Winter has brought many good memories and wonderful stories while we gather together and and listen to one another talk of life and happy times.
What can be better than being at table
with friends enjoying chili together on a cold winter day? A pretty
table with bread made by the host is icing on the cake, but the true
cake is enjoying each other while we make new friends and hear life
stories. (The lemon cake served for dessert was very good, but still
not as good as the stories, Laughter and stories cannot be
surpassed. ) How will we ever forget that the long-married couple
across from us first met when they were just eleven and nine?
He was visiting her church and playing
the piano. He looked around and saw her and thought she was the
cutest thing possible even though he had come with another girl who
was considered his “girl friend.” Sealing the deal, the little
girl he thought so cute winked at him!! She seems quite proper
today; but even in the church house, she knew the proper response to
his admiration at that early age! They married a few years later,
and have led a productive life rearing two fine sons and sharing
their many talents wherever they have lived. Since their childhood
homes were miles apart , I do not know how they continued that love
at first sight. If we are fortunate, maybe we will someday learn
how that was achieved. There was another great story about his car
break down when he tried to visit her as a young teen. Obviously,
this successful couple both knew who they wanted, and the world is a
better world because they did!
Last week besides his own doctor
appointments, Gerald made several trips to Cape Girardeau to visit
his brother Keith at the hospital. His heart disease had become seriously worse.
Then at the end of last week, sadly Keith was sent home with Hospice
Actually he and Barbara have wonderful
help already there on their rural hilltop. (They have wonderful help
because Keith and Barb have always been quick to provide help to
everyone they know.) Both his daughter-in-law Glenda and his
granddaughter Lauren are outstanding experienced RNs and live almost
within shouting distance of Keith and Barbara's, and they are very
attentive and devoted. Their granddaughter Amanda also lives at the
foot of the hill with her parents DuWayne and Vickie, so they also
have a trained beautician for manicures and pedicures along with many
other services that the nurses and granddaughter Andrea are happy to
provide for the grandparents they love. Their granddaughter Tracy has
years of experience in the dental field and was able to give Gerald
some advice while she was down from Saint Louis to see Keith and
Barb. Sons Tim and DuWayne, grandson-in-law Eric, and grandson Greg
are all close enough to visit and help and be involved taking care of
cattle, dogs, poultry, or anything else Keith would want done.
Grandson Mark, though not living adjacently is within a few miles of
Keith and Barbara's farm as is our brother Garry. Add on to that
Keith's cousins nearby and all the friends he and Barb have collected
and you have a community of help available.
Tim and DuWayne encouraged Gerald to
come down when he can because they feel like the brothers--only
Gerald and Garry now since we lost brother Kenny to leukemia-- make
Keith laugh more. (Our kids always loved to have the brothers
together to hear all the laughter that was produced as they talked of
childhood exploits and neighborhood characters.)
As soon as Ernestine and Don heard how
seriously ill Keith was, they started here from Wyoming. Ernestine
was the only girl in that family. They were able to bring along
their daughter Leah and granddaughter Emmerson called Emmie since
Leah is home schooling Emmie this year. Despite living so far away,
Emmie has made close ties with the Illinois relatives because she
loves the farms and especially all the horses and dogs and kittens
and chickens and ducks that she finds on the Union County farms. The
Gamble clan arrived late Sunday night to Garry's place exhausted but
eager to visit Keith and Barbara. Gerald was eager to see them, of
course, but decided to stay away on Monday, so Ernestine could visit
that day without competition while Keith was most strong. Those two
were the youngest siblings.
Yesterday, however, we could stay away
no longer. After a quick visit with Katherine, we took her hugs down
to Keith and Barb. I was able to repeat to Keith the loving memories
that Katherine had of him. “He always hugged me and whispered in my
ear, and I had no doubt he loved me,” she said.
Tim had stayed with him again the
previous night since DuWayne is scheduled for future nights. Family
were pleased that Keith had slept better than usual the night before.
The established routine for Keith was to get up and dress and have
breakfast before going to his recliner. The TV screen is adjusted
for his chair where he continues his habit of watching his favorite
cowboy movies which Barb said he probably has memorized by now.
Visitors come sit near him and tell him what they need to tell him,
and he responds with typical love and laughter. When he tires, he
lapses into sleep and that is good. Lauren, who was on duty
yesterday, was quick to anticipate his every need. After lunch he
goes into his bedroom to sleep if he wants to, and people visit him
there. Once I glanced in to see Lauren lying on the adjoining bed
laughing with him and the visitor.
Before Ernestine and Don, Leah and
Emmie arrived, Barbara had told us how much fun seven-year- old
Emmie had with our warm weather allowing her to play in the yard the
day before. (Snow was deep when they left Wyoming.) She took good
care of all the kittens, and with permission and encouragement from
Barb had created what she called a “kitty buffet” with piles of
food for each cat. The zenith of her visit though was to see a
chicken fly up into a pan of straw there in the yard and then leave
it cackling gleefully! Emmie was amazed to find a warm egg left
there, and so was Barbara as she said they were not laying right now.
Barb asked her if she would like her to cook that egg for her, and
Emmie was delighted to eat the egg she had gathered.
When their family arrived, Leah
reported Emmie woke up talking about that egg and said if she found
one today, it was going to be for her Uncle Keith. Soon Emmie was
carrying out cat food for the kitties again and snuggling with each
one by one. Next Vickie Sue arrived from their home up near
Carbondale on Rocky Comfort Road, and she had a Valentine gift for
Emmie and colorful decorated cupcakes for all.
