Saturday, January 31, 2015

It's Friday Again--Already?

Last Friday I had gotten home from Katherine’s  and was relaxing by surfing the Internet when our daughter Jeannie and her son Elijah arrived together--Jeannie from Freeport and Lige from Illinois State at Bloomington.   Gerald was already in bed as he is an early-to-bed person and an early riser.  The other three of us hurried on to bed without visiting because we knew we needed to be early risers also for the exciting Saturday we had planned.  For the first and I am reasonably sure for the last time in our lives we were planning a one-day trip to Nashville, TN, and back home.  We achieved it. 

We left long before 8 a.m. (the absolute deadline) in order to reach Leslie and Mike’s home for an early lunch before she had to head out to the theater to perform in the matinee that we were there for. Since Elijah would be 22 on Monday, we were also to celebrate his birthday with  the lunch and birthday cake Leslie had waiting for us. We consider Leslie a cake expert since she worked at Kroger her senior year in college decorating cakes. 

Elijah’s cake was  such a reflection of their sibling sense of humor.  It came with a story of how she had one chosen and was ready for the clerk to add wishes and words with Elijah’s name.  But at that moment, she saw another cake with two little figures  on it—figures of who knew what.  Mysterious not-anythings with little faces—so Leslie had to reject the first one chosen and have the writing for Elijah put on the weird- figures cake.   I suspect the employee who goofed up and created that cake was relieved to have someone choose it. Elijah, of course, was pleased with such a unique cake, as his sister knew he would be.

Then Leslie hurried off to the Performing Arts Theater, and Gerald, Jeannie, and Elijah hurried down to the nearest Wal-Mart for Jeannie to grab some things to go with Les’s belated Christmas presents since Les and Mike could not make the trip to Freeport this year for the holidays.  I stayed behind so as not to slow the others  down with my pokey walking and to rest a bit on the living room couch. Mike had just gotten home for lunch and needed to take care of the dogs and work out a bit and planned to go to the evening show with us.

Besides musical rehearsals, dog care was one of the reasons they resisted holiday travel this year. Their big black dogs Sidney and Millie have a new playmate—a beautiful tan and black dog (also big) who showed up at their doorstep and for whom they have spent an enormous amount of time trying to find either Buddy’s former owner or a new owner.  They have located a fine shelter which I think will find Buddy a good home this week. I can vouch for Buddy’s sweet nature.  When Mike let him come bounding down from the dog room upstairs, this furiously fast canine diverted his path towards the kitchen and the backyard and in the flash had leaped into my lap and given me a luscious kiss and was on out the back door before I could say, “Hello, Buddy.”

Leslie had assured us that the venue for Ragtime the Musical was only 15-20 minutes away, and by the time the Wal-Mart purchases were put in gift bags with the other gifts, that was about all the time we had. This theater was new to us for this was the first time Leslie had performed with the Circle Players, a community theater group that participates with  Tennessee State University’s Theater Program. 

Unfortunately, our GPS would not let us put in the name of the street for Performing Arts Center, and when it seemed longer than we expected, we were relieved to see the sign for the Performing Arts Center.  Hopping out to hurriedly to claim the tickets ordered online, we left Gerald to try and find a place to park. The doors were locked, but we sped around the corner to what must be the main entrance, and rushed into the large lobby just as the show would be about to start. It was oddly empty except for a volunteer at the desk asking, “Are you here to see the museum?” Oh oh. There was no show going on in that theater.  

We got directions to the university’s Performing Arts Center, and hurriedly made a phone call to reconnect with Gerald who had finally found parking. The directions we received left a lot to be desired for strangers to the city, the GPS was not helping, and when we finally reached TSU and tried to follow the directions we received at a booth there, we found signs that led us to fenced parking lots with locked gates.  Yet another stop at a another booth on campus straightened us out and Gerald let us out in front of the building with columns while he parked across the street.

There it was the third set of doors that finally  proved to be the right ones; and someone greeted us, took us in, and hand-held us down to great seats near the front of the darkened theater with both understanding  and promises that he would see that Gerald found us. Later I learned that our host had been the Circle Players president himself.  All I know is that gracious welcoming concern made the afternoon immediately turn wonderful as we slipped into the beginning of the 20th  century when Ragtime was the top musical fad of that day.

