Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Weekend Away!

There was honey on my breakfast toast this morning thanks to son-in-law Rick Eiler’s first honey harvest from  his two bee hives on a friend’s farm land.  If I am not mistaken, the last time we traveled the length of Illinois to see Jeannie’s family was for Showtime during Elijah’s senior year at Freeport High School.  It was wonderful to have the opportunity to visit there this past weekend. 
Katherine’s friend Laura was with her, so I did not worry about Kate.  Granddaughter Leslie came up from Nashville Thursday night; and she had invited us to go on up with her, so I did not need to be concerned about Gerald driving that entire way.  We had missed Cecelie’s freshmen participation in last year’s musical, play, and Showtime, so to go see her in this year’s musical was a dream come true as we hurriedly packed and left the farm mid-morning Friday.
Leslie is always delightful company—funny and bright and so pretty. Unfortunately we did not get to hear her sing during this visit, and we should have insisted on it.  But there was much to talk about.  Her husband Mike stayed home with Millie and Sidney—their huge dogs that  don’t travel that well--but we caught up on the news about them as well as Mike. 
Mike is a personal trainer, and proof of his ability has been seeing our little Leslie become a champion strong woman competitor.  (Is that the right wording?)  We really did not know there was such a thing or such contests, but now we regularly see photos of Leslie lifting huge bars into the air while we tremble.  And we see Mike pulling trucks and other outrageous objects with Les in the background of the video being his cheerleader urging him on.  Scary stuff to watch, but we have to be proud that they somehow have achieved that strength in addition to holding full-time jobs, an active social life,  and fixing up their first home. And now to my great satisfaction, Leslie has renewed her high school theater career-- as an extra curriculum activity in the evenings. I love knowing she is singing and acting again.  That was not possible as a commercial voice major at Belmont with all the required concerts to complete that degree. She is rehearsing now for Ragtime in January.
On our way north, we stopped at Illinois State in Normal to pick up Elijah who had driven there from Jacksonville.  He is a senior studying special education for the seeing impaired, but his classes at Normal are over.He spent the first six weeks of this semester at Indianapolis at  the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Now he is rooming in a dorm at Jacksonville, but each morning he drives to Springfield where he teaches individual students with sight impairment at four different schools.  Next semester he will be doing his official student teaching at a Chicago school, so I am especially eager to hear him tell of those experiences.  I think he enjoyed being on campus long enough for coffee with a friend while he awaited us to arrive from downstate.
Soon we were on that long long stretch of Route 39 and 51 heading toward Rockford.  It was good to once more see the familiar sights along the streets of Freeport, and soon we were welcomed into Jeannie and Rick’s house where there was a fire blazing  for us in the living room.  We dropped off Lige and Les and  made a quick trip to our favorite motel to dress for Cecelie’s musical and then returned to be at  Jeannie’s pretty table for chili and goodies before we headed to the Jeannette Lloyd Theatre, another favorite place for our family. 
For twenty-five years Tim Connors has devoted his life to the kids at Freeport High.  He has developed a fantastic speech program and manages to get amazing results from the large casts he works with. Kids working together to create a successful performance is an enormously valuable life experience. That bonding and the artistic opportunity given to such large crews and casts of students are of immense importance to their community.  
Jeannette Lloyd obviously created an educational environment conducive to developing individual talent and superior high school theater, and Connors has continued the tradition of excellence. When I see the stage filled with guys singing and dancing their hearts out, I not only feel personal joy as I listen and watch as  crowds of girls run in to join them, but  I also know lives have been made richer because of those weeks spent producing the show.
I had never bothered to watch John Travolta’s Grease, so I was unfamiliar with the plot.  Since the time depicted was not that long after I had been in high school, I was taken down memory lane.  Cecelie’s sweet tiny neck scarf was the kind I wore most days; and  although I did not have a poodle dog skirt, I envied the girls who did.
In Cecelie’s role as Marty, her emotional excitement and dramatic exaggerated take on life often duplicated the drama my girl friends and I liked to imagine we were starring in.  Of course, I loved her song. I wanted to slap Marty and Rizzo sometimes for their meaness, and I wanted to shake Frenchy and tell her to get busy and study.  Going from childhood into near adulthood can be a difficult time, and these kids in the Grease  sub culture suffered perhaps more than other groups.  I did not like beautiful Sandy, so well played by Veronica Gross, changing because of peer pressure.  But I would like it if today’s kids used a wooden gun made in shop rather than a real one. 
