Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Another Week, Another Dollar, and Another Problem

The week started well with a calm and restful Sunday. Since it was the fifth Sunday of the month, Gerald and I were scheduled in the extended teaching care during the morning worship service, and Katie Cutsinger, an adorable teenager who has a wonderful way with preschoolers, was helping us. We had six children in our charge, and three caretakers were not too many.

Toby does not usually get to come to our church because his mother works as a nurse at the Veterans Hospital on Sundays, but that was her day off. We have missed him. Toby is already recognizing words and starting to read even though this is the year he will start kindergarten.  When he saw Gerald, he ran and hugged his legs. He smiled at me but Gerald got the hug. Men are especially welcome in child care in today’s world because so many children are being reared by single mothers. When I worked in family literacy, I asked any of the men repairmen to please stop and talk to the children in the preschool room, who were being taught while their parents were in GED class.

Our son-in-law Brian stopped by for a little while Sunday afternoon, but otherwise it was a day without visitors. He was down looking at crops and conversing with his friend Phil Anderson, who has already started harvesting corn. Brian’s crop will be ready for harvest soon. The extremely hot weather is expected to cut yields. Rains came but in such fast fashion that much water was lost in run off. We need rain badly right now, and a couple of eighth-inch showers this week have been welcome but not adequate.

With the lack of rain, the cantaloupe and tomatoes are almost gone, but Gerald is still bringing in some okra every other day and an occasional watermelon and zucchini. He planted turnips a week or so ago in an empty place in the garden. So we have something yet to watch grow.

A couple of meals each fall with turnips satisfy me. In addition, however I like to serve them for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner even though Gerald and I will be the only ones eating them. They just seem an appropriate vegetable at those feasts at the farm. We haven’t had a turnip patch the last few years, but we acquired plenty at church from Charles Graves who shared his excess. Gerald’s brother Garry was planting a patch on their home farm the other day, just like Dad Glasco always did, so Gerald caught Garry’s enthusiasm and accepted some of his seed for this project.

After the good start to the week, I ran into Katherine’s yesterday morning to see how their weekend had gone. Then I learned the latest problem. During the night she had broken out in shingles. She immediately called the doctor and the drug store delivered a couple meds yesterday afternoon to take along with the many she already takes. Now everyone is wearing gloves. Aides who have had chicken pox are concerned about shingles. Aides who have not had chicken pox yet have that worry. I had the preventive shot a couple years ago, but I understand it does not always work. Despite this new misery and hard hurdle, Katherine seemed in remarkably good spirits today. Another week and another problem is a common occurrence in her life. Those of us with good health do not know how blessed we are.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Gerald's Crazy Bone Same-Day Surgery

Last fall I learned from the physiatrist who did the testing on my elbow that the “crazy bone” was really a nerve. You probably knew that, but I had just assumed a bone was a bone. My little finger and ring finger were going numb because of problem with that nerve, and he told me I needed same-day surgery. My primary physician accepted that recommendation and sent me on to a surgeon, who said we first needed for a couple of months to try a splint while sleeping. That worked for me.

So when Gerald’s same two fingers started going numb, we thought we knew what would happen. However, his nerve was in much worse shape and different in cause and effect from mine, and the same surgeon said a splint would not solve his problem.

Consequently, same-day surgery was scheduled for him on Tuesday. We went in at ll:15 a.m. as asked, but it was after 2 p.m. before the surgery took place. Then recovery time kept us there until the surgical center closed. We were the last patients out. Then we had to pick up pain pills at the pharmacy and go through the drive-in to get supper to take home since Gerald had followed directions and not eaten since the previous night’s supper.

Same-day surgery sounds so simple, and I guess in comparison to other surgeries it is. But when an arm is cut for four inches and the doctor has probed inches on either side of that, it is pretty scary. At least it is to the wife of the victim. Especially after the surgeon told me Gerald’s nerve situation had been very serious and it might be two years before the body rejuvenated the damaged nerve and strength in his arm might return.

Gerald was told not to lift but to start resuming his regular work the next day! I asked the surgeon if he had any idea what Gerald’s work day was like. (I was thinking hot and dirty.) Gerald has really been good about following directions on the instruction sheet sent home with us, but that two-page sheet is very confusing about two items. (They need a writer to edit one of their confusing instructions!)

The paper urged the patient to call about any questions, and when Gerald did about one item yesterday, he was never allowed to talk to the surgeon. The receptionist checked with the P.A. and told him completely different instructions than the sheet had said. He read her the sheet, and she had no explanation for the difference. A call this morning resulted in the same differing instruction, so we are hoping she and the P.A. know what they are doing.

Gerald seems to be doing splendidly. He is out and about working just like the doctor ordered, and he has needed to take few pain pills. His arm seems to be moving just fine. It has been a crazy experience, and we will be glad to see the surgeon again a week from today and have him confirm that everything is going as great as we think it is.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Weekend Goal Was to Have a Fun Time

Woodsong was rocking with young life this past weekend. And the last thing Mary Ellen said as their family left was that our goal to have fun had succeeded and many memories were made.
Tara needed child care for her three boys aged four, 19 months, and 5 ½ months. We were trying to figure how we could get the extra help to take care of them at the farm when suddenly we realized that this was also the same weekend that David was taking Sam to see the Cardinals play. Katherine had thought she had home care worked out with aides, and her plans fell apart.

Coming out to the farm is not easy for her because packing and remembering all the meds and needed things is very difficult. Before I could phone Mary Ellen to see if they were coming down for the weekend for Brian to farm, she phoned me that she’d be here to help with Tara’s little ones. I was thrilled. I explained Katherine’s situation and suggested with her help we might be able to show her sister an extra-special time with the boys in the house. Now if I could persuade Katherine to come out to stay overnight on Saturday, she would get to meet Payton and experience all three boys in their present state of development.
I was so pleased when Katherine bravely said we could try the overnight visit. And pleased again on Friday night when Brian dropped Mary Ellen off and both Brianna and Trent had elected to come along. They are old enough to stay home and sometimes do, but we were all eager to hear Trent tell about his Star Wars Convention—and two more sets of hands to help with the three preschoolers would be great. (As I look back on the weekend, I am not sure we would have survived it without the enormous help these two teens provided in child care.)

Tara arrived with Aidan, Maddux, and Payton at 2 a.m. Saturday, and they were soon asleep in bed downstairs, where Mary Ellen, Brianna, and Trent were also sleeping. Brian was up at the other farm sleeping in their camper trailer. (When he is down farming, he works very hard and enjoys feeling free to work late or leave to work early at all hours without having to think about making noise or disturbing anyone. We did try to lure him in for main meals this weekend, and the little boys were a big attraction for him too.)