Based on the novel by E. L. Doctorow, our program explained that three groups of Americans were in this story:  “African Americans, represented by Coalhouse Walker, Jr., a Harlem musician; upper-class suburbanites represented by Mother, the matriarch of a white upper-class family in New Rochelle, New York; and Eastern European immigrants, represented by Tateh, a Jewish immigrant from Latvia.”   It was an exciting time and a troubling time in our nation and we were reminded of how much progress has been made by the women’s movement, the labor movement, and in race and immigrant relations.  We were also frightened by how sadly timely was some of this musical about an over-a-century ago era.

Along with the large cast and choruses, in a play that was mainly moved forward by beautiful solos and delightful choreography, we were also introduced to historical characters  including Harry Houdini, Booker T. Washington, Emma Goldman. Evelyn Nesbit, Matthew Henson, Admiral Robert Peary, Henry Ford, J. P. Morgan, and Harry K. Thaw.  My desire to read the novel and do some research on these people was proof to me of how emotionally compelling the musical was.

We had been able to accept being late for the matinee with fair humor because we knew we would get to see it again that evening before we loaded in the car for the long trip back to Illinois. We met up with Mike for dinner, and even Leslie was able to get off long enough to eat with us since Mike took her back in time to be ready to go again at 7:00.  She was a historical personage I had never heard of—Evelyn Nesbit, a young  girl who made her fortune with her beauty and her fame through the scandalous trial of the century because  two wealthy men fought over her. Hearing Leslie sing is always a highlight for me, and it was  fun to see her sing in her red velvet swing and later as an attraction with Houdini at Atlantic City.

We said quick goodbyes after the night show, and Jeannie got us out of town.  But Gerald  volunteered to drive us most of the way home since Jeannie and Elijah planned very short sleep times at Woodsong.  They were already gone and on the road to Elijah’s church in Bloomington when we got up.    

At our age, it has taken Gerald and me a bit longer to recoup. Soon the music in our heads was wiped away this week’s worries, challenges, and responsibilities. And suddenly it was Friday again.  Gerald helped me finish changing  the bed linens for a new week.                                           

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Better Week

This morning started with hearing laughter in the kitchen while I was still drugged with sleep – even though it was almost nine.   I assumed it was Gerald watching television until I became more awake.  As I gradually began to think more clearly, I realized that it was conversation I was hearing and it must be Mary Ellen and Brianna at the kitchen table with Gerald.

I hopped out of bed as rapidly as I could (which is not very fast since age had made me do everything slowly) and hurried to the kitchen in my flannel pajamas to see our guests.  It was already on my agenda to be sure I saw Brianna today since this evening she is heading to Florida for her spring internship at DisneyWorld.  She and Trent grew up going there, taking Disney cruises, and celebrating at this magical place, and the internship program had been a dream for her.   She has worked so much during her first two years of college that we all are hoping (even though she is going to be working there too) that this will be a spring of fun and relaxation.

Well, finally I think all the Christmas decorations are  hidden away in closets for another year.  I used the word “think” because just like the artificial grass or even  stray jelly beans have  a way of popping up in surprising places weeks after Easter, so do remnants of the Christmas season sometime. 

I still want to look over the Christmas cards and re-read the letters. I used to always do this on New Year’s Day, but I haven’t managed that for a couple of years now.  I also  have a handful of envelopes to check to make sure the address has not changed from what I have recorded on my very worn and messy lists.  The computer lists with addresses that I once knew how to use to print address labels are long gone with long-ago computers.  There are so many things I used to know how to do on older computers that I have never learned to do on this one, which I have had for several years now.

I have always managed to transfer over essays on Elder William “Cedar Billy” Martin that  have been started and stopped for many years. My last  summer project was to update and finalize all I had discovered about my great great great grandfather as a Christmas gift for my children.  That project was abandoned back in October when I had to stop and prepare for a Trail of Tears presentation.  I had planned to finish with Cedar Billy by August 1 and then September 1.  Then I was into October and still working on it when I had brief times to write.