Brianna was arriving after the show to join her cousins at the Eilers.  She had come home from Murray State and joined her daddy for the trip up to his brother’s, where he annually attends an auction fund-raiser.  She drove on in to Freeport to attend Saturday’s performance.  Mary Ellen and Trent stayed home because of a trivia contest they were involved in. We waited to see Bri the next day because we were on a mission for a forgotten toothbrush and special cleanser. We were in bed by eleven and slept late the next morning. 
Jeannie invited us for a breakfast casserole and a yummy coffee cake at their house, but we like poking around and eating at the motel’s big breakast available whenever you want to go the dining room.  Of course when we showed up at Jeannie’s for lunch I sampled the casserole, and I indulged in the coffee cake for lunch and supper dessert instead of the pies on her buffet.
Our Saturday morning schedule was to watch Rick extract more honey from the comb.   We had already observed on Friday  the abundance of little bears and the traditional almost oval plastic bottles filled with golden liquid, and Rick was going to work up yet another batch or two in his garage turned honey workshop.  It was fascinating as he explained the process of scraping the excess wax off the racks of goodness and  carefully placed into his stainless containers to spin the honey out.  There were several steps as we watched the liquid go from the bucket of raw honey to the lovely pure liquid in the plastic bottles. We were given a generous supply of to take home.
After lunch, Jeannie and I left the men  and  went on errands including a couple of trips to the beautiful flower shop on the edge of town where Jeannie was having a presentation bouquet prepared for Cecelie. Leslie was lunching with a high school friend to see her new baby, and Brianna and Elijah were studying together for their respective Monday morning classes.  Our main goal was to see the special thrift store that Cecelie works at and to pick her up at the end of her time there. We hid her flowers in the van and took her home to join her cousins. 
Although Cecelie and her date and some adult friends were coming to the Eilers after the show, Jeannie had a couple large cans of cheese and a crock pot needing to be sent to her friend’s house for the cast party that night.  She enlisted Elijah to deliver them since he is close friends to the two daughters there. That led to the rest of the days’ entertainment because the mother of the house suggested Elijah kidnap his long-time classmate’s tiny stuffed monkey left over from her childhood.
There was much intrigue at the Eiler house as ransom notes were written and Brianna’s unknown phone was used in various communications to Fred-the-Monkey’s mama. While we adults were eating a calm supper, Fred was off with the younger ones having his photo taken at various places at the high school.  At one time he was hanging center stage high on the overhead electric sign Grease.  I think common sense told them that maybe Connors would not enjoy that addition to the set, and they took Fred down. But the photo was funny.
Gerald usually only goes to one performance per trip to Freeport, but I love to see the second (or third when that is possible) and observe and enjoy the difference in audiences and kids’ reactions. The last night is usually charged with a mixture of satisfaction and sadness that makes that performance special.  That was true Saturday night when I went again while Gerald stayed home and watched the football game. Afterwards during  the time between the end of the play and the cast photos, I love seeing the kids still in costume receiving flowers, congratulations, and compliments. They completely fill the crowded hallway with their  parents and siblings and buddies. Alumni from  previous years are also there to give them greetings and hugs and report on college and work.
After the show the college set were out for pizza and Laurel was reunited with Fred. At the pizza gathering or else some where else, Leslie and other theater alums were presenting Connors with a cake in the shape of a juke box. It was quite a cake from the photos shared, and the crowd encircling him and leaning on the table and accidentally breaking it down made the cake presentation quite memorable I am sure.
By Saturday evening, the ground was covered with several inches of snow and everything was slick. I was being extremely careful that I did not fall, and I had Rick drop me off after the show rather than going to the after-event at their house.  The next morning we all met up again at the Eiler house in a winter scene straight from a Christmas card. Cars were covered with snow, and as we waited for church time, Gerald swept the snow off the others’ car as he had ours earlier at the motel.  We were worried about the highways, and Brianna must drive part of the way home alone before she picked up Brian down the road.  So she went on and we were grateful to the crews when we found the roads well salted and free of ice. After worship we headed back to Southern Illinois although we would have liked to have stayed for the Bible class Rick would be teaching before noon. If at all possible, Leslie planned to pick up her car at Woodsong and drive onto Nashville so she would not miss work Monday morning.