Tara had a frustrating morning trying to print off some documents for the Southern Force tryouts that would not print out on either Gerald’s or my computer. She finally got his printer to accept the documents only to be cut off the Internet before she finished. We live with computer slowness and weird problems of being knocked off and not being able to get back on. The area newspaper reports on fast speed availability that various grants may provide, and we yearn for that to happen. Plans do not seem very promising, however, for our particular rural area. Tara finally had to leave early for Carbondale to finish her preparation at Kinko’s.

We were pleased that Maddux woke up remembering the boat rides and tractor rides from the last visit and was immediately yelling, “Papa! Tractor!” Gerald devoted his morning to providing these experiences when he wasn’t unsuccessfully trying to help Tara. In the meantime, we were having a good time playing and baby talking to Payton.

Maddux was not the least bothered by the excessive heat outside. Aidan is always cooperative and is as tough as can be, so he was as eager to ride everything as little Maddux, but fortunately he was not as demanding. That was a very good thing. Because even when Maddux would ride for an hour, when Gerald would bring him inside, he was instantly yelling over and over, “Tractor! Tractor!” Sometimes these rides were in the “mule” with Trent and Brianna along as well as Aidan. While Maddux would repeat his version of the word “mule” when prompted, he was calling every thing on wheels a tractor. He also loved riding the boat, which usually followed a tractor, mule, or lawn mower ride, but somehow he always yelled for a tractor ride.

More than once his repeated calls of “Papa! Papa! Tractor! Tractor!” were interspersed with tears and looks of total heartbreak. As someone said, he had a one-tractor mind as well as a one-track mind. The more he yelled this and acted like a two-year-old is supposed to act, the less cute it became. Gerald said in bewilderment, “There must be something wrong that he only knows the word ‘tractor.’” With perfect timing, Maddux looked up at him and said defiantly, “Boat!”

We had a good noon meal with pork chops and fixings including the much requested fried okra that always pleases my grandchildren. For dessert, I had bought a large box of three kinds of cookies that looked and tasted homemade, and I still had part of the cakes left over that I’d made for my friend’s funeral dinner.

Despite Maddux’s continued pleas after Gerald had taken them on an afternoon round of tractor and boat rides, things were pretty calm. Mary Ellen was busy figuring out how Tara would handle this. We consider Tara an expert on child care, Mary felt Tara would ignore it and not reward Maddux’s less than pleasant demands with attention. She tried it and it definitely worked once. Later she tried calmly, firmly, and sweetly telling him to not say that. Gerald also talked to him about this while they took one of their many rides.

Distraction also helped. Gerald had pulled out a large plastic dump trunk and huge container of Lincoln logs that he had found at an after-Christmas sale. Trent was the perfect person to teach Aidan how to use the logs, and he and Aidan became great buddies for the rest of the weekend. (Trent had an ongoing project in the den with a dremel to cut into two worn-out plastic garbage cans he had brought down in the back of their truck. He aimed to make some kind of shield, which I think was an inspiration from the Star Wars convention. Nevertheless, he gave to Aidan all the time Aidan wanted to play.)

With Brianna’s help, Maddux became interested in the toy truck and played happily calling it a tractor. Linus has his blanket, but Maddux has a snugly play lion he calls, “Yaw Yaw.” (I hope I spelled that right!) The lion had many rides in the dump truck throughout the living, dining, and kitchen areas.

During this activity, Payton woke up and PaPa placed Payton in the bed of the toy truck, and he too was given rides with careful supervision. He loved it. (We were grateful he could not talk yet to keep demanding more rides.) Photos were taken, and I think Maddux enjoyed all of this. When he started demanding tractor rides again with a temper tantrum included, May Ellen realized he was tired and rocked him to sleep. We had the portable bed upstairs for Payton who would play happily with his feet for long periods of time, so I quickly fixed a pallet in the living room floor for Maddux. He took a nap and woke up smiling. Later he would take a second nap in his baby bed downstairs.

Meanwhile in town, David had gotten Katherine up and left her a lunch when he and Sam took off for Saint Louis, where they had the good fortune to see the Cardinals win two games this weekend. Katherine was having phone battery problems and we were having trouble reaching her, but we finally did. She had some things she needed to do at home that afternoon during the rare treat of having the house to her self, so it was almost suppertime when we went in to get her.
Things were peaceful at Woodsong when Brianna and Aidan decided to go in the car with us for Gerald to bring Katherine to the farm in her van and for me to pick up pizza at the drive-through for supper. We did not worry about Mary Ellen and Trent being able to care for the younger two. Mary Ellen said it went well until Gerald arrived with Katherine and she rolled up to the front door, which was locked to prevent Maddux’s escape. Mary Ellen was downstairs and the door bell wakened Maddux, who next saw Papa threw a wailing fit wanting to ride the tractor with him. This woke up Payton who also showed us how hard he could cry.

Smiling and lovely despite the ravages of multiple sclerosis, Katherine rolled into this chaos. The noise was pretty unbelievable. I wondered if we had made a mistake. Were we going to be having fun like Mary Ellen and I had hoped? There was something almost comic about the pandemonium going on. In an email yesterday, Mary Ellen wrote, “Could not believe K had to walk into the double screaming efforts of Payton & Maddux after a fairly calm day!! Oh well, I think she appreciated the ‘real life’ of it all! How blessed we all are in so many ways in spite of the bad stuff.”
Indeed Katherine was so thrilled with finally getting to meet Payton and seeing how much Maddux had grown that she enjoyed the whole “real life” event. And, of course, just like Mary Ellen who remembered caring for infant Trent and Briana, she enjoyed having memories stirred of Samuel’s babyhood. Yet “real life” can be a bit much and we were grateful when Gerald took Maddux out for final evening tractor/boat rides. Quiet can be so wonderful! Katherine was able to hold Payton a long time during one of these quiet times.

Somehow miraculously at the end of the evening, Mary Ellen had cleaned the kitchen and was able to get all the kids to sleep. Gerald lifted Katherine into bed after we piled on pillows trying to imitate her own bed that elevates her head. Before we drifted off to sleep, she and I had opportunity for a rare mother-daughter talk uninterrupted by life’s emergencies and ringing telephones. (The next day, she and her dad were able to talk as he showed her the latest book of his photographs of recent activities.)
I did not even hear Tara when came in from her late night meeting to a quiet house and she came up and got Payton from his portable bed and carried him downstairs to the smaller crib beside her bed. Later in the night, I saw his upstairs bed empty, and I knew Tara had made it home safely. She was gone again before I woke up the next morning.

Gerald, the family’s early riser, was already up when suddenly he found himself taking care of three boys at once. Payton was wet including his pajamas, and Gerald changed him. He accidentally put on one of Maddux’s diapers as I had done the day before since with so many people moving diaper bags, it was easy to get confused. Once you start that job, you really can’t leave to find and substitute the correct diaper. Gerald felt that mistake worked out good because almost immediately Payton filled it full. So Gerald changed Payton’s diaper again. From his accounts of this experience, I think he was pretty proud of himself and rightfully so. But things were getting hairy, and he called Mary Ellen to the rescue. When Katherine and I woke up, things were going well.