Over and over I was almost done with this grandfather’s story,  but I kept finding details that I needed to check out or questions to try to answer. I was also trying to go through entries on a family Internet group had been  made over many years about our family history.  Completion just kept being delayed.  Finally I had to discipline myself and quit writing and start reviewing what I once knew about the excruciating 1837-38 march that our government forced the Cherokees to make through our region on their way to what later became Oklahoma. 

I feel this historical journey is one that should be known by all Americans in order for us to acknowledge that we too have sometimes acted as brutal terrorists. Only one vote in the Senate caused an illegal treaty to be passed.  Yet in the midst of that sinful federal debauchery, there were many kind souls who refused to bow down to Satan and Andrew Jackson, and those people  ministered to and helped the Cherokee and the other tribes sent west.  It is  important to know some stood up for what was right regardless of the laws passed. Many of our ancestors had no way of understanding what had transpired since prominent citizens and much of the media quoting those self-serving citizens and officials gave misinformation to the masses.  Many, of course, could not read anyway since educational opportunity was scarce back then. 

 I think it is important for us to be aware that we may do terrible things and think we are fighting for righteousness. So back in October I put aside the family information I was working on.  And I struggled to get ready to talk about the terrible trek one group of humans made another group of humans take through Southern Illinois when the two bounding  rivers froze over and the snow on the ground between the rivers was spotted with blood from feet whose moccasins had worn out.  And the aged and the infants were buried in our soil.

The stack of papers and the notebooks on my grandfather has been moved around several times since then, but I have never gotten back to that undertaking, which I assumed I would start up again in November.  But I didn’t.  Now I know that  I must review, sort through all those papers and try my best to wrap up that project. Sometime. But not this weekend.  Family is coming in tonight, and I am happy and excited.  Maybe next week, I will restart.  Reckon I will have it completed for my gift to the children next Christmas? 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Difficult Week

Monday morning started with a phone call from my cousin Helen sharing the sad news that Grant Stanley, the 38-year-old son of my cousin Dick and his wife Irma, had died the previous day of a totally unexpected heart attack.  I had not seen Grant since he was a child ant then went off to college, but Dick had proudly told me when Grant got on with the railroad and lived in Texas.  And, of course, Dick and Irma were very happy when the young family with two of their grandchildren transferred back to Illinois.  Somehow I had missed out on knowing that Grant had married a young woman from our local rural community, but I soon found that out when I went on Facebook and found a grieving comment by one of her family.

I went to Katherine’s for awhile on Monday to write checks for her , but I did not go in Tuesday and Wednesday because I understood she had help.  Gerald and I both had check-up appointments on Wednesday, and when he suggested maybe we could meet up for lunch with our friends Bill and Mickey Tweedy, whom we had not seen in ages, I thought that was a great idea. He dropped me off at  the physical therapy department at the Orthopedic Institute where I was to have the stitches taken out of my hand  from the carpal tunnel surgery. Gerald went back to Marion for his appointment

Measurements were taken of the grip in both hands, and  I was taught more exercises to strengthen my grip and to prevent scar tissue.  I was warned me not lift over ten pounds and not to soak in a hot tub, but I could get the hand wet and even wash a few dishes since I was no longer having to wear a bandage.  Next  I walked down the hall for  the conveniently scheduled 10:10 appointment with the doctor.  I was impressed with their efficiency.

The building is a bit confusing with its various waiting rooms, so with help I finally found where I was supposed to check in, and I sat down to people-watch and to wait to be called in.  I figured Gerald would be done and back by eleven; and as time passed, I wondered if I would be still waiting when he came.  I wasn’t though as I think it was about ten till eleven when I was finally called in.  A nurse checked me over and left. Then I waited a bit longer. 

At that point the surgeon did not show up, but the P.A. did.  He said my hand looked good, told me not to lift anything heavier than five pounds and not to do dishes without a rubber glove and to get an appointment for another look later. Somewhere in here, he said something to the effect that he bet this was one of the shortest doctor appointments I had ever had.  Since by now, it was an hour after I was scheduled to see the doctor, I just smiled and inwardly chuckled.  Gerald was as impatiently waiting as I knew he would be by the time I found the lobby again.  He helped me find the right place to make the next appointment and we exited to the cold winter air.  We had time for one errand in Carbondale before we arrived at Denny’s for our luncheon date with Bill and Mickey, which we enjoyed immensely.

