The Fella has been right next to me this whole time. Having someone with broad shoulders I can cry on, and who refuses to let me fall apart, has been invaluable. He kept my coffee cup full, made sure I ate, and knew when I needed something stronger than iced tea in my glass. He reminded me there were other people who weren’t at the hospital, who needed to know what was going on, and made sure my phone was always charged. He called everyone he knew (even people who don’t know me or #3) and got them praying. He did laundry, bought cheese (I need cheese), and didn’t complain when I left him in the dust as I ran to #3’s room to check on him.  He prayed with me whenever I needed to, prayed over #3 whenever we were in the room with him, and made sure there was some form  of absorbant paper in my hand at all times. (maybe a paper towel, maybe toilet paper, occasionally an actual tissue) He didn’t complain when I’d snot all over his shirt. He took me to StuffMart when I realized I’d only packed myself 2 pair of pants…and no shirts. And the whole week…8 days…of hotel rooms and hospital cafeteria meals (actually not half bad, especially the fried chicken)…making sure I had exactly what I needed and I never had to ask.  I wanted to find a cheaper hotel room but he said no, better to stay in the one connected to the hospital. I wanted to search for the best free coffee (look for a volunteer) and he said no, that takes too much time away from spending it with #3, and he got me a refillable cup.

What’s that saying? There’s several of them, and we would say them to each other to see who knew more. Eventually one of us would stay Stop with the cliche’!

These are the times that try men’s souls.   The best laid plans of mice and men oft’ go awry.  If you’re going through hell, keep going. We make plans and God laughs at them. God loves us too much to let us be in control.

At one point in the evening, when taking a break from the constant beep and hiss and antiseptic aroma of the ICU, we were watching The Hobbit on TV. A while back I’d said I thought he’d make a great dwarf, and not being a Fantasy reader, he was very puzzled by that. I pointed out that in The Hobbit, the dwarves are stalwart and sturdy, slightly pugnacious, short and bearded and opinionated, loyal and resourceful. (They’re also metal workers, which he is) He felt better after that. Because it’s all true…he’s stalwart and sturdy, opinionated, resourceful, and has a bodacious beard. He’s also been a rock for me through this.

Thanks, Fella.

As for #3, right now he’s holding his own and showing some small signs of improvement. They removed the EEG because he’s shown no signs of seizure activity.  They removed the ventilator because he’s breathing on his own. He has a tracheotomy right now, and they will eventually remove that and close the hole. He is scheduled for a CT scan today and pending the results, may be moved to another room that has a bathroom and shower so it will be easy for someone to stay with him at all times. He is moving the one limb that isn’t in a cast, and is moving his eyes, although they aren’t dependably open yet. He is getting physical therapy. His body is functioning as it should. We are now waiting for his brain to reboot. It will take time.

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Thinking out loud

This is how I process things…I write about them. One of the things that kept me together after Himself’s death was reading the Bible. There is so much in there that is relevant to any sort of situation. Not all of is it relevant to every thing….I don’t really know how to apply talking donkeys to #3’s situation, but there are wonderful words that worked when the boys were babies and I could barely scrape through the day, and those words are as applicable to right now, while #3’s future is completely uncertain (to me….not to God, as He knows exactly what’s going to happen).

Matthew 6:34 says “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

I will take today as it comes.

Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

It’s a fact, life is a serious test. The world sucks. It’s broken and bad things happen and how we deal with it is up to us.  My relationship with God is a lens to look through and interpret what’s happening. This life is a trial, maybe a sort of proving ground, I guess. It tests our mettle, shows others what we’re made of.  I know I’m a soggy mess, without the strength I get from my Redeemer.