I had daydreamed about us all going to church together. People at Center who knew Katherine from early childhood would have loved to see her. Gerald and I would have liked showing off all three great grandsons since it had been a long time since Tara had once taken the older two. But there was no earthly way we could have gotten us all there in a worshipful frame of mind, and folks might not have understood Maddux’s need to repeatedly call “Tractor, Papa! Tractor!”

We had a good morning together, and it was fun just as we had hoped. There were four adults and two teens to take care of three boys, and it kept us all busy. Once again we marveled at how Tara does all this by herself most of the time. Despite a very helpful husband and his very helpful family, most days she is coping with care for all three by herself. Of course, she has a routine in place and equipment and supplies organized in ways we couldn’t. (And no tractor for Maddux to want to ride!)

I had planned frozen lasagna for dinner since I could put it in the oven for two hours and forget it. Salad, sliced tomatoes, and rolls completed the menu. Not realizing Tara would not be there for lunch, I purchased a box of mini-cheesecakes in her honor for dessert since she always liked cheesecake growing up. We enjoyed them—and during the afternoon the rest of the cookies that the adults liked as good as the little boys did.

Once again somehow Mary Ellen cleaned the kitchen and kept bottles filled for one of us to give Payton when needed. She also mixed his cereal and fed him his baby food as directed by Tara. (I got in on this once on Saturday, and seeing that beautiful little bird-like mouth open eagerly for the spoon was a messy but extremely satisfying task.)

Sunday afternoon Mary Ellen managed to get the younger two down for naps, and Trent kept Aidan happy. Mary also washed sheets from one guest room and the couch in the den and had them back in place before I knew it. She washed up what clothes she could for Tara to take home clean, and she had the table cloth back on the dining room table with lasagna stains from Maddux’s place all gone. Gerald did more than his share as usual. Katherine and I rested talking in the bedroom.
There was more play time with the little ones before David and Sam showed up and they too could hold Payton and visit with the little boys as well as Trent and Bri. Soon the three teens had gotten out the left-over pizza just as I’d planned for an early supper although there was sandwich makings if anyone wanted a sandwich.

The day was drawing to a close and Tara had a long drive up north ahead of her. The Cedars were back home in Marion. The Taylors took off for Waggoner in the center of the state. The house was suddenly very quiet, and it wasn’t as appealing as it was when Maddux could be coaxed to stop yelling, “Tractor!” There was time to read the Sunday paper and a good night’s sleep ahead of us, for Gerald had a busy Monday facing him and I had a mish mash of objects to return to their proper location.
Today there is still a portable baby bed upstairs and a small teddy bear and Maddux’s pallet on the living room floor. A flower arrangement from our church’s dedication of our new fellowship hall had been given to Kim Barger for her service on the building committee and her part on that afternoon’s program. Since their family was leaving for Virginia at 5:30 the next morning, she gave it to me. We had enjoyed it for over two weeks, but the flowers had finally frazzled, and I emptied them before our weekend company. I replaced them with three pink rosebuds from the bush by our front porch. As the weekend progressed, the buds opened slowly. Now they are in full bloom reminding us of a weekend that had both laughter and tears and lots of new cherished memories as Mary Ellen said.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Goodbye, Dear Friends

Just a couple of months ago when I would go by the Shawnee Apartments, I would see my friend Laura Park’s blue car in the parking lot and would wish I had time to stop and visit a bit. I knew she was involved with the activities there and happily busy helping older and less able apartment dwellers. Her son Jerry and daughter Susan stayed close, and she was always there for her adored grandson Dylan who would go to her place after school while his mother was still at work. So she did not “need” a visit from me, but I missed her and would have liked to stop. Bur always there were other responsibilities waiting, and I would drive by.

Then her daughter Susan, a Facebook friend, put out a frantic prayer request as Laura had had a massive heart attack, which was going to require a long into-the-night risky surgery. She came through that surgery because of those prayers, her surgeon concluded. Susan reported how well her mother was doing as she left the hospital, but then later she had to report set backs. Next, problems arose that sent her to Saint Louis for more surgery and there was another successful report. Then another set back. Her family were seeing her suffer as one problem after another developed. .Friends continued to pray but with an awareness that quality of life might be poor for someone as active as Laura who loved participating in the apartment activities and crafts and helping others.

Over 33 years ago, she unexpectedly lost her husband at age 46 leaving her to finish raising their two children. Susan commented that her mother had to be both mother and father to them before the phrase “single mom” became so common. Laura was not a whiner, however, and she did what she could to give a good life to her children and to keep involved with both her large extended family and with the community .

At our church, Laura’s interests were not only with the preschool Sunday School class that she taught for many years, but also encouraging all of us to not forget the shut-ins in our village. Later she sold her home and bought a trailer to be next door to an elderly woman with severe disabilities that she was helping care for. After that, she was often a caretaker for her grandson in the same neighborhood.

When Laura moved into the apartment in town, she began going to church with Susan rather than driving back out to our village where she had lived so many years. But I continued to use her list of shut-ins with their addresses and birthdays that she had supplied us. Years passed, and one by one these elders died, but I kept the list, which now has only one living soul on it. I suspect that list in her handwriting will stay in my file folder even after that person passes, and I will remember Laura and will continue to try and send occasional greetings to the those who have become shut-ins in more recent years.

Laura’s children released her to go ahead to their father, and she was buried Wednesday next to him in one of our rural community’s peaceful cemeteries. We gathered in our new fellowship hall at our village church to serve a dinner for her family and friends after the funeral and burial a few weeks before her 80th birthday. Somehow it seems fitting that she did not ever have to be one of those house-bound invalids that she cared so much about.

Then on Friday. on his and Jackie’s 49th wedding anniversary, our friend David Hancock, 70, drew his last breath after a long courageous battle with a brain tumor that forced his retirement from the extraordinary life of service that he lived. A bi-vocational pastor of several small rural churches in this county. David had preached for 52 years, and he meant so much to the many people he ministered to while he visited in their homes and hospital rooms, performed their marriage ceremonies, and conducted memorial services for their loved ones. His friendships were lasting, and people counted on his help and counsel long after he might have gone to pastor a different church in the area. He spoke at the funeral for Gerald’s brother Kenny and our daughter-in-law’s Aunt Janice not that long ago. David and Kenny had been prayer partners and good friends, and he had pastored Janice’s country church.

He worked in the insurance industry and was always a national top-ranking life insurance salesman. Somehow despite two vocations, David managed to also participate in community activities, local and city politics, and numerous organizations and institutions. For the last five years, he was one of seven trustees at John A. Logan College and was serving as board chairman at the time of his death. His visitation and funeral service were yesterday at the Conference Center at the college, where a room was recently named for him.

