Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why Am I Confused?

Last year on my 79th birthday, my grandkids surprised me with a 29th birthday party. With the Thanksgiving break on the dates it is this year, our families were not able to be here last Saturday, but I had an abundance of cards, calls, and Facebook good wishes from them and others.  I could tell from the size of  Jeannie’s card that she had likely purchased the card especially for me, so I opened it expectantly. What to my wondering eyes should appear but a big happy wish for my 90th birthday.  Inside she explained that she chose that one because the verse on the 80th card was too boring.  What with the deteriorating strength and weakened mind that comes naturally with the aging process, no wonder I live confused.  But my age is somewhere between 29 and 90 if I have it figured correctly.  Mary Ellen invited us over for a birthday supper, but we had already made plans, so we took a rain check on that. 

Gerald and I took early leave of the farm so I could go by Katherine’s and process her meds for the coming week and he did some errands  before he picked me up for our evening together to celebrate. We ran by to see what was on at the theater since there are no longer ads in the area newspaper, but we did not see anything that looked interesting to us, so we marked that off our list and relaxed knowing we had plenty of time to shop for a toy apiece to wrap for the three great grandsons for Christmas.

After our shopping expedition, we went to Red Lobster for a very nice dinner and relaxed in those quiet surroundings.  I judge restaurants partly on the noise level, and this one is pleasant enough to carry on conversation.  I also judge a restaurant on how sparkly their water glasses are and how pretty they looked with ice.  And our water was served just right.

 Gerald  had asked me what I wanted as a gift, and the truth is I need very little these days. I could not think of a thing bought at a store. (I have some books that I would like from used book places, but that is too complicated to explain to someone else.) Already too many gifts take up storage space at our house, and my closet needs decluttered, not added to. (This is because if I like a garment, the fact that it is 20 years old does not make me dislike it.  Maybe some items have gone out of fashion, but since I do not follow fashion, I don’t know nor worry about it.)

 However, when I was at the shop for a haircut, Stefeny was expressing satisfaction with a new hair straightener, and I realized my ancient curling tool had died this week.  So I had her order me a new one, and told Gerald he had given me my birthday gift.  So I was not expecting another gift, but when we arrived back home,  he surprised me with a gorgeous flower arrangement in fall colors that looks so good on the brown cloth on the dining room table. 
Gerry and Vickie and Geri Ann came in  from Georgia around midnight that night after we were already in bed.  Gerry had instructed us to leave the door unlocked and the light on and we did.  The next day when I came home from church,   I started to make a big pot of chili    for whoever might be showing up.  But Vickie said she’d make the chili later and that we were invited to go to lunch with them as they were taking Vickie’s mother Shirley to lunch. No lunch clean-up sounded good to me. Then after leaving Texas at 4 am, Erin met up with us in town.  Gerald rode back to the farm with someone,  and I  went on to Katherine’s house. Bryan and Tara with their three little guys—Aidan, Maddux, and Payton—arrived  from Georgia that evening, and I hope they enjoyed that yummy chili as much as I did went I got home after midnight.

Not knowing about the huge pot of chili, Mary Ellen had brought over one of her delicious meat loafs when she dropped in to visit the Gerogia bunch, so Gerald and I enjoyed that today at lunch. Everyone else had gone to town to meet friends and Gma Shirley, so along with the meat loaf, I tried to use up small bowls of veggies to get the kitchen fridge ready for the next influx of company before Thursday’s feast.   I am not sure who will be sleeping where.  Erin is at Gma Shirley’s or else her cousin Sarah’s, but if the couches run out here, we may have to use an air mattress or two.  We have done that before.

My pumpkin and pecan pies are in the freezer since I made them last week, and the frozen turkey is thawing in the little fridge in the garage.  I still have some last minute grocery shopping to do, however. And I must ask someone to expand the kitchen table  and get the little folding tables from the front closet set  up. Thanks to Gerald,  I do not have to think about a Thanksgiving arrangement.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Attending Two Out of Three Weddings

 Early in the summer we received a wedding invitation for a couple of whom I am fond. This was a second wedding for both, and they hadn’t registered for gifts.  Knowing they already had the usual household needs, I purchased a gift card figuring they could find something they could use. 

