Monday, April 25, 2011

An Easter to Remember

A co-worker with the preschoolers yesterday during the morning worship service asked me how many were at our house. I went blank and realized I had no idea. People were coming and going, so I really could not keep up with them.

Since Tara had phoned Thursday night that they and the three little boys would be leaving Aurora soon and would arrive around 2 a.m., I decided to follow her instructions to go on to bed and not wait up. I was almost in bed shortly after midnight and heard people in the house and was confused since I knew the Archibalds could not have gotten here that quickly. When I saw the edge of a blond head, I thought maybe Leslie had arrived, but it was Brianna and also Trent. Their dad had brought down their new camper and was sleeping in it outside although it was not completely set up yet.

When I woke up the next morning, not only were the Archibalds there, but Vickie and Geri Ann had also arrived and had picked up Leslie at Nashville. Jeannie, Elijah, and Cecelie had come in also around 3 a.m. Everyone has to take responsibility to find a couch and linens when the bedrooms ran out.

Jeannie although sleepy was ready to go biking if the weather had cooperated. She and Leslie went shopping instead. Afterwards, they ran by to pick up Sam, who wanted to get out here with the other cousins, and David had Leslie bring Sam to the farm in David’s car so the teens had an extra car.

There was a softball double header on Friday at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, so several were headed over there. Jeannie went with her dad, and after the game, she helped him finish up the last-minute grocery shopping for me. When the teenagers took off for the Dairy Queen in Marion, little Aidan who had stayed behind just to play with them, might have been upset. But Leslie put aside her home-work book and entertained him so well that he did not miss them. After all, he had an exclusive date with a beautiful blond giving him all her attention.

After rain cancelled the Saturday noon game, two groups had left to shop and/or meet other relatives, and I realized as we sat down for lunch that there were nine of us at a table that only sits eight. Gerald went downstairs to listen to Georgia’s game at Fayetteville, Arkansas. That game series was keeping Gerry away from Woodsong, and a track meet in Freeport prevented Rick from being able to join us.

Brian had gone back to Springfield area on Friday, and he and Mary Ellen came down late that night travelling through terrible storms—Brian with a trailer of farm equipment behind his pickup and Mary following in their car. (The plan was for Brian to plant this week and to stay down until he finished, but the continuing storms made that impossible.)

Because everyone had to leave Sunday afternoon to get back to school and work the next morning, Gma Shirley (Vickie’s mother and that set of grandkids’ other grandmother) was kind enough to have the Johnson family Easter celebration on Saturday night.

It was a full weekend and lots of fun and with some scary moments as well. We thought one of the visiting dogs had run off after two stray dogs in the storm when searches could not find her--actually she had crawled back in her bed after hiding from us. Aidan woke up with pain sobbing on Saturday night and told his mother his jaw hurt. Very bad. This is a child with a very high pain tolerance and who never complains even when seriously hurt. It was after midnight when Tara drove to town to get Tylenol for him and much later when he finally got back to sleep. By the next morning, he was no longer in pain, and we all relaxed and assumed it was perhaps a tooth coming in.

Gerald was kept busy giving Maddux tractor and boat rides. Payton, who is in a clinging-to-his-parents phase, made Gerald’s holiday by putting out his arms and going outside with him and riding the tractor also. Although just not quite five, Aidan is already blending in with the older teen cousins, and they are great to include him in their activities. The teenagers died the eggs and decorated the Easter bunny cake this year. I’d boiled extra eggs to make deviled ones since I know Erin especially likes them. Jeannie made those eggs for us Sunday morning before church. Leslie and Elijah sang for our village church’s morning service although none of us made it to the sunrise service. Somehow Mary Ellen and Brian arrived home from church before the rest of us and turned down the oven and saved the ham, dressing, and scalloped potatoes before they burned. Mary Ellen’s made the green bean casserole and fixed her store-bought corn casserole (not as good as her own) and the mac and cheese casserole for the kids (that we all liked) in the oven in the camper.

I think by now you understand why I did not know how many were at our house. But there were twenty-one for Easter dinner. Vickie and Geri Ann had taken Vickie’s mother and gone to her brothers’ church at Stonefort, so she brought Gma Shirley to our house to extend their visit with her just a bit. Erin, of course, had been coming and going after the Saturday game was cancelled and she had Easter surprises for her three nephews. David and Katherine were finally able to come out despite the rainy weather, which of course made placing her in the van more difficult, and despite a cancellation of an aide to help that morning. She and Shirley are special friends and were happy to be together. We were able to sing “Happy Birthday” to Katherine since her birthday is tomorrow. They were on their way to another family dinner with David’s family, so Elijah drove their car loaned to the teens back to the Cedar house in town as the Eilers left for Freeport.

We won’t forget this weekend, but neither will the many in our river region called “The Land Between the Rivers.” Although our lake has never been higher and is running steadily out the emergency overflow pipe, we are on a hill and have no danger of the house ever flooding. Yesterday was very frightening, however, for many in the Ohio and Mississippi River bottoms as the rivers rose. Some highways are closed, and the flooding has started. I am praying that levees don’t break. I was supposed to tell the story of the Trail of Tears to school children this week at the Forest Service Stewardship Week in the Dixon Springs area. This is an outdoor event. The first two days have been called off, and I expect Thursday and Friday will be also. Ten inches of rain down there in seven days has the ground saturated and some areas closed, and heavier rains are predicted.

Gerald had an eye appointment this morning, but I was able to go to a neighbor’s funeral held in Carterville. We have known this farmer’s four sons ever since we moved here, and then watched as these boys grew up and married. Now we know most or the grandchildren and some of the great grandchildren. His wife Mary died a year ago after 64 years of marriage. It was raining again as we left the funeral home. Although a beautiful sunshiny day for a funeral is helpful, I always think that nature is weeping with a family when the rains come.

After the funeral, family and friend were going back to the G. B. Morris home for a final dinner there in a now empty house filled with memories and the vibrations of years of family gatherings. A house where grandchildren and visiting neighbors were always welcome. For the past decade, the sons and their wives have kept careful watch and finally a constant vigil as the two parents grew progressively weaker and incapacitated with numerous serious health problems.

Three sons live in houses on land on the farm and one son lives in nearby Marion. Often twenty-four seven care was needed, and these families supplied it by taking turns when hired help was not available and by coordinating and cooperating with the outside help when it was. The sons’ wives have had care responsibilities with their own families during all their time as well. It has been a challenging and demanding responsibility for the four couples as they have lived through their own health problems and surgeries and with their own growing families.

As someone from down the road a ways and only vaguely aware of all the illnesses, problems, and stress they have endured, I am inspired by their faithfulness in dealing with the pain and suffering even as they rejoiced over all the good things and the good example that their father and mother provided them.

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