We were unable to go yesterday because of previous commitments. We have many memories, however, such as David helping Gerald years ago pick up chunks in one of our fields and helping with other farm tasks where he worked as enthusiastically as he did when he worked with Scouts or when he decorated their beautiful country home and surrounding yard with countless strings of bright Christmas lights. Jackie entertained the Women’s Club there in December just so we could see and enjoy David’s handiwork.  He was a dedicated family man, and his children were home to attend to him during these final weeks.

The Lyons Club was also one of his passions, and years ago having late night coffee in a restaurant now long closed, I received David’s assurance that he would see that Gerald would remember to make sure doctors knew I carried a signed card to have my corneas donated at the time of my death since time was of the essence to accomplish this. That was before the driver’s license carried that information. I realized today I might need to have someone else ready to remind Gerald of that desire if death came suddenly. David’s life of service touched many lives, and his death will leave a large vacancy. .

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Keeping Up with Everyone

Jeannie, our middle daughter, was through briefly last Friday on her way to Nashville. She had a second carload of Leslie’s belongings to take to get Leslie started on her junior year at Belmont. (Les had gone earlier with a little detour to Ohio.) After a late start, Jeannie had driven all night arriving here at 4 a.m. to crawl in bed until a she awakened at 9:15 and headed south again.

Fortunately, late Saturday night I forgot to take a pill and had padded back into the kitchen to do so when I heard a knock on the garage door. Jeannie thought our phone was off the hook as she had gotten a busy signal for a couple of hours when she tried to phone that she was coming back. We never figured out that mystery since neither Gerald nor I had been on the phone, which was not off the hook. She had gone around the house hoping to see someone up and was about ready to return to town and rent a motel room when I heard her knock and let her in. (Yes, she has a key, but, no, she did not know where it was. I suspect her siblings don’t know where theirs are either.) She was off early the next morning to make it to Freeport for Rick’s birthday and to be in church that evening when Elijah was leading worship.

On Saturday morning, Gerry phoned to say he had just arrived back from recruiting trip to California. No telling where he has been since as Geri Ann’s fall softball season has begun. I did hear that he and Vickie were going out to eat Wednesday night to celebrate their 31st anniversary.

On Monday morning, Mary Ellen phoned to say she and the kids were almost home to Waggoner after dropping Brian off at a meeting in Saint Louis. They had made a trip to Florida for their vacation. This was a special trip planned for 17-year-old Trent, who has been a War Stars fan for many years. Mary Ellen and the kids went early to arrive on time for Celebration V, and Brian flew down from work to join them and drive them home. He went to some of the movies with Trent, and Brianna attended a session or two, but Mary Ellen said it was a unique family vacation for them because they weren’t traveling, seeing sites, camping, or visiting relatives, but just resting and lolling at the pool for the most part while Trent participated heartily in the festivities.

Trent wrote on Facebook, “I have to say that I have never had so much fun. I got to be in so many panels, where I felt like part of the press. I got an opportunity to listen to George Lucas in person. I ran into the director of The Clone Wars series 3 times. I got a book series signed by all three authors who are writing the different books. I met some friends and made sure we could stay in touch…” So altogether, the Taylor trip was a success.

We are all following with great interest Erin’s participation in the European Cup in softball this week at Amsterdam. Today the Austrian Sharx beat Russia and Germany, and tomorrow they face undefeated Italy. Gerald has mastered the six-hour time difference, and we check Facebook regularly for an update on scores.

Son-in-law David and three long-limbed boys were all watching television together at their house in Marion yesterday after school when I dropped by. This afternoon I got to pick up Sam from his trombone lesson, and I am enjoying these 8th graders’ seemingly unanimous opinion that this school year is going to be a great one.

Bryan, Tara and boys have been at home for a couple of weeks, but 2011Southern Force  tryouts are this weekend, so we are excited that Tara will be in our end of the state again. Finally plans are afoot for Katherine to meet Payton. We are expecting a fun time this weekend.

As Gerald’s. Katherine’s, and my medical appointments seem to increase each year, fun times are an important diversion. I have a difficult time keeping up with who is going where when and with whom, but following the families’ lives keeps Gerald and me abreast of 21st Century activities. Our children and grandchildren travel more and lead more varied lives than we did while they were growing up in the 20th Century.  Facebook and cell phones make it much easier to keep in touch than it was in the 20th. We are glad.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Wolf Lake and Cape Girardeau Memories

Gerald graduated from Wolf Lake High School with sixteen in the class. Three years ago we celebrated their 60th graduation. Then Ermadell Eudy Elkins, a classmate noted for her spirit of service to others, started getting these classmates together for an informal supper down at Fox Hollow in East Cape Girardeau.

A truck bed used as a huge signboard at the entry road tells you that you’ve arrived, and the restaurant is spelled “Fox Hollow.” There is one small home-made craft-style sign inside more correctly spelling “Hollow” as “Holler,” which is what more folks enjoy calling this place, which is only open on weekends.

This is at the junction of Route 146 going south and the highway turning to the west to get to the Cape bridge. There are three or four somewhat picturesque storefront buildings, reminding me of a movie set for a western, that are used for a weekend flea market, althoughI’ve never been there when the market was open.
The eatery directly behind these distinct buildings, however, is about as nondescript and plain as a building can be. You walk in from the graveled parking lot through a tiny foyer. The kitchen is open in plain view of your left, and there are three low ceilinged rooms, one of which was reserved for us.

A local farmer, whose very beautiful large brick home is up the road apiece, owns and runs the restaurant, and he works extremely hard greeting guests and looking as if he enjoys this hosting/serving weekend occupation. I understand his nickname is Foxy, and that explains the inside mish mash of wall decorations that frequently feature foxes. This down-home establishment cannot exactly be described as rustic in any formalized way, but it does have a charm and excellent food that draws locals from both sides of the Cape bridge for Friday night fish and other specialties.

Seeing the regulars there makes any gathering a social occasion as much as an eating occasion. Often Gerald’s two Union County brothers and wives are there although they weren’t this particular Friday as Ginger was not feeling well. But there were others in the dining areas outside our reserved room that Gerald knew and enjoyed visiting with.

Not too long after Gerald’s 1948 class graduated, three small towns in the Mississippi
River bottoms consolidated their school systems. Wolf Lake, McClure, and Grand Tower High Schools became Shawnee High School with a new school building as well as new name. The date for Gerald’s class reunion came about because there is an annual reunion of the McClure School alumni and friends, and some of Gerald’s classmates regularly attend that reunion on Saturday night at Fox Holler. That was a much larger group as I understand it, so Fox Holler must have been full and running over the next night.