On the way home, we lunched at Culver’s, a favorite eating place for all Freeport people.  We dropped Elijah off at Normal, where he would drive onto Jacksonville, and we continued over to Champaine-Urbana and on down Route 57 to home.  Although we drove through almost continual mist, some rain, lots of fog, the highways were clear as we kept ahead of the worsening weather. 
At Woodsong the ground was covered with white loveliness, and again Gerald cleared snow this time from Leslie’s car waiting on her. She reached Nashville and was at work Monday morning.  Brianna stayed at their farm that night and made it safely to Murray the next morning. 

Our weekend with its long delayed trip to Freeport  was a much needed break from routine. Thankfully everybody made it safely back home without an accident including Fred.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

An Incredible Gift

I thought it amazing that Deborah, a friend from long ago, came up all the way from Nashville, TN, to Marion, IL, to help our daughter Katherine be able to go to her son’s Senior Night during football season. Laura, the friend’s friend, also  came along to help drive and to help out. 
It is difficult for the uninitiated to understand how much time and effort it takes to get someone from the bed to the wheelchair, dressed and groomed, fed and given meds.  Then, on top of that, trying to get out of the house and into a van  and arrive at a specified time can often be an impossible.accomplishment. But with Deborah’s and Laura’s help, Katherine was able to see Sam as drum major for the first time in the pre-game show. We were so grateful to these two good Samaritans. 
As amazing as that gift was, the friend’s friend later volunteered to come back up for a week to visit Katherine and help her. She cooked healthy meals that Katherine raved about and introduced her to the spicy substitutes she uses to reduce sugar and salt. She even left a couple of her special salmon patties and banana bread in Katherine’s freezer for me and Gerald.
I followed Katherine’s advice to use this lovely woman’s visit as a respite, so I was only there once to visit while Laura was. That day before she fed Katherine her evening meal, she spoke a brief prayer of thanks. It had never occurred to me to do that when I have helped her with a meal in her bed or chair.  There are usually any number of  needs to take care of before she can comfortably start her meal—finding a safe place for the tray, adjusting her limbs, arranging blankets or throws, adjusting the chair or bed to the right height, and so forth—and I am always fretting knowing that her food is getting cold. Katherine never complains about the food being cold, but I know she enjoys it when it is warm.   But I liked what Laura did, and so I resolved to follow Laura’s example, Yet when I was there yesterday afternoon when the snow prevented an aide from coming, I completely forgot once again. Maybe I can do better next time.
Laura went home yesterday through the bitter cold and the unexpected early snow, and she had to sit  for over two hours in Kentucky because of a cattle truck that overturned on the slick highway.  So her incredible gift of time and service was lengthened and increased in difficulty even more.
How can you thank someone who makes this kind of personal sacrifice to help another?  I can only pray that the God she loves so much will bless her with His richest blessings.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ginger Sue Ward Glasco

How do you write about someone you loved who has passed on to a better place?  Although Ginger was my younger sister-in-law, she was already in place in the family when I started dating Gerald.  She and Garry were married when they were young, and they recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with her in a hospital bed in their living room.
Because she was so young, she was still full of life and ready for fun times—swimming in the creek, going to town for a barbecue, or just telling me wonderful stories of her childhood riding her bike with her girl friend up and down the Ozark highway hills in Missouri. I never travel those steep hills without thinking of her and feeling fear for her bravery riding there.
With us both being neophyte farm wives, we were learning how  to cook, to carry meals to the field, to can, and to sew.  (Gerald  still had his senior year to finish after getting out of the Air Force, but we lived in a small rental house on a rural road  between his parents’ and Garry and Ginger’s homes. That first summer after our wedding, Gerald was working on the farm there in the Mississippi bottoms, and the first meal I ever cooked, I transported  to the field where he was working. I thought that picnic beside the road was great fun, and it was a complete meal—not sandwiches.) 
Ginger and I were together a lot that summer and the next because there were home-made ice cream gatherings and family meals at Gerald’s parents.  Ginger would usually take Mom Glasco on her Saturday shopping trip, so besides frequent Sunday dinners, Mom would make us all welcome for impromptu cold cuts and goodies that evening.  I learned to enjoy good cheeses that she bought for Dad Glasco.   We enjoyed Garry and Ginger’s adorable little blond toddler Vicki Sue and Gerald’s little sister Ernestine, who I believe was nine that summer.