Just as Gerald had explained of his
previous visits, their adjoining dining room had a table full of food
that loved ones had carried in. (DuWayne was not above sending Gerry
way down in Texas the mouth-watering photos of his Aunt Opal's famous
egg custard pies that she and Bryce took down to them.) All the
people coming and going were fed freely if they were hungry, and
people usually were when they looked at the food. Garry had brought
in buns and pork from Jonesboro's famous Dixie Barbecue along with
pies. We had just finished eating, and here came our cousin-in-law
Morris with this huge huge pan covered with foil explaining he wanted
to get it there while it was still hot from the oven. People started
exclaiming that not only did it smell good, but this home-made tea
ring was a work of art. Lauren was quick to hand out servings to
everyone, but I had to go look to see how beautiful that tea ring
was. Barbara explained that Morris and cousin Judy are known as
these generous cooks who regularly show up with tea rings and
home-made pies for the sick and their families. Morris always
donates a similar large tea ring to the local fall festival, which
raises money for the school, and people will bid it up to fifty
dollars or more.
After lunch, Emmie was quick to go back
outside in the warm weather. One by one, each kitten was carried in
and visited with us. Since there were three dogs n the room (Keith's
beloved Hash, Lauren and Eric's little Murphy,and Don and Ernestine's
Finnley), there were a few snappy interactions if the kitten escaped
Emmie's arms. That provided a bit of excitement, but the best part
was the kittens inspired Barb to start telling Emmie about all her
pet animals down through the years. Barb pulled her wheel chair
toward Emmie, who was soon enthralled.
I remembered sitting in their living
room long ago and suddenly seeing a terrapin come crawling slowly out
from under the couch. I assumed that like most farmer's wives, Barb
had baby pigs and calves inside to warm up. But I had forgotten
about the pet ground hog. Barb said Keith had found a tiny pink
animal no bigger than your hand out in the yard and brought it in.
They had no idea what kind of an animal it was, but Barb got out the
baby bottles and the formula she used for baby pigs and started
caring for the tiny thing. It turned out to be a ground hog and
remained a loving pet for a long time until it was full size. It
finally bit her after she had been asked to take it to school for the
kids to see, and perhaps that excitement over stimulated it. There
was also a story about a raccoon although it must have been a short
story because I cannot remember how that animal showed up, but the
photograph of it high up the wall sitting atop their horse collar
lamp was adorable.
But the best story was of the pet skunk
Barbara had briefly as a little girl. The family saw it on the
highway, and Barb's dad stopped and retrieved it and handed it to
Barbara. She loved it, of course, and the only time it ever sprayed
was once when a dog threatened it and once when it hurt its foot on a
loose wire. She kept it until her mother found Barb had it inside
her bedroom and decided it was time for the skunk to go elsewhere.
Perhaps the sweetest part of Barb's stories was getting to watch
wide-eyed Emmie hearing them. A tiny little thing, Emmie has huge
blue eyes in a little elfin face and almost a perpetual smile. Her
enthusiasm for life is contagious.
It was getting late in the afternoon;
and though we were reluctant to go, we needed to. But then Keith and
Gerald's cousin Irma and husband Jim arrived from Jonesboro, and we
wanted to visit with them when they were not in the bedroom visiting
with Keith. At Gerald's suggestion, I had put on my coat and gone
into the yard where he and Irma were visiting, when Gerald realized
his cousin Joyce, who was driving over from Cape Girardeau, was
almost there. So while Irma and Barbara directed her on the country
roads to find the farm, we were back inside for yet another family
I loved being in that familiar living
room again. Let me tell you about it. While they were adding this
room to the house the Holly Sitter family had left behind, a swallow
had found one of the overhead beams they were using on the ceiling.
They enjoyed watching her build her nest of mud attached to the beam and raise her babies there. Barb would not allow them to
clean the beam after the bird family left. The nest has remained
these many years with a tiny cloth bird sticking its nose out of the
top. The outside wall is all rock with a fireplace in the middle,
and three mounted deer heads from long-ago hunts. The room-length
mantle is filled with framed photographs of children, grandchildren,
great grandchildren, horses, and other beloved animals. A pleasing
collection of baskets hangs down from the mantle.
Beside the carpeted room with lots of
seating is a long tiled walk from the front door to the kitchen and
dining room, and that wall is filled with more photographs and
memory-filled art work made by the grandchildren. Perfectly clean
now, I know that tile walkway has had much traffic from muddy farm
boots and the muddy barefoot feet of a host of happy children.
Oh, I must mention the two large gray
hornet's nests—one on each side of the beam separating the living
room and dining room. I have never seen a hornet's nest in anyone
else's living room, but I love the looks of them in this room. Oh,
now I do remember part of the raccoon story. Her nephew Kerry had
giving Barb one of the hornet's nests, and that raccoon climbed up
there and started to destroy it. He quickly became persona non
grata, and that was the reason for his departure.
Today brother Garry phoned that Keith
was much weaker this morning, so Gerald and Mary Ellen went down
after lunch. Vicki Sue was there and had posted on Facebook she was
sad, so I am dreading today's report when they return. I hope Garry
and Gerald were able to make Keith laugh again today. Regardless,
their hearts will be warmed this cold day by the love in that house
on the hill, but at the same time their hearts will also be broken as
they watch their brother's health deteriorate.
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