If not staying with relatives, many of the returning alumni sleep in motels in Cape and drive over for their reunion. We too drove over to Cape after our reunion, just as Gerald’s brother and wife always do when eating at Foxy’s. The cheaper Missouri gas cuts down on your traveling expense for the evening, and the new bridge is so lovely that going over it is an aesthetic joy. You are not only following one route of the Trail of Tears, but you are also in Lewis and Clark territory.

After we had filled our car with gas, we drove down to the river and enjoyed the wonderful paintings there on the river wall, which I never tire of viewing. It was still light and people were out strolling and visiting as well as viewing. We drove back through the former main shopping district close to the river. It is still an active district, but not with the name department stores of our childhood as they have moved to the new malls and shopping areas. The new riverside campus of Southeast Missouri University adjoining the old Catholic seminary buildings is quite lovely, and the brief drive near the river is replete with both historical attractions and personal memories.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Weekday Work

We have been busy this week fulfilling the Genesis directive to use six days to accomplish work. Over the weekend, I’d eyed the harvest of tomatoes and okra that Gerald had brought inside form his garden, and I knew what part of that work would be.

That activity was delayed, however, when our oldest grandchild Tara and husband Bryan and boys came to the farm. Tara and Bryan had a half day of appointments in our area, so Gerald and I volunteered to care for Aidan and Maddux, the oldest of their three boys.

We might have wanted to see if we could manage all three at once, but Gerald had a previously made doctor appointment, so I would be alone for a couple of hours, and I knew I better not risk biting off more than I could safely handle. So Baby Payton went with his parents.

Gerald started our joint child care venture by answering Maddux’s request to ride the tractor. It was a marvelous way to distract him when his parents left and he caught on that he was not going with them. Aidan was a willing tractor rider also, of course, and he always wants to ride the “mule” since Gerald lets him steer and do as much as he is able with Gerald as his back up and primary driver although Aidan doesn’t seem to know this.

While they were outside, I did get the large container of okra washed and cut up in quart freezer bags, which later I carried to the downstairs freezer, which really needs veggies since I’ve decided against ordering another beef from a brother-in-law. (It is just too confusing trying to keep track of what is where in the freezers. I think I have come to the age where I’d prefer to plan and buy a week’s supply of meat at a time. It is fun to have meat to send home with our adult children, but even that is one more chore for me and them to pack it carefully for their trip to their freezers.)

Gerald had to watch the clock carefully to get inside to shower and head to the doctor. And suddenly I was alone with Aidan, who is four going on fourteen much of the time, and Maddux, a quiet blond toddler, who melts everyone’s heart with his charm and shy smile. Both boys are sturdy and strong and extremely coordinated. Their parents are excellent teachers, so they can do many things safely for themselves.

For the most part, Maddux seems and acts much older than 20 months. But he is still a baby, and I do not want him out of my sight. He was really disappointed that his great grandmother could not continue the tractor riding even though one word he was saying very clearly over and over was “Tractor!” as he headed to the kitchen door. When I found out he could open the door, I quickly locked every outside door as we passed them.

They are used to stairs at their home, and Maddux can scoot up and down ours with no problem. That is until he looks through the horizontal banisters that every big kid has been tempted and crawled through to jump down on the couch below. He is an obedient child, and he listened to me rather than the temptation as I trailed him. He kept in the middle of the stairway as I directed.

There is also a small space between the bottom landing and the outside windows. Aidan was once in that space retrieving a toy as Maddux scooted down with me behind him. However, I am slow on stairs and he is fast. Maddux had his eyes on Aidan and did not make the turn for the remaining four steps, but instead he scooted beneath the bottom banister and off the small landing right into Aidan’s arms despite my urgings that he continue on as always before. I never did decide if he just got confused because of Aidan standing there or if it just looked like a fun thing to back off that two-foot drop off. Whatever the cause, it was a successful landing, but I didn’t want him to do it again if Aidan were not there to catch him.

We went on into the kids’ den, where earlier in the morning Gerald had gotten down some toy tractors for the boys to play with. Last week I had bought some of those upside down tomato planters on sale and started to assemble one to experiment with planting a vine that had outgrown its hanging plant holder, a holder which we had created for that stairway window I just told you about.

I had decided I might like to have four hanging vines in those four family room windows instead of just the one by the stairway. After two summers’ worth of looking, I had given up ever finding duplicates of the light-weight planter, under which we used a rolling plastic plant base to catch the water. (We discarded the rollers.)

I had started to assemble one of these new plastic tomato planters, which is not at all what I wanted . Instead of hanging in the window, it will have to sit on the floor and have the base filled with sand to weight it down,. The base and top planter were tightly packed inside each other to save space in the box, and I was not strong enough to get them apart. I knew I’d have to ask for Gerald’s help, and I had not gotten around to that yet.

So that open box was there filled with lots of plastic tubes that make up the sides. The boys had discovered this immediately and had the thing partially put together (wrongly) even though I am not sure I can by following the diagram. Now I must ask Gerald to also pull apart those plastic tubes because they are pretty firmly together. Actually this box of plastic parts was very entertaining for them, so if it does not work out as a vine planter, maybe I’ll let it be their construction toy. Both boys are fascinated by anything that has a handle or moveable part, and it is fun to watch them pull and experiment with everything that catches their eye.

This room we call the kids’ den is really a furnace room and was planned for a shop. It has an uncarpeted concrete floor and a couple of tubs with running water that I thought might be used for cleaning fish when we planned the house—but no fish has ever been cleaned there. Lots of children’s paint brushes have been because we realized immediately we needed an area for the little kids to gather in. So a long table was made from an old door and surrounded with little red plastic chairs, and this became the kids’ art room. They loved it, and so did the grown-ups who were spared lots of noise and work as the kids entertained themselves.

A couple years’ ago, I realized they had outgrown this, so Gerald repaired an old kitchen table there for them to create on. (One young teenager, who shall remain nameless, was very upset when he discovered their door-table which they had decorated together down through the years was gone.) We also put in two old couches and a small area rug and a large TV on the other end of the room, and call it their den. The little red chairs and a tiny table are there for these great grandkids.

Maddux grew tired of this play sooner than Aidan did and he opened the door into the family room and was heading to the stairs. So Aidan and I followed him. This was the first of many trips back to the breakfast table. It seemed to me that the boys ate breakfast all morning. Just a few bites at a time or a little milk or juice, and then they were off to play again. Then one of them discovered new box of vanilla wafers. Before I knew what happened after I opened it, Aidan had it dumped over and half a box was on the table. (The kids are so quick and I am so slow.) But their continuous breakfast included plenty of vanilla wafers. Suddenly it was lunch time, and breakfast food and dishes were still on the table. Fortunately, Gerald was back by now and took them out for more tractor and “mule” riding before and after lunch.

