way up in order to take a break. I wanted to hear the report on the early-morning phone call, which is when Gerry usually calls his dad.

Their family was leaving Sioux Falls after Southern Force 16U softball team had their second loss in the nationals there. (I think Geri Ann accumulated seven home runs during practice games, pool play games, and the games they played before they were out of the tourney. Of course, they would have liked to stay in the tourney longer, but it wasn’t to be.) Gerry was driving from Sioux Falls to the airport in Minneapolis when he phoned his dad. His companion was his two-year-old grandson Aidan. Gerry, who has loved a race and/or competition since he was two or maybe younger, had Aidan all involved with the idea that they were going to beat his Gma Vickie, Aunt G, and baby brother Maddux, who had flown out of a different airport to Atlanta. He probably convinced Aidan they won even though the other three had to wait for them to arrive in Atlanta to drive on to Athens.

Tara, the boys’ mother, had left Sioux Falls to go on to Oklahoma City for the 18U gold nationals softball tourney this week. (Last year Gerry coached 18U Southern Force, and Tara coached 16U. Since Gerry can no longer coach a summer team, Tara took over the 18U and certainly did her daddy proud taking them all the way to gold nationals. So this week we will be following the 18U progress just as we did the 16U last week. These games aren’t on TV or game tracker, so constant checking on cell phones will be taking place. (Today Southern Force won their first pool play game.) In the meantime back at Athens, Gerry and Vickie are enjoying these two little guys, and guess what? In his last phone call to his dad, Gerry was telling how smart Aidan is. Grand-fatherhood fits Gerry very well.

Although Jim and Vivian have lived in Mattoon for decades, I have always had a difficult time not getting lost going in and leaving town. Maybe cause Gerald is usually driving. Maybe cause there are two ways into town, and we’ve taken both down through the years. Maybe cause we have often left there to go on up to Freeport or come into town from Freeport. Whatever. But Mattoon has always baffled me. As usual, I turned the wrong direction on their street because NESW seems to reverse itself up there for me. But because I know that, I quickly realized I had made my normal error and turned and went the other way. (And when I glanced down to see the car telling me I was going north, all I had to say was Never Eat Shredded Wheat as I located the other directions.) Gerald offered to set the GPS for me, but I do not like the noise.

We visited awhile and shared news and photos of our kids and grandkids. Each of us had a photo of our newest great grandson. I had to admit that their Vincent Indiana Roland Jones was as cute as Jim said. I hope Indy likes his little outfit I took for him.

Jim had told me on the phone last month about their new fine barbecue restaurant at a resort outside of Charleston, and that is where he and Vivian ended up taking me for noon dinner. Like many senior citizens, they eat out frequently, and Vivian had commented at home that despite the recession, all their many eating places seem to have good crowds. Jim had first pulled into the back parking lot of a nearby eatery only to see that even the large back lot was full—on a Monday no less. We went onto two or three more places in Mattoon and found crowds there also. Finally Jim just kept driving till we got to the resort. They too seemed to have a goodly number of customers, but there was plenty of parking outside and plenty of tables inside. Service was quick and the barbecue was delicious. But all the crowded places had proved Vivian’s point.

The resort is called the Stovepipe in honor of Abraham Lincoln—a childhood home of his is in this area near Charleston. There was an enormous building-high Lincoln figure greeting us that Jim said had been moved there from another park. And in “Abe’s Garden,” there were numerous painted wooden Lincolns that some artist had carved with a chainsaw. The younger crowd were busy at the miniature golf course that we walked by as we passed elaborate water fountain flowing into the goldfish pond with lily pads. Because of the obvious investment someone had made, Jim was hoping that this new business venture would have success.

We drove back to Mattoon a different way that featured good-looking soybean fields on either side. Then we had the afternoon of talk, which I had put off too long. I told them I had been trying to schedule a day-long visit like this since January. Vivian understood. She said she had wanted to start a new quilt since November, but was yet to do so. (When we came back to their house, a friend had left two boxes of fabric at her back door. He had helped an elderly lady move, and Vivian bought the entire woman’s collection of fabrics. Vivian said she had already received boxes and boxes and is sharing with the granddaughters she taught to sew.)

I wanted to leave at five in order to get home shortly after dark. I did and arrived home at 8:30. Gerald was just coming in the kitchen from showering after yet another day getting the storm-fallen trees out of the creek at the other farm. I had hoped he’d take off early and eat dinner in town since I was eating at our favorite chain restaurant in Mt. Vernon to break my journey. But he had worked too late and was settling for sandwiches again, which is what he had for lunch. I opened a can of soup to provide him something hot. And I think he probably ate another piece of angel food cake.

Well, I have blogged, and Leslie has arrived at Woodsong. We’ve talked a bit and she has her laundry going. (My downstairs office has a laundry on one end.) She has already been on her laptop to send a twitter and Facebook entry for Mike and the world to see and know she arrived here safely. She is sleeping in the “brown room,” which is everyone’s favorite downstairs bedroom since it is the underground area of the downstairs without windows and the sleeping is good. She just told me good night, and now I will say the same to you.