However, before that wedding at our village church, I received an invitation to a bridal shower for Vanessa, a great niece in the middle of the state—my brother Jim’s granddaughter.  Because of the distance between us, I have known her mostly through photos and Christmas cards—and her grandfather’s stories. And because of those stories, I have always had a special place for her in my heart.  An excellent student, she has had to deal with health problems throughout her teen years that the medical profession was not able to properly diagnose or cure. One of Jim’s stories also caused me to admire her older brother whom I’ve rarely seen: When Sean went to pick up Vanessa at her high school when she became ill once again, the secretary, with no medical license, made a cutting remark implying this was just an excuse for missing school.  Sean made an even more cutting remark and put the secretary in her place.  I cheered from the bottom of the state. 

Anyhow, Vanessa has always been someone I have cared about from afar, and I was pleased to be invited and wanted to attend her bridal shower. I am nervous these days about driving that far, but I thought I could do it and surely I could manage one day off from other duties and go.  When the week came, I knew I shouldn’t. Then I realized I did not have time to shop for a gift, get it wrapped, and mail it by the shower date. But I had that gift card in the house for the other wedding, so after calling my regrets to the shower hostess, I put the gift card inside a greeting card and enclosed it in a letter to my sister-in-law Vivian so she could take the gift to the shower for me.  

Then the day for the local wedding came, and again time was so scarce that I could not shop again—even to pick up a gift card on the far side of town.  But I went to the wedding and even arrived early. Ken and Natalie, looked so happy and sounded so sincere with their tributes and vows to each other that the wedding was heart warming as well as visually lovely. I had watched the bride’s young adult son and daughter grow up since their babyhood as they came in and out of our village visiting grandparents and their aunt’s family.  At the wedding, they served as attendants and were so handsome and beautiful.  Far-away cousins and relatives had come home to their starting place in our village for this celebration, and it was good to see friends from long ago including the former pastor who married them. I so enjoyed visiting at the reception afterwards in the adorned fellowship hall, where the bride’s brother, Marshall, a professional chef, served us a delightful dinner.     (I had to wonder if the grandparents and great grandparents who had meant so much to the church and our community were looking down on this ceremony and rejoicing with us at this gathering of their descendants.)

In the meantime, both Vanessa’s thank you note and later a wedding invitation arrived.   On a non-hurried day, I replaced the gift card for Ken and Natalie to mail to them in a nearby town, and I shopped for Vanessa’s gift.  I thought I had found a small gift I could afford that would be helpful but could be returned to the chain store if not needed.  By this time, we had also received an invitation to the wedding of Gerald’s cousin’s grandson, and I debated buying two of the gifts.  Unfortunately, I hesitated and didn’t. 

Since I had missed the bridal shower, I was determined to go to Vanessa and Brandon’s Friday afternoon wedding.  We were having our son’s family that weekend for a wedding in his wife’s family and for multiple other activities they were involved in.  I knew they would not want me skip Vanessa’s wedding, so I kept planning to go. However, Katherine’s aides were calling in sick or not showing up, and I became increasingly wary of the wisdom of leaving town.  Fortunately, I decided to stay home. The first of Gerry’s family arrived early that day for our great grandsons to have a play day at the farm, and so I put a roast in the oven and ran to town to buy the needed extra milk supply and other groceries.