Then Tara and Bryan were back to the farm, and we had to use what little visiting time we had to enjoy Payton before they started north to the other end of the state, where Bryan had to work the next day although Aidan was begging to stay all night. Mary Ellen had thought she might stop with Trent and Brianna for the night on their way to Florida, but she phoned that they were able to get away soon enough that she decided not to stop but to try and reach Chattanooga yet that night instead.

I’d thawed a large round steak to fix a nice dinner, but seeing the messy kitchen and no guests, I decided we’d enjoy that on Tuesday and substituted our usual light supper meal for me and Gerald. That evening I finished my Sunday night blog.

Last week I had put some tomatoes for casseroles and soups in the freezer, so on Tuesday I decided to make tomato juice. I had made a little juice last year for chili, but I had more tomatoes to work up on Tuesday. I was not very well organized after the fun distraction the previous day.
I finally found the tomato juicer (a colander on a stand with wooden pusher in the middle) on the garage shelf where it has been for a year. It had to be scrubbed down because dirt dobbers had also found it. I thoroughly washed the large buckets of tomatoes through four waters and tossed them cut into quarters or halves into the large pans brought down from the top shelf of the pantry and started cooking them.

I really thought I would finish soon after our noon meal (the round steak with mushroom gravy, instant potatoes, corn on the cob, okra, and tomatoes), and then I would run in to see Katherine. Somehow this project just kept growing as the day went on. Other big pans were needed to run the juice into. Then I put some juice in plastic freezer bags and stopped when one came unclosed and spilled juice in the cookie pan holding them. So I found other more suitable containers for the rest of the juice. Then they all had to be taken to the freezer down in the kids’ den.
My kitchen floor had a good dose of vitamin C before the project was over. And it was not over until after supper when I was washing those large pans. (Well, to be honest, there is one pan that had a few tomatoes burned on the bottom during the last batch I cooked. That pan was through soaking and was scrubbed today.)

By yesterday, Gerald had brought in another large container of okra. So that morning I washed and cut up several more bags of okra for the freezer. Finally that afternoon I got to Katherine’s house. And finally last evening, I got my overdue books back to the village library. I’d had them in the car for over a week, but I kept forgetting to run by the library when I was in Crab Orchard.

Today I had a six-month standard doctor check-up scheduled, and I was glad since I had developed plantar fascitis in my right heel. I knew what I had because I diagnosed it by Google. As soon as I typed in heel pain last week, I went right to the description of what was going on in my foot. It would be very painful when I got out of bed during the night and in the morning, but the pain would lesson as the day progressed. The Google article suggested heel pads, and I had taken a pair from Gerald’s boots he was not wearing. That seemed to do the trick during the day, but the next morning the pain would be back.

So I was grateful to report it to my doctor, who gave me some more suggestions on an information sheet, and warned me to come back for further treatment if it did not soon go away. Now I have an excuse to get some writing done (maybe) because the first thing I noted on the information sheet is that it is a good thing to stay off my feet! (I had actually thought the opposite since the pain went away during the day when the foot was being used.)

Katherine said this afternoon that she has plenty of help tomorrow. I have a lot of odds and ends to catch up with here. (The big pans all need to go back on the top shelf of the pantry for one thing.) Then tomorrow night we will be going to an East Cape eatery for fish with Gerald’s 1948 classmates.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Weekend Pleasures

Had this almost finished this blog last night but not yet posted it when granddaughter Tara arrived after driving all day from College Station, Texas, where both the Georgia Southern Force and the Illinois Southern Force had been in the ASA national tournament. Driving with Tara were Aidan, 4; Maddux, 20 months; and Payton, 5 months. We were so happy she was here a couple hours ahead of when we feared she might get here.

I know Tara had to be very tired, but she was smiling. Payton was sleeping soundly in his car seat when she carried him in. Aidan came in and saw his daddy waiting here and was laughing with glee—hugging, wrestling, and kissing Bryan—just as Bryan was him. Gerald was carrying in Maddux, who was crying from being awakened. But then he saw his daddy, and Gerald said at that moment Maddux changed to uncontrollable laughter with the greatest joy imaginable.

Seeing the happiness on the young parents’ faces and being there to experience their joy together after being away from one another for two weeks changed the first sentence below which I had written shortly before Tara arrived. As great as it was to find my glasses, seeing that happy family was even more pleasant. Here if what I wrote last night before Tara and the boys arrived:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Of all the pleasant activities that occurred this weekend, the most pleasant of all was finding my glasses at 9:30 tonight.

When our youngest daughter, Mary Ellen, phoned yesterday morning and asked what was going on at Woodsong this weekend, I said nothing. I was almost ready to leave the house to get a haircut and run by Katherine’s. Today was Gerald’s brother Keith’s birthday, and his family was coming up to Marion for a Cracker Barrel birthday breakfast at 7:00. Usually the brothers’ birthday breakfasts are too early for me. But two of my sisters-in-law were going to be there, so I planned to attend.

Since Kim Barger was away on vacation, I’d been warned I’d have the preschoolers during Sunday School, and I had the lesson prepared. I knew Sam’s youth group at his church was going to report at the evening worship service about their camp in June and their recent mission trip to Felecity, Ohio, so I wanted to attend that service if possible. Yet, it seemed like it would be a calm weekend.

Mary Ellen said she and Brian were coming down to do some mowing of CRP ground. She explained they had lots of food left over from a gathering at their home on Friday night, and she said they bring it along. Today she could put it in crock pots, plug them in, and dinner would be ready after church. We could have the Cedars out to join us for Sunday dinner at Woodsong. I thought that sounded great, but Katherine had not had a good week and I said that they might not be able to come because I knew she wanted to use her limited energy to go to church tonight, which she rarely gets to do.

Before I left the house, Mary Ellen called back and suggested that we simply plug in the crock pots at Katherine’s and have dinner there, which would eliminate considerable hassle for the Cedar family. So I ran this by Katherine when I was at her house, and she thought that sounded good.

I had left Saturday lunch for Gerald, so I didn’t bother coming home until the middle of the afternoon and was already at the computer when I heard Brian and Mary Ellen upstairs. I can’t wear my current glasses at the computer, and I can see just as well without glasses as with my older glasses made for computer work.

By the time I got upstairs, Gerald, Brian, and Mary Ellen were at the kitchen table snacking. I went behind the table and pulled up the kitchen stool we had gotten out for Aidan the last time they visited. After the Taylors left to start their mowing, I realized I did not have my glasses on, but not seeing the glasses on the table, I assumed I had left them downstairs by the computer. When I arrived back down there, no glasses. I finished whatever I was originally doing at the computer and went back upstairs assuming I must have put laid them somewhere in the kitchen although I did not remember being anywhere except the kitchen table.