I had to hold on really tight to God’s Word while I was dealing with the loss of Himself. #3 isn’t lost, we just don’t really know what his status is. He is either with God, or he is here with us, and can’t let us know. Either way he belongs to God. I had to hand him over a long long time ago, and he came to a saving faith in his late teens. So he’s covered. As a mother, handing your child over to someone else (even God, who loves your child more than you can imagine) is pretty difficult.  It’s a struggle I have had with all 4 of my boys. But right now, I have to trust God that He’s got #3 in the palm of His hand.  I have to take today as it comes. Today #3 is in excellent hands, and is doing as well as he can.

Isaiah 41:10 says “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

I am choosing today to fear not,  to not be anxious for tomorrow, and to trust God’s plan.

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It’s time to buy stock in Kleenex

Ok, here’s the story. On Memorial Day morning, #3 was in a horrible car accident when he was on his way home from work. His car hydroplaned and he hit a large tree. He is now in a hospital affiliated with a top-notch medical school, having suffered many broken bones and very serious head trauma. Serious enough that we aren’t sure he’ll ever recover. The broken bones have been surgically repaired, with rods and plates and roughly 15 hours of surgery (not all at the same time), but the brain can’t be fixed with rods and plates and medicine. That’s all in God’s hands now. So we watch and wait, and celebrate every small victory in the form of a grimace or a flinch or the turn of his head.

As with the last Major Event in my life- the death of Himself- I am going to deal with this by writing about it. For some reason being able to put the words down in a concrete form allows my thoughts to organize themselves and the desire to sit on the floor and wail wanes. #3 would scowl at me and tell me to get a grip if I did that anyway.

The problem with all this is the uncertainty. I simply don’t know what the future holds for him. I know that his Fine Wife and the Grandpunkin will be well cared for. For that I am immensely grateful. I know that he is a Believer, and I will see him in the Kingdom of Heaven one day. Since this life is a tiny blip of time compared to eternity, that is a consolation beyond words.

But right now, I keep seeing the skinny little bow-legged baby, the nearly-naked tan 4-year old with the John Lennon sunglasses who’s playing on the top of a big pile of dirt, and the argumentative teen-ager who thought my IQ was in the same range as a pine cone. I see the strong young man waiting for his bride to come to him, and the proud father holding his baby boy. I have to remind myself that he has a really good life, with many people who love him, and while what has happened to him would fall into many people’s definition of tragedy, he was and still is a wonderful man with much to offer. It just might not be what we would have chosen or expected.

But you know, God’s plans don’t change. He’s known since the beginning of time that this would happen. The only thing that has changed is our perspective and expectations. Yes, this hurts like hell and I am scared for his future.  But he is loved. It would be a tragedy if he weren’t.

Expect a lot of writing about this. Being able to put all this down allows something else to carry the weight of grief and fear. It allows me to process what’s happening and form it into something coherent, rather than the swirl of emotion in my head that is so incapacitating.  I may repeat myself, you’ll just have to deal with that.

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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Lately, I have been trying to keep up with the national news. I have NO IDEA why. Nothing ever changes, really. It seems like it can all boil down to “We’re going to tell you why the world is horrible!”  Maybe it’s because a couple of national leaders can’t get along. Or maybe it’s a young mother getting run over, or some natural event made to seem like the entire place is destroyed (looking at YOU, National News with your reporting about Hawaii!) when the reality is…nothing much has changed except our ability to hear/read about it. Sometimes I think maybe The Internet isn’t such a good thing after all.

Reality is, I just want to move to the country, grow berries, and make things to sell. I want The Fella and I to put our creative heads together and have him teach me to use that fancy plasma cutter he has, and I teach him to use that fancy embroidery machine I have.  I want to park Mom under a shade tree in the garden, and have her direct where to plant the okra. I want to keep Dad supplied with Beefsteak tomatoes for his sandwiches on the bread he makes. I want to live in a little bubble where the internet access is sketchy at best, where Grandpunkin can come over and get filthy, and the worst news I hear is that the traffic light on 1st avenue and 5th street got run over by a tractor. Is that too much to ask?

