Monday, July 27, 2015

"Summertime, an' the livin' is easy"

Drinking coffee at the breakfast table in my pajamas and a duster, I was invited to go with Gerald on his Gator to see the sunflowers. For some reason, the deer have been extra kind to them this year. Hurriedly finishing my coffee, I left the house as I was and climbed in for a ride around the farm. Going past our garden and then the neighbor’s test plots, we reached a back field. Rows and rows of sunflowers were abloom in their full circled golden glory with an infrequent blue morning glory to add an extra bit of color. No wonder the electric power line down our driveway is filled with doves these days.

Over across the country road to yet another field, we next traveled on the strip still in the Conservation Reserve Program. We appreciated driving beside the thick tall corn in the field that had come out of CPR. Along a waterway filled with large rocks, I asked Gerald where those huge boulders came from. Oh, the Sullivan boys from Goreville hauled them for us probably 20 years ago, he answered. It is exciting to see what his conscientious conservation has accomplished. Occasionally, Gerald would interrupt our ride to hop down, grab his spray, and give a lethal dose to kill a rare but unwanted piece of Johnson grass. Getting rid of Johnson grass has been a career-long effort for him.

Sweet corn and now tomatoes are part of many of our summer menus these days. That make meals easy to fix. And peaches, plums, melons, grapes, and sweet red cherries from the store or fruit stand make an easy summer dessert—sometimes mixed in with the bananas that are always on our table to make sure we have the potassium needed for meds and prevention of leg cramps.

Summer company is another pleasant addition to our lives. Last week it was an unexpected but most welcome visit from Sandra Henry from Indiana. Her mother, Shirley Jones Henry, was my second cousin. Shirley was a childhood companion in summer when we both lived in hilltop farm houses with a rock-bottomed creek between. We would holler our signal and meet up for hours of play in that beautiful creek. Years later, Shirley’s grandfather, who was my great Uncle Sam Martin, moved up from his home in Sleepy Hollow to our farm named Mount Airy Farm by my aunt Myrtle when she was a girl growing up there.

Sam’s home in the hollow on farm land bought a few decades ago by the government had been built by my great grandfather following his return from the Civil War. The house is probably crumbling now, but the nearby cave used as a tool shed would still be there. The road down is no longer passable. My cousin Doug and his son David came from California over a decade ago to see it, and they are the last I know to hike down that over-grown hollow. They came back covered with ticks, but feeling accomplished.

Sometime after Uncle Sam’s death, Shirley and her husband and children moved into the house at Mount Airy. As the oldest child, Sandra vividly remembers living there and the smell of Sam’s tobacco when they moved in. Sandra loves to tell me how my daddy—always the teacher—would tell her big words as they rode horses together and would encourage her to learn to spell them. Sadly, the house burned down (another of her vivid memories), and their family moved onto Marion. Not too much later, Sandra lost her daddy. So it was only at a couple Martin family reunions over a decade ago that I met Sandra as an adult with some of her family at Ferne Clyffe Park. But a love of her mother and our love of Mount Airy Farm binds Sandra and me together.

We have carried on some correspondence about family history, and she discovered not only a wonderful story about Uncle Sam’s false imprisonment and consequent release but also a mysterious secret that my very special Uncle Oscar had a son named Hebron who disappeared from Johnson County census records after our great grandmother’s death. Sandra traced him to Missouri, his service in World War II, and finally to California. Sandra could not stay long at Woodsong as she had come down from visiting two of her brothers in Jacksonville and was on her way to decorate her parents’ and great grandparents’ graves at Cedar Grove Cemetery down in Happy Hollow. And she was able to catch up with her mother’s first cousin Lowell Martin in Goreville for a brief visit there too.

Our grandson Sam (no, not named after my great uncle but for the Biblical Samuel) was out again for a few days, and other family members have been in and out. More are expected this week, and we are excited about that. And the next week the younger cousins are planning to gather in before school starts again. So they will be enjoying sweet corn and tomatoes with us.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Wedding Bells and Goodbyes

Because the killdeer was not on the nest as I drove out our driveway, I slowed to a stop last weekend when I came back home later. Instead of four eggs, there was now only one—and no egg shells. The next day that one egg had also disappeared, and there was no sight of the mother. I drove on feeling bereft though I know too well that all things are temporary.

Although we have had a host of company since I last wrote, our house is empty again. Unlike the empty spot in the gravel where the killdeer’s eggs lay, there are remnants of the visits we have enjoyed. A framed photograph that Gerald copied for Ernestine on the table to be returned. Sheets laundered and waiting to be put back on beds. Food still being eaten that the guests didn’t finish. And memories.