By the time we visited for a couple hours and drove back to Marion and then to the farm, the afternoon was shot and I was tired.  I have a difficult time with acknowledging to myself that I no longer have the energy that I have had in the past.  I am daily shocked at how much rest and how much sleep I need these days.  And how awkwardly and slowly I get around. I really don’t think I should say that I do not like being old, but I don’t.

In an email from my sister acknowledging my message about Grant’s death, I learned my niece in Amarillo had once more ended up in ICU with her blood sugar too low and then too high combined with all her other health problems.  She was out of ICU the next day, and that day rereleased from the hospital.  I was very grateful she had made it through the Christmas season since my sister and brother-in-law had lost one daughter after hospitalization on Christmas Eve and her death on New Year’s Day 2002.   But we know that sooner or later without a miracle that Candy’s health and other problems will defeat her.  So I absorbed that bad news and said one more prayer for her.

Then after a bite of supper, Gerald and I were both back down at our computers, and we got a PM on Facebook about upcoming surgery for yet another loved one. In the hurry to the early appointment,  I had forgotten to take my cell phone with me that morning, and so late in the evening when I went up for night pills and saw my cell phone lying there, I learned from a text that Katherine had not had help because the scheduled aide had unexpected surgery the day before for an ovarian cyst that had flared up causing her great pain.

It seemed as if bad news was coming from all over. Even though I had gotten up early that morning for the appointments, I lingered at the computer surfing to try and erase some of my sad thoughts by thinking about something else before I went to bed.  I shared with a friend on Facebook, and I phoned my sister and learned the latest news about her daughter and then surfed some more reading other people’s blogs. I used distraction to cover up or to prevent worry as I often do.  When I finally let myself go to bed, I did go to sleep without a problem.  I was grateful.

Since Katherine has good and very dependable help on Thursday mornings, I did a few things in the house, fixed Gerald lunch, cleaned the kitchen, and did not go in to Katherine’s until mid-afternoon.   A new aide was just leaving, and Katherine was finally up in her chair looking very pretty and happy over a good day she was having that included a wonderful reference letter given to Sam by one of his teachers.  She had been unable to get an aide for the evening  to replace the hospitalized one, but she left a message for  an amazing friend, a kind and strong young man who comes in an emergency to put her into bed from her chair.  He was out and not available.  Fortunately, another young man who had worked a bit for her before he had surgery last fall was able to come over and use her Hoyer to lift her into bed.  She got to see the photos on his phone of his new son now three months old.

This was early in the evening, and so I had time to stop by and see my daughter Mary Ellen.  Her picnic basket with dishes from Christmas was  in my car trunk, and we had not seen each other since they left our house on Christmas day to drive to Arizona to see Brian’s family.   She was sick while there with what Trent had before they left, and she came home possibly with the crud her mother-in-law had suffered while they were there.  I think Brian was sick sometime in this period of time also. Then Brianna had her turn with the stomach flu, so I had deliberately stayed away from their house.  We had a lot of catch-up visiting to do, and I enjoyed sitting at her kitchen table with her and seeing everyone including Fifi. Brianna will soon be going down to Disney World for her internship service there this spring, so I was especially glad to see her, but I am always glad to get my hug from Trent too.

Tonight is the funeral visitation for my cousin Dick’s son and tomorrow is his funeral. I am dreading it.  My emotions are more difficult to control than they used to be, and for that reason, I have even avoided some funerals in recent months. Dick is actually my first cousin’s son, but he was nearer my age than his mother and most of my other Martin cousins.  I always felt closer to him than many of the older cousins. He and his sister and mother lived with Dick’s grandparents at Goreville, where we spent summers. When my parents  visited them when I was a child, Dickie and I always played together even though I am a couple years older than he is.  When he moved back to Goreville from Texas many years ago and we ran into each other at a Goreville ball game, I exclaimed how glad I was to see him and without thinking called him Dickie.   Embarrassed, I said, “I bet no one calls you that any more.”  He laughed and said, “No, just you and my mother.”  In recent years during his retirement, Dick was extremely sick and I was afraid of losing him. But Irma’s determination and a change in doctor and medicines and a small miracle put him back on his feet in much better health.  How awful that he and Irma must now lose their beautiful talented son so young, his sister Libby must lose her brother, and that his wife and children must go on living without him.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Beginning the New Year--Slowly