At the grocery store, my cell phone rang, which is often an ominous event.  I answered and found Katherine’s aide did not show.  I had two possibilities for a worker, and the first one I called was already working that day.  Then I called Katie, who I had recently been told might be available. She could hear me and understand my request, but her voice was breaking up and with all the loud static noises, I could hear few of her words.  I thought she said yes, but was not sure.  I was panicking in the far corner of the store trying to figure out how to communicate with her when I discerned the word “text.”  Ah, the younger generation is so smart!  I am not adept at texting, but I was able find out Katie would come and then text her the complicated directions to Katherine’s house.  I finished buying groceries and got home before the roast burned just in time to serve lunch.

Despite knowing I had done the right thing, I felt sorry for myself about missing this special wedding and the opportunity to see all of Jim and Vivian’s children, grandchildren, and their two great grandchildren I had never met.   However, when I talked to my brother on the phone later, I found out he had been expected to give the bride away and rehearsed the night before only to wake up on Friday too ill to go to the wedding.  Their daughter picked up Vivian, and Jim stayed home and groaned, he said.  I quit feeling sorry for myself. 

Katie is my reward for making the right decision to stay home. A well trained CNA, she has turned out to be one of the best aides Katherine has ever had.  Despite her 90 pounds, this tiny young woman can move Katherine in the Hoyer lift and is strong enough to make the constant necessary adjustments for someone who cannot move her own limbs. She can get Katherine in the van and buckle her wheelchair down, gas the van, and drive her to doctor appointments, which is quite a challenge. Best of all, Katie has the sweetest cheerful demeanor and is so empathetic.  With her youthful enthusiasm, she also does little things that make Katherine’s day just a mite brighter, such as getting Sam’s latest photo framed and on the mantle, bringing her a Hershey’s kiss, or managing a quick visit to Facebook.

Before I knew it, October 19 arrived, and we were still without a wedding gift for the cousin’s grandson Cody and his fiancĂ©e Kelsey.  I scolded myself.  Why didn’t I buy two when I shopped for Vanessa?  However, because I do not like to wrap and send packages,  Vanessa and Brandon’s gift was still at our house.  So I hurriedly wrapped it, and Gerald and I were off to Lick Creek for the 4 p.m. wedding at the church where relatives attend.  Even the outside parking lot was boldly decorated with the wedding colors, and the entry through the fellowship hall was filled with visiting guests and more decorations celebrating this important day.  When we entered the hallway to the sanctuary, there was a large photo of a handsome young man and a sweet little girl and a sign explaining:  the father of the bride.  His name was with the mother’s on the program, but the mother and I think a brother gave the bride away. Someone explained to me that her father had died years before in an accident.  Despite this tragedy in their lives, the wedding participants were joyous on this day and eager to express their devotion to Christ and to each other. Some cute planned humor brought laughs and took away any stiffness that solemnity sometimes produces.

We had barely been seated when someone came to sit next to me and said, “Hello, neighbor.”  It was Jay and Winnie Payne’s daughter Sheila and her husband Chris Edmonds, who it turns out is a first cousin to the groom, Cody, who is Gerald’s first cousin twice removed.  I don’t think I had ever met Cody, but long ago I had met his sister Cora, named after Cora Ellen whom my daughter Mary Ellen is also named after.  Cora was barely into her teens—if even that—when I met her, and I was so impressed with her poise as she put out her hand and introduced herself to me.  So down through the years, I have inquired and cared about her.  Now I was able to see her again all grown up and lovely in her maid-of-honor gown.  We heard her sing and then greeted her at the reception and later heard her explain that she had introduced her friend, the bride, to her brother. 

Getting to the reception was an adventure although like everything else, this too was well planned as the way there was pleasantly marked for guests.  This beautiful hilly region of Southern Illinois is one of my favorite areas, and the narrow country road enhanced by its name Buffalo Gap Road always delights me just as the nearby Rocky Comfort Road does.   