I looked on the table again. Then I looked by the dishwasher where I sometimes take glasses off because they steam over if I open up a hot load. Not there. Then I looked by the oven where I sometimes take off the glasses for the same reason. Not there. A little frantic by now, I looked all over. Not there. Then to the garage in case I had opened a hot dryer and steamed my glasses. I did not think I had done any laundry anymore than I thought I’d opened an oven or the dishwasher. But I had to look somewhere. Not there. I continued looking upstairs until I was too bored and frustrated to continue.

Then I went back downstairs and looked in all the rooms down there as well as looking on my computer desk again. Then I gave up. Gerald also looked but failed to find them.

Mary Ellen and Brian were staying at our house that night, so when Mary came in at 8 or 9 from mowing, I sat with her as she ate supper and told her of my loss. She was always the one who kept tract of my glasses when she was a little girl living at home, and I knew she would be a talented looker. She too looked everywhere. She found two pair of older glasses and brought them to me—making me aware that it is time for me to recycle discarded glasses to the Lyons Club collection site. Gerald looked again this morning and brought up a pair of inexpensive dime store glasses beside an old computer—I’d experimented with them years ago to avoid an extra pair of computer glasses. But they had not worked then and would not work now. I wonder if Lyons Clubs want the non-prescription dime store glasses.

Mary Ellen woke to attend her Uncle Keith’s birthday breakfast, and we let Brian sleep since he had mowed so late that no one knew when he had come in and collapsed in bed.

We knew it was well after midnight—maybe 2 or 3 a.m. so he needed sleep more than social life. The sun was bright, so I put on my prescription sun glasses to ride to Cracker Barrel, and I knew when I had to take them off inside, I could simply order the same healthy eggs that the brothers started ordering years ago when their brother Kenny had a heart attack and needed to eat those artificial eggs. They had simply changed with him.

Fortunately, I had studied my lesson for the preschoolers when I still had glasses, so that was no problem. With Deana Starnes’ wonderful help as a substitute, the kids listened to the story of Agabus taking an offering of both money and food to the hungry at the Jerusalem church. We talked about the offerings that the children had taken to the Sunday School secretary and how part of that offering would help feed people around the world.

Then we counted pennies and other change I’d brought, and I like to think some seeds were planted that will help them understand that there are five pennies in a nickel, ten pennies in a dime, four quarters and l00 pennies in a dollar. Whether they began to understand that or not, they had practice in counting and probably some enlargement of vocabulary. When Miranda told us that her daddy said that children should not play with money, we discussed how right he was and how money is important to the family’s well being. We explained that we were using the money to learn and then we’d give it to those in need.

Next we used that money as we played grocery store, and each child chose two real food items for us to carry down and place in our church’s storage cabinet to distribute when we receive calls about someone needing food. With the actual money we had used at the grocery store, we made a visit to the empty sanctuary and sat down on the front row and played “big church” with the offering plate there so they could give the money to help others.

If any of the parents have time to review the children’s little story paper this week, I hope the kids remember that they gave money and food to help those who needed help. The volunteer workers who continue teaching the preschoolers during the worship service arrived, and I moved on to the choir. I knew I was familiar enough with the old hymns we sing that I’d be okay in the choir.

I felt a little foolish, but when prayer requests were asked for in the choir room, I voiced my most immediate need, which was to find my glasses. I received sympathetic nods and smiles—even from the younger choir members. Since I could not follow the scripture reading during the sermon, I listened more intently than usual. My sun glasses worked well riding to Katherine’s house, and I did not need glasses to eat the wonderful lunch that Mary Ellen had prepared for us—barbecue sandwiches, baked beans, chips and dips, sliced tomatoes, and home-made cookies that Brianna had made. Mary Ellen packed up stuff for me to take home and cleaned Katherine’s kitchen. After a couple hours’ visiting together and some errands, the Taylors took off their rural Waggoner home, and Gerald and I came back to Woodsong to rest.

Soon our grandson-in-law Bryan arrived with his former college roommate, who had met his early afternoon train in Carbondale. They had lunched and visited together there, and we had a good visit with Keith before he answered his cell phone to go and pick up his daughter. Gerald and Bryan enjoy each other’s company, and I left them to explore the week’s projects at Woodsong, and I wore my sun glasses to drive back to town to attend Sam’s 6 p.m. youth program.

The program was good, and I was pleased I had accidentally sat right behind a neighbor and her daughter’s family that I never get to see. Soon David arrived with Katherine in her chair, and I was so happy she had been able to come. Her aide had fixed her hair in a new way and she looked so pretty all day. Congregational songs were put on an overhead, so I had no trouble seeing those words when we sang.

After the service, I hurried to the car at 7:00 so the sunglasses would still be a help not a hindrance to drive home. Gerald and Bryan were out on the lake, but soon came in. We fed Bryan one of Mary Ellen’s barbecue sandwiches and had another one ourselves. And he enjoyed Gerald’s cantaloupe and the Union County peaches.

Afterwards, Bryan went down to find a football game on TV and Gerald went to make some photos of Keith’s breakfast party. I was cleaned up the kitchen and watching a news channel on television as I always do during that chore.

Of course, I was still looking for my glasses, but since I had scoured the kitchen several times, I did not expect to find them. Then as I replayed once more coming up and sitting on the kitchen stool the day before, I suddenly went over and looked again on the small counter nearest the kitchen table beside the stove. There between the toaster and the small plastic bread container, were my glasses. There were only visible when you looked down between the two objects. I did not remember taking the glasses off, but I obviously did and reached over and laid them in that safe place. I had to wonder if some kind choir member had prayed for me at that moment. I certainly said a thank you prayer and then went down to share my good news with Bryan and Gerald.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Heat Wave

We had just learned from a high school classmate of Gerald that our friend Ruby Treece was now living at Marion’s Liberty Village, a retirement community. The classmate wanted us to plan to pick up Ruby and take her with us to their class’s annual get-together in recent years. We were pleased to do so, because Ruby almost seems like family. One of the 16 graduates in Gerald’s 1948 Wolf Lake High School class, Ruby was born on the same day as Gerald and attended the same rural grade school. She married the brother of our sister-in-law Opal, and after his death and the death of her brother soon after, she had a terrible fall in their two-story house in Cape Girardeau. Recovering from that, she had decided she better relocate where she could have less work and better care. A grandson’s family in Marion clinched the decision to come here.

Ruby called me Saturday to tell me she realized she already had two engagements that same day of the class reunion and although she’d like to go to the reunion, there was no way she could. She said she had not met many people yet at Liberty Village. But during our chitchat about this, I told Ruby about getting acquainted with Eric Levin and how charming his mother sounded who had lived there for several years and whom he had just moved to assisted living part of the compound. When I told about Mrs. Levin being accomplished pianist, Ruby gasped and said one of the few people she had met was this lovely lady who said she was a classical pianist. Ruby told her that she would love to hear her play, and the lady invited her to her apartment and played beautifully for Ruby. (Eric says she was so very good as a younger woman that now that her hands are arthritic she feels she is no longer good--but she is.) I told Ruby I could not wait to share this with Gerald at lunch. And I did.