Often I like having access to the world at my fingertips. I can find out what to do about (insert minor medical issue) or how to cook (insert obscure East European recipe) or purchase (insert vintage item no one has ever heard of but Dad) or acquire a (insert embroidery design with flamingos…The Fella and I are all about the hibiscus and flamingos)…all things that would have been difficult pre-internet. Being able to order something, pay for it immediately, and have it delivered in a couple of days is nice. I remember when ordering something meant cutting a form out of the magazine, writing a check, sending it off, and waiting long enough that I’d forgotten I’d ordered it, then it shows up…kind of like Christmas, really. Now…I think The Internet has made us impatient.

I mean…recently I ordered some tile samples for the backsplash in the New House kitchen. I’d forgotten when I ordered them, and got impatient that they hadn’t arrived. The Fella gently said “You just ordered them. They aren’t pizza.”      Oh. I thought it was a few days ago.         “No, it was yesterday.”

I blame the internet. I blame it for everything. Even though I like it and it would be difficult to return to pre-internet days, I am not sure it would be a bad thing. Maybe even pre-24 hour cable news days. Maybe if the news was limited to an hour at 6 and 11, they’d be more careful about what they considered “news” and we’d stop hearing about the stuff that really doesn’t affect us all as a nation or state, and stop thinking the world is going straight to hell in a handbasket and get on with the business of helping each other and teaching our kids right.

Good grief I sound like a grumpy old woman wishing for The Good Old Days.

So don’t get me wrong…I think we live in an amazing world with so much to offer and I don’t miss the transistor radio at all and I do love me some WebMD when my left eye itches and I don’t know why (is it eyeball cancer?!), or can I give my neurotic dog Xanax (yes I can, but there’s not much point because I can’t see any difference)…but the more I think about it, the more I think living some place where I have to get my information from a hard copy of Mother Earth News won’t be a bad thing at all.

The nice thing is, The Fella likes the books about How To Do Things (especially stuff that involves dirt and worms) as much as I do. Between the 2 of us, and Mom with all her books about dirt and worms, we ought to be able to grow most anything. When we aren’t, we will be reading about it. When North Korea gets pissed off enough and figures out how to generate The Great EMP that knocks out all the electronics, we’ll still have the books. (cue some snarky paranoia comment from Young People). I look forward to the rainy Winter days, parked in front of the woodstove with a hot drink and a pile of books about vermiculture and aquaponics, figuring out tilapia and catfish tanks and worm beds, all without a computer. Yes, I’m a Luddite.

I’m not sure where all this is going, but it’s what is on my mind right now.

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Wait…what?

Now and then I recognize/remember/grok (10 points to the first one who knows what that means) that I’m solidly middle aged. 53 years old. In my head, I’m MAYBE 27. AT THE MOST. I mean, other than the double handful of pills every night and specialist physicians who are younger than I am. But other than that…totally 27. Except for the pre-10pm bedtime. And the avoidance of pepperoni. Or anything else digestion-disturbing. Totally 27. Only I’d rather watch a cooking show than Big Bang Theory (or whatever it is that whippersnappers these days watch on their tiny hand held electronic whatsits)

I do love me a cooking show. British Baking Show is awesome, mainly because they’re so darn POLITE to each other! Loaning tools and helping with timing the cookies and offering suggestions.  Bizarre Foods and all the other Andrew Zimmern incarnations…he’s so SWEET and will literally eat ANYTHING. Of course, I would have watched that when I was 27 but we didn’t have TV back then. I mean, we had *a* tv but all we could watch were videos and back then that meant Thomas the Tank Engine nearly all the time. It was how I was able to indulge in personal hygiene.

Where was I?

Oh yeah…being old(ish). It isn’t a bad thing, really. I don’t have to care about stuff like body parts that wobble more than is socially acceptable for a 27 year old. That’s kind of a relief. It ain’t like this body is going to cause anyone to sin, so I am being comfortable with how I look and wearing what I want, even if it means the shorts I would have vehemently avoided due to a lack of self-confidence. That’s another thing that has happened with age- self confidence.