At the home of the groom’s grandparents, Dan and Geneita Edmonds, an enormous wedding tent had been set up beside the lake to accommodate the large crowd.  Family members were meeting guests in the parking field and offering rides in four-wheelers up to the reception site.  The setting was so beautiful that I wanted to walk up the grassy hill, and I actually managed well until I reached the lake area where Gerald was able to cross over a rough spot onto the lake path. I did not mind walking on a bit so I could go to the end of the lake and walk back on the lakeside path to where the crowd was gathering for hors d’oeuves as we awaited the fantastic dinner the family had provided.  I think one aunt was a professional caterer, but others had pitched in that morning peeling potatoes and enjoying the camaraderie of preparing this feast for the crowd. 

As the evening darkened, the multitude of lawn lights had come on as well as lights outlining the other side of the lake.  The romantic magic of flickering lights and candles was present outside and inside the tent.  After visiting and connecting with various friends and family members, we finally found ourselves going through the outdoor buffet line and taking our plates to the lovely comfortable tables inside the tent.
We joined Gerald’s cousin Betty’s daughter Mary Ellen Gilbert Graddick and husband Wayne at their table. (Yes, the Ellen in her name is after the same Cora Ellen, a favorite aunt of Gerald, who was named after her aunt, the first Cora Ellen Glasco..)  They and their daughter Becky and her new husband Joseph Henderson had come up from Tallahassee to peel potatoes and enjoy this special gathering of her late mother’s family. As we looked up at the beautiful chandelier overhead, Mary said they must shop for one for their camping tent. We were happy to see the Graddicks again and meet Becky’s husband, and Mary kept us entertained as she does on Facebook. On the other side of me was Gerald's cousin Barbara and husband Fred Pitts.  Barb has always been a favorite of  mine because we both have a love of reading. 

Again family volunteers were coming to our table serving and spoiling us as we enjoyed the band and watching the younger folks dance and listened to the laughter and joking toasts of the wedding party.  The night air now chilled, but we drove home through the hills with warm hearts under a full moon as we reflected on our enchanted evening.

After this wedding I hurriedly shopped and duplicated Vanessa and Brandon’s first wedding gift that I’d given away to Cody and Kelsey.  It is now in a gift bag waiting for me to take it up to my brother’s home, where he is recovering from several days at St. Johns Hospital in Springfield where he received four stints.  

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Into Browning November

The large artistic pumpkin that grandson Sam and his girl friend Anna created  and left on our front porch had to be turned around.  Now the rotting edges of their cut art does not show. Earlier I had enjoyed the magic I always feel when a jack-o-lantern is lit.

The field across our driveway in back of the garden, which I see through my kitchen window, is bare except for low brown stalks and debris. At the end of our lane, I have watched the soybean field turn from green to dappled yellow to all yellow to dappled brown to all brown.  Soon it too will be harvested and there will only be low tan stubs of stalks.

The little maple tree seen out the living room windows is a lovely vibrant reddish orange, but I know those leaves will soon be on the ground.   I strive to take in all the color and beauty of the changed trees as I drive to and from town because I know that autumnal beauty will  soon to be replaced with stark empty limbs, an entirely different aesthetic experience.

Nature is constantly changing in all seasons; but somehow despite all its glory, fall sometimes produces a melancholy as we consider that another growing season has passed.  New school years remind us that last year’s oh-so-important activities are fading from our memory. Last January’s brave resolutions won’t be accomplished now, and we are aware of other things that did not get done before winter comes. 

Endings have built-in sadness along with the hope and promise of new beginnings coming into view.  November is a satisfying month as we slow down from the hard hot work of summer and take time to evaluate the blessings we have received.  Crunching through the fallen leaves on sodden ground, we are winding up a year as we prepare for the approaching glad holiday season. 

Gerald and I have had our first pot of chili on a cold day. We are also often warmed both physically and emotionally as people we meet are exclaiming  over what a beautiful day it is. Catalogs are flooding our mailbox trying to tempt us to hurry and order gifts for our loved ones, and the stores are already full of holiday merchandise. I am still trying to put away summer clothes. It is a full season with both the remainders of the last season and reminders of the coming season of family and friend gatherings before the wintry blasts take over for a spell.