After lunch, the phone rang again. Ruby said she had gone into the common gathering area and there was the lady, Sylvia Levin, and a younger man, whom Ruby immediately knew must be her son. She told them we had just been conversing about them and how long she had known Gerald. And that she had known Gerald’s' Gma Zula Godwin, who was friends with Ruby's mother. I had gotten an email from Eric the nite before asking about his first wife’s relationship to Uncle Melvin Godwin and I forwarded it to Gerald to answer. So that email from Gerald was waiting for Eric when he got home that night.

This is the reason I talked almost two hours with Ruby Morrison Treece on Saturday. I thought the coincidences were fascinating once more proving that the world is a small world.

Jerry Pirtle, who lives down in rural Ozark, had dropped by Tuesday night after visiting his nearby farm in our neighborhood. Jerry was first just a friend, but later he and Gerald found out they share a family tree on Gerald’s Grandma Zula Pirtle Godwin’s side of the family. Gerald was telling Jerry about our new friend Eric Levin, who had married a Pomona girl, Diane Ellis, whose mother’s sister was married to Bill Godwin, son of Gerald’s Uncle Melvin Godwin. Gerald has been reviewing Uncle Melvin memories with his brothers Keith and Garry, Gerald remembered Uncle Melvin from his childhood as a great story teller, back when the family was still close enough to go up Pomona for visits.

Jerry was born and lived in the Pomona-Alto Pass community until he and Margie moved to Ozark. Yes, Jerry remembered the Godwins, and his father was a friend of Uncle Melvin. So that visit with Jerry Pirtle stirred all kinds of memories of Pomona and the Jerusalem Church and cemetery. In fact, Jerry had gone to school with Dianne Ellis Levin’s two older sisters.

Despite the heat wave, Gerald has continued to work outside most of most days this week. He has picked okra, tomatoes, and cantaloupe—great quantities of all three. He brought in a mess of sweet corn from Scott’s field next door. And although he was exhausted Monday night, he was very pleased that he and Scott had finally completed their months’ long plan of being able to pump water from our lake to the experimental plots on the other side of our long driveway. An intended phone call to “Julie” had been forgotten by someone, and unfortunately they accidentally cut through the landline phone wire buried in the middle of our lane. We had to drive around that excavation into the grass that night, but the next day the phone company repaired the line and Gerald has been leveling the lane once more. Since then, he has started a project to put in a system that would allow the local fire department to use the lake if needed in case of a fire. The chief had suggested this but never followed through on it, so Gerald did. I am not sure he has finished that. All this in addition to other miscellaneous activities and a doctor’s appointment about numb fingers has made his week very productive despite the heat.

He might come in dripping wet, clean up, cool off, and change clothes, but after awhile he could be outside again on a tractor or in the garden or his shop. Yesterday, however, when the heat index was 120 degrees, he came in before lunch and announced he would not be going back outside unless it was in the air-conditioned truck. After lunch, he looked pretty relaxed in fresh sports clothes when two men, who are going to do a small timber project for us up at the other farm, showed up at the house. Soon they were off in the air conditioned truck to check out that timber site.

Because Jerry Pirtle, who recently retired from the forest service, has always been Gerald’s source of information about trees or timber, Gerald called him to talk trees after the foray at the timber site. Soon they were reminiscing about Pomona, the Ellis and Godwin families, and their childhood memories. Jerry came up, and once again Gerald took off in that air conditioned truck. He and Jerry were off to explore those beautiful hills and valleys. They got back to Woodsong long after I was home from our early evening Wednesday church service. I was watching television, and he brought me down a half of a regular peach and a half of a white peach on a dessert plate. Later when I went up to fix the morning coffee, I saw the large wooden box of peaches he bought during their visit to one of Jerry’s friends in that peach orchard country.

This morning when I got up, he had spread his photographs of his Uncle Melvin and Aunt Essie’s tombstone and other tombstones at the Jerusalem Church cemetery including that of Dianne Ellis Levin. He was already outside working, of course, but when he came in for lunch, I heard more about his travels. He needed to run into town this afternoon, but I was not surprised when I came home from Katherine’s that he hard at work outside near his shop. Today was somewhat cooler at least. I finally gave up waiting to eat supper with him as the clock approached eight.

Now I guess I better go back upstairs and straighten the kitchen and make tomorrow morning’s coffee. I will want to sleep as late as possible but will need to be up by seven tomorrow. Gerald, who can’t sleep past seven and often wakes at four or five or even earlier whether he wants to or not, will have already walked down the lane and back for the daily newspaper, fixed his toast and 30-second egg in the microwave, and probably will have read the paper and already be outside before it gets too hot. Or he might be downstairs in his office working on photographs or checking grandchildren’s remarks on Facebook. If he happens to still be at the breakfast table, we’ll eat a peach together.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Gathering to Worship

We gathered in our village church as usual this morning, and then this afternoon Center Baptist Church gathered again at 2 o’clock to dedicate our new fellowship hall. The sparkling white walls and the white flowers arrangements with glowing white candles on the white-covered tables pleased our eyes as we entered. But we were soon happily distracted as former members and pastors entered to join us in this happy occasion. The room was abuzz with greetings and hugs.

Pastor Chris Cutsinger called us to order and soon we were singing “We Have Gathered in this Place to Worship Him.” Sounds of the many voices filled the high-ceiling room with harmony as people rejoiced and thanked God that our long held dream had come to fruition. Our hearts were filled with thanksgiving for this new facility with a large shiny kitchen and accessible rest rooms.
Despite all the good memories and good food served in our basement down through the years, those steps going down were steep and not accessible to many people. We have seen people carried down, and we have set up a special upstairs classroom for eating when needed, but those were poor solutions. Although most of us were not bothered, there were some for whom the basement created allergy problems. Now wide doors, ample space, and first-floor convenience will help everyone not only feel welcome but also comfortable. Alan and Katie Ozment were down from Granite City for our services today, and Alan laughed that he won’t have to duck because of low ceilings any more.

Our previous two pastors and wives, Gordon and Shirley Lantrip and Sam and Pam White were there to enjoy this time with us, and we appreciated all they did to help us reach today’s happiness. After inviting the Lord into our presence with song and prayer, Charles Boling brought a sermon encouraging us to use this room well.

We did just that. Following the worship service, we visited with one another as we passed around tables laden with finger foods and fruit. We gathered at the punch bowl and enjoyed the special cakes brought in for the occasion. We shared joy over the good things in our lives, and we encouraged each other when we listened to problems. We table hopped visiting with old friends who had come to share this time of celebration with us. We renewed our fellowship with them as we remembered times past and caught up with what was going on in their present. We left knowing it had been good to have been in the house of the Lord.