Ernestine had been torn about keeping her plans to leave since their brother Keith had ended up in the hospital at Cape Girardeau Tuesday evening. His son Tim spent the night there with him, and we had a good report at the farewell breakfast for Ernestine Wednesday morning. We were also able to hear about Barbara’s surprise retirement party that Keith had lured her to saying they had to meet Ernestine there at Barb’s office. I know he was glad he got to do that before his breathing became more troubled later in the day. Gerald and Ernestine drove to Cape Wednesday afternoon, and that good visit with Keith satisfied her that she should leave as planned.

So on Thursday at breakfast time, our niece Vicki picked up Ernestine after graciously offering to drive her to the St. Louis airport rather than putting her on the six-passenger plane again. Bad weather had increased Ernestine’s angst that the flight might not arrive in time for her to make her flight out of St. Louis. That went well, and her husband Don met her when she arrived at Salt Lake that evening.

We had really thought granddaughters Erin and Geri Ann might be up from Texas when softball camps were over, but Erin called Gerald and explained the camps were rained out for a second time, and she had taken a new teaching job in another town and had to get moved into an apartment there. And yes in answer to her grandfather’s question, she was very serious about the best friend she told us about on Facebook who had shipped out for Korea for nine months. We thought so.

A little later on Thursday Gerald told me that our son-in-law Rick had texted that that they hoped to be at the farm around seven that night on their way down to Nashville to spend the holiday with their oldest child and husband to celebrate her birthday and the nation’s. Because I knew they were coming through although I thought it might be on Friday, I already had clean sheets in the guest room upstairs where Jeannie and Rick always sleep. I have learned not to fret about the downstairs bedrooms because the younger generation tends to stay up most of the night and settle down wherever they find a couch or bed regardless of which cousin might have slept there for a night or so before them.

Sure enough when I got home from Katherine’s at almost 11, the grandkids were partying in the den downstairs where we have a couple old couches and TV and fridge. Trent and Brianna had come over and joined Cecelie and her boyfriend Ryan. Elijah couldn’t come with his family since he is working in Chicago this month, and Sam and his dad were at Waco for Sam’s orientation week at Baylor.

When I went down to say hello, they were in a state of excitement telling me that Erin was married! I thought they were kidding, but they read her announcement text to me. I was surprised but not totally amazed. Still it took time for me to absorb this big news: So they had chosen not to announce their May 22 wedding until now! Hmmm. Well, they had not wasted any time on shopping for bridesmaid dresses, flowers, and all those lovely but unnecessary things. Erin says they will celebrate with us when Joshua gets back. Yes, we will! I was not sure I could sleep after that late-night excitement, but I was tired and slept peacefully after praying a wedding blessing for this special young couple before I dozed off.

The next morning Cecelie told me they tried to pull an all-nighter, but only lasted until 3. Trent, the oldest of the bunch, is in summer school, and he had sensibly left at 2. Fortunately everyone was able to sleep in and still have plenty of time to drive to Nashville before the Thompsons would be home from work. Jeannie’s bike was on
the van, but some last minute shopping before they left did not allow her time to get it down for a ride. There were no need for long goodbyes since they’d return Sunday night on their way back to Freeport.

With the Eiler visits bookending the Fourth, we managed to stay home that day and celebrate quietly. Gerald asked if I wanted to go into town for supper; but by then, I had already prepared our holiday-themed simple meal—hot dogs and chips and bright red strawberries turned into shortcake with crackers the way my precious mother-in-law taught me years ago and with artificial sweetener to observe Gerald’s admirable discipline to prevent too much sugar. A sign of my old age was that I didn’t bother looking out over the deck to see fireworks in the sky from Marion as I usually have.

Sunday night I got home from Katherine’s earlier, and once again the grandkids were downstairs enjoying being together. While Jeannie and I sat at the kitchen table telling about our weekends, Cecelie and Ryan, Brianna and Trent, Sam and his friend Anna were catching up on their lives. Sam had just gotten home from Waco in time to do his laundry and repack his suitcase for their youth group’s mission trip. He and Anna were to leave at 6 the next morning, so they left early. Trent had school, so only three of them stayed up to watch the late night movie someone went to town for. Those three remaining made it to 4 a. m. this time, and again they were privileged to sleep in. I had bought a lasagna to put in the freezer for this occasion, so I made a salad and heated the frozen dinner rolls and dinner was ready with little trouble on my part. I went outside looking for a bloom for the middle of the table, but the one red rose was already shabby, so a plate of red apples had to suffice for our centerpiece. Earlier while the kids were sleeping, Jeannie finally got on her bike, and Rick took off to visit his old employer and friend Tommy in Carbondale.

All exhilarated because she had finally had the time to ride her bike and match the 26 miles in a day that she has worked up to after chemo, Jeannie came in to rest a bit and eat a bite with us. She soon took off again for a little ride on neighborhood roads and reached 33 miles for a new day’s record. That made her weekend a success, and we were all in a good mood when Rick came back. Once more suitcases were returned to the van along with their dogs Lucky and Leah. This time the goodbye hugs were a little longer and a little sadder.