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I’ll do what I want.

I remember at 27, with small children and a husband on that upward career path, wanting to make sure I did it RIGHT….whatever it was.  Whether it was making sure they all ate right or Himself had a good lunch and a hot meal (or cold drink) when he got home, getting it RIGHT was paramount. I am pretty sure I didn’t get it all RIGHT, but I did the best I knew how.

But at 53, with the kids all grown (for the most part. #4 start college in a couple of weeks and that is sort of a different thing) and doing their own things, getting it RIGHT doesn’t seem as critical. Not in the way it meant 25 years ago. But that’s life, right? A constantly evolving system that can happen so slowly when we get to a point we hadn’t really thought about, it surprises us and we go “Wait….what?” and I’m ok with that. Being 53 doesn’t bother me except for the cognitive dissonance of being 25 years older than I thought I was. It doesn’t even bother me that I have a Grandpunkin. (except that it means the son I think of as maybe 7 and he just bunjee-jumped out of the maple tree in the front yard…true story…is married and has a child who likely will bunjee jump)

So 53 isn’t as old as I thought it was. In fact, once I turned 45 I realized that “old” isn’t actually a definite set thing…not like, say, the first day of Spring or Christmas.. It’s purely relative and based wholly on when you think it is. For me, it’s 25 years older than whatever I am. Young is….I don’t know…25 years younger.

Now I am starting all over again but without the nerves. I have found someone who will make a wonderful companion for my later years, and hopefully I will for him. He’s a (slightly) younger man…about 14 months younger. (Not enough that I qualify as a Cougar, thankfully). The whole process has been utterly different this time, seasoned with the confidence of 35 years of adult experience and a knowledge of who I’m looking for.  I think I can be good for him, and I know he is for me.

But now, once in a while, like when I get a touch of intestinal megrims from eating something spicy and pork, it hits me that 27 was a long time ago. Then when I realize I’d prefer the Early-Bird special and be done with dinner before 7 and I get a discount for being over 50…kinda hits and I wish I’d not been so serious about life when I was younger, and had some fun while I could do it without digestive consequences.

Pass the orange Jello!

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Memories

I have been hearing a whippoorwill lately. It’s in the woods behind the house and every evening as it gets dark, and in the mornings before light, I can hear it’s call. It brings back a lot of memories, and creates a desire to sleep on the porch so I can hear it all night. There were always whippoorwills and chuck-wills-widows (kin to a whippoorwill but with a slightly different call) in the woods and their calls remind me of warm, humid Summer nights, fragrant with honeysuckle, and of box fans in the windows, set on high, glasses of ice water on the bedside table, and only a crisp cotton sheet for a cover.

We lived in a neighborhood that backed up to a couple thousand acres of woods, with a swamp and a river and all sorts of wildlife that had it’s own language after dark. Foxes and their eerie scream, rustling of raccoons and possums, owls hooting and Mom identifying each type by their hoot. Whoever coined the term “quiet country life” never actually lived in the country. Sure, there’s no honking car horns or sirens all the time, but it ain’t exactly quiet.

There’s pond peepers (frogs), with their rhythmic chirping and the bass line from the bullfrogs, crickets, night birds…and it goes on. Mix all that in with the fragrant flowers and the gentle heat, it’s a multi-sensory experience that, for me, is soothing in a way nothing else can be. God put all this together just for us to experience the world in a soft way that can’t really be replicated. Oh sure, we try, with sound machines and air sprays and climate control…but we all know it’s not quite the same.

After having lived in a town for the past 22 years, I’m back to living in the country with it’s myriad sensual experiences. And it is just that- sensual…something that makes you stop for a bit and recognize what you are sensing. Is that sweet aroma honeysuckle? Or scuppernongs? The warm soft breeze on my skin as I sip on cold water, the buzz of honeybees, the shadows under the trees during a bright full moon, all those good things so easy to take for granted in the rush of productivity and the worry about the life-things that probably aren’t nearly as important as we think they are.