By that time, severe arthritis was bothering Mom Glasco. Yet despite that. she kept a full productive schedule and was there to help us and share their abundant  supply of garden produce. (I always wished our government would have sent Dad Glasco to a third world country to teach them how he grew more than adequate food. He freely gave food to many people besides his own family.)  There was a huge bin of potatoes for everyone in a large cellar below the backyard smoke house.   Ginger and I got free canning jars by cleaning out the unused cans of food in that cellar. Mom had conscientiously canned available vegetables that sometimes was more than families could eat and it had aged out a few year before.  I would feel bad thinking of all her work with the arthritic hands, but Ginger and I had fun working together and were grateful for the free jars.  
None of us had indoor plumbing that first summer. (Later when Gerald helped Garry put in their first bathroom by using part of the kitchen space in that farm house, they put up an angled wall that I thought incredibly attractive.) Ginger had once lived in a Cairo mansion with three bathrooms during her father’s heyday with grocery stores and other businesses. She most often lived in Poplar Bluff with her mother’s extended family nearby, and she and her sister and brother always remained close to them and each other.   One Sunday afternoon she told me of the places in the nation where she lived temporarily with various step mothers and siblings, which she would  then lose after she had grown fond of them.  I was depressed for a week just hearing about it, but she was strong and resilient loving everyone’s good points and forgiving weaknesses.  Her experiences made her very caring towards all children, and her strong sense of justice was highly developed.
She was Intelligent and curious and liked to interview people to become better acquainted. With my journalism studies behind me. I teased Ginger that she should have been a reporter  
In those pre-sonogram days, she had theories about how one could tell ahead of time whether a baby was a boy or girl.   But I don’t think that she and Garry had anticipated their twin sons who arrived six weeks before I had Katherine.  The twins were  a cause of great joy and celebration in the family.  Because little Vicki Sue had measles when the twins reached the five pound mark to come home from the hospital, Mom Glasco took care of Vicki while I went down to help out during the day with the twins.   So Ginger taught me how to care for newborns.  I have always been grateful that I took care of Kerry, and  because he was slightly smaller, that Ginger took care of baby Gary.  We did not know then how short a time she would be able to do that.
Six weeks later Katherine was born, and then six weeks after that the seemingly healthy twins were at Sunday School and worship with their parents.  They had barely gotten home when they realized baby Gary was in distress, and they rushed him to the local hospital, who examined him and sent them home.  Soon they knew the hospital had made a terrible mistake and they rushed him back. For some unexplained  reason,  employees had put away a piece of equipment that was needed without repairing it.  Although I do not think it would have made any difference, it certainly did not make our family feel any better.  Baby Gary died that day, and the terrible pain of grief  was woven into the fabric of our lives. (Years later at approximately the same age, baby Brandon—Vicki Sue’s first baby—also died, and we had the worst Christmas of our lives.)  So I rejoice that Ginger is now able to see those baby boys again.  I have no idea whether people who die young finish growing up in heaven or if they remain forever young, but I know we are promised it will all be good.  I also like to think that Ginger feels how much she is loved here on earth and  knows how much good she did  while here.
Her grandchildren, who called her Mimmie, are all grown up now and soon the great grandchildren will be. But I remember the first time she and Garry babysat with Shelley, their first grandchild.  Our door bell rang and there all alone on our step was this beautiful baby in her car seat while her grandparents hid around the corner to view our excitement and admiration.  But they were quick to reclaim her after they enjoyed our surprise.
Although Ginger had health problems, she never let it stop her from living fully.  As a child, she had been in a car wreck and hearing loss resulted. Later when she went to the famous hearing doctor in Memphis, she found out that a tiny piece of her inside ear had flown out.  Her story ended up in a medical journal when the doctor wrote about it. 
It will soon be 13 years since Ginger’s devastating stroke that took away her short term memory. Shortly before that, she had brought me a lovely music box for a house warming gift, and I smilingly scolded her since we had said no gifts.  But I loved it, and when she had the stroke just a couple weeks later, I cherished it   Earlier she had given me a music box on our anniversary, and I will play these and remember the good times.