The trees are down and stored away for another year.  Most of the other holiday paraphernalia is still on the guest beds waiting for me to get down the proper big boxes to put stuff away in.  The little manager scenes are yet undisturbed perhaps because I am reluctant to admit the season is over and that I should be getting on to other duties.  Or perhaps because expected and unexpected appointments have limited and confused any efforts at a regular schedule, so it has seemed easier just to continue on in vacation mode doing only the most minor but necessary tasks.  Or perhaps it is because I am old enough that energy is limited and ambition almost non-existent.

In less than a week now, the stitches will be taken out of the palm of my right hand where the carpal tunnel problem has been corrected. . I assume the “Do not get it wet” order will also be suspended then. The bulky bandage was taken off last week and replaced with just a large band-aid.   I shall be glad for this final step, although my excuse for doing nothing will be taken away from me, and I admit to sort of enjoying this lazy spell.  I was first told not to lift anything heavier than a pound, and then a therapist said she told patients it was better to not lift anything heavier than a piece of paper. The less sore the incision is the more I forget and use my right hand naturally although I am trying to be protective.  Everything about the procedure has gone very well. The pain pills that Gerald made a special trip to town to pick up for me have never needed to be opened.

Two nights before the scheduled surgery, however, I broke a front tooth out at supper.  It was one week before an appointment with a new dentist scheduled six months ago.  That was certainly discomforting. My teeth have been a mess for years—partly I assume because I was never able to adjust to wearing a partial decades ago.  That dentist was very fine and tried very hard.  I did learn to speak with the partial in, but I could not adjust to wearing it, no matter what the dentist did. Gerald always explains that if I wasn’t born with it, I can’t wear it.  After constantly taking my glasses off unconsciously and leaving them where I knew not, I have finally learned to leave them on most of the time as my eye sight has weakened through the years.  But necklaces and dentures never became something I could stand for very long at a time. Anyhow that weakness of mine is how I explain my awful teeth situation and the small fortune spent on them through the years. It also explains a slight guilt complex I have about my teeth.

When I hesitantly called the new dentist office about my crisis, I felt like an interloper not deserving attention since I had never even been there yet. The receptionist on the telephone, however, could not have been sweeter or nicer if I had been her biological sister. Fortunately there had been a couple of cancellations that very morning for the partner of the dentist I was originally scheduled to see.  Before I knew it, I was sitting in his chair and getting a root canal and being encouraged by him to believe my problem was quite fixable. Both the dentist and his staff were so conscientious and caring to make sure I understood that I was considered a person in need of attention and I was on their call-as- soon-a-s possible list when they had another cancellation. Otherwise I had an appointment for March 2 to get a new tooth to fill that awful gap in the front of my face.  On Tuesday, I received a call to come in yesterday morning. I left the office with a new tooth that matched my others perfectly since they had kept and matched the color of my broken-off tooth, which I had taken with me in a sandwich bag.  I could not have had a more heart-warming and confidence-producing introduction to my new dental office. 

Down through the years, I have heard some terrible horror stories of arrogant and unkind receptionists who poorly served patients. I have been fortunate to not have to tolerate that sort of cruelty, but I have sympathized with those who have.  I have no respect for a physician or dentist who allows discourtesy or damage to patients by underlings. Some friends have doctors in a group practice who have claimed for that reason they could not control the staff.  Thus, they acted as if they were innocent of their staff’s rudeness or even neglect to pass information onto to the doctor. I never bought that bunk for one minute.  Depending on the rarity of the specialty available in our area, however, some have had to put up with this nonsense in order to get needed care. I believe the atmosphere and behavior of his or her staff is not only the responsibility of one’s doctor but is likely created by the doctor.  I left my new dentist office totally convinced that the warmth and pleasantness I experienced there reflected and enhanced his competence and concern.