We said goodbye to Ginger way back on July 20 when family gathered at the hospital in Cape. She looked so terrible with that mask hurting her face that I did not like to look at her there in intensive care.. We were expecting the worst when the doctor’s advice was followed and the mask removed.  Instead she breathed on her own and went home to the farm in a couple of days, where with the help of Hospice and the continued devoted help of her loving neighbor Alice, who had helped Garry  care for her all these years since the 2001 stroke.  Kerry and Vicki worked together so well taking turns staying nights in the living room with their mother so that Garry could get a good night’s sleep.
The hospital bed is gone now, and the granddaughters have cleaned the stored couch until it looks new. Ginger would like the way her living room looks again.  Friends have flooded Garry’s kitchen with food for all the friends and loved ones who continue to gather there to console him.   The visitation with its crowds is over.  Yesterday’s funeral would have pleased her with a granddaughter who somehow got there from school in Los Angeles to share her reminisces of what Mimmie had meant to her.  The handsome grandson in his dress Marine uniform who managed to come from Washington, DC, and all the local  grandchildren and great grandchildren would have made her so proud.  She would have rejoiced  at Mindy and Joe’s news that they just found out that Princeton will be having the baby brother or sister he has begged for.  And she would have loved seeing her beautiful sister Lillian, who had recently lost both her husband and their brother, looking so strong surrounded by her loving sons.  She would have loved seeing all the nieces and nephews and hearing from the ones who couldn’t come.    
Ginger loved the holidays and sometimes gifted us with crafted ornaments, which I will hang on our tree again this year but with tears in my eyes. 

Sunday, November 02, 2014

That Time of Year

One short road with four  houses on one side and one house and one mobile home on the other side completes the main drag for our nearby village of New Dennison.  A church faces the highway and beckons you into the village, which ends with a lower entry road that continues on to Marion. Across that lower entry road is one more house and mobile home.  
This is a historic spot, which many years ago had a railway connection where people caught the train to Marion and Carbondale.  Once also facing the highway , where only  an empty lot remains, there was the home of  the doctor who delivered many babies in this area, but that house burned a few years ago.
Just around the corner on the village’s one road  was the small house of  his midwife companion who traveled with him in the buggy to help deliver the babies. A cousin’s daughter told me what a meticulous housekeeper she was.  Now that house too is gone after the midwife’s only child continued to live there with her cat until she finally went into a nursing home.  I never found out what happened to the cat.  I never met the mother, but I was acquainted with her daughter, who never married. She got her water from a well, and almost to the very end lived there proudly without electricity. They surely used oil lamps in her younger days, but I never saw any.  Because she had gradually confined herself to one room and it was very crowded with only a narrow path between furniture laden with clothing, I was afraid to suggest one.  I did take  her one of those battery lights you can put in closets or dark places, but I don’t know if she ever used it. She enjoyed a small battery-operated radio and was interested in the Kentucky Derby and also local news.  A social worker or a relative finally arranged for the Rural Electricity Association to put in a ceiling light in her one room, so she did have electricity the last year she lived there.  After her death, a neighbor acquired the lot and tore down the worn-out house and made it part of their lawn.  It definitely looks better, but I still think of Juanita when I pass by.
One of the more substantial homes on the road always interested me because a favorite speech student of mine once shared the story of his uncle who lived there at that time.  He was retired from some much larger town in another state where he served as post master, and Jerry explained in order to have that good job, his uncle has passed as white.  I never met the uncle, and Jerry died much too young just a few years ago, but I think about these things as I pass beside the houses there.
I always drive through the village and take the rural route into Marion when I go to visit Katherine.  Early in October,  I was driving towards the house at the end across from the lower entry road. I don’t know who lives there, but I always enjoy their Christmas lights. That day on the front porch swing which faces that road was a short man in overalls and straw hat  relaxing in the sun. It was such a pleasant sight that it made me smile, but then laugh when I grew closer and realized he was a straw-stuffed man,  Since then week by week, additional seasonal decorations have been added to the porch and yard  including a ghost by a tiny pretend cemetery.  Bright orange lights illuminate the scene when I come home late at night.  I liked it best when I thought it was a real guy enjoying the fall air and beautiful trees, but I still smile each time I pass.
I make a point of trying to absorb all the bright colors of the  leaves hanging on the trees in such abundance right now around our lake as well as on the road to town. We still have a rose bush blooming and few late day lilies, but very soon the bare browns of November will erase late October’s colors and we will need to adjust to a new kind of beauty.