All the memories of my youth are conjured up by these smells and sounds…Summer nights spent in front of a fan with a damp washcloth to help stay cool, or playing spotlight tag with the neighbors, spontaneous decisions to spend the night at someone else’s house, warm tomato sandwiches, pulling the stamen out of a honeysuckle blossom to taste the sweet nectar…sometimes all that gets lost in the need to pay the bills or send that important email, or make sure the kitchen is clean and the laundry is picked up.

Do you remember how, as a child, when you decided to go to bed, that’s what you did? You just…went to bed. Maybe put on some pajamas…but the process was short and simple. Now? As a 53 year old, there’s all this STUFF that has to be done first. Most of it is self-imposed, but there it is anyway. The kitchen has to be clean (can’t stand to get up to a messy kitchen). Dog crated, cats out, medicines taken…ad seemingly infinitum and nauseum. I just want to go. to. bed. Then there’s the stuff to get my brain quiet. Reading something boring. Listening to something quiet. Lay there in the dark for a while wishing my brain would shut up long enough to fall asleep. Did I remember to do this/fix that/send off the other/ohnoiforgottodothisthingonadeadline/more ad nauseum…

Then I hear the whippoorwill and I’m reminded that God’s got this…He makes the world turn and the birds sing and  the flowers bloom…and He’s got this all in hand and I can go to sleep now, and deal with all that other stuff in the morning.

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Catharsis…or: The Day I Rented a Dumpster and Nearly Threw Out My Back

This weekend The Fella and I rented a 12 yard dumpster and Cleaned Up. Yes, that needs to be capitalized because it was more than just “let’s empty this closet so I can make room for the new (thing I bought at Macy’s because it was on sale and the colors match what we’re doing in The New House). No, this was a serious major kick-in-the-pants cleanout of all the broken things and this-might-be-useful-one-day things so we can have a fresh start. It’s all about the household combining, folks.

When we discussed what size dumpster was needed, we both thought 12 yards was plenty generous. I mean, that’s a LOT of room for a LOT of stuff!

It was difficult for me to get going. The first 30 minutes had a lot of angst.  30 years worth of collecting of things, each one with a “I remember why (when) we got that.” had to be followed with “Do I still want that?” and “Can this be used?” and “Will it ever be useful to anyone?” Also, I’ve watched that Hoarders show enough to know how the psychologists and professional organizers tackle the mental issues behind keeping useless things. Mind you, I’m not a hoarder, but the difficulties behind the desire to keep things that have mental attachments are universal. I had to make a lot of decisions. The Fella was most helpful in that regard. He recognized what was useful and what wasn’t. He was able to see what would be a duplicate of something he had, and which one (his or mine) was in better shape or higher quality, what could be repaired and made useful (a lawnmower), and what was simply junk and needed to be pitched.

Once the rhythm got going, it was incredibly cathartic. He took one shed, I took another. He asked about this or that, and was very respectful of what I knew my sons would want, and what they wouldn’t. A few things were big question marks, and those were set aside for a later decision. The end result of it all was a dumpster that was slam full, and a back yard and 3 storage sheds cleared out, swept, and no longer an embarassment.

That backyard and those sheds were the biggest hurdle for me, the part that scared me the most about cleaning up and packing. I had NO idea what to do with them or how to start and the thought of having to do it often had me in tears, or running away and refusing to think about it. Now, I honestly feel like packing up is do-able. I truly feel like I can do one room at a time and have the whole thing done in fairly short order. Not that I *will*, mind you. Between being there, in Alabama working on The New House, and in South Carolina working on his place, there is a lot to be done and it will take a while.

But, it isn’t overwhelming anymore. There is something about someone else, who maybe doesn’t have the emotional associations, coming in and being able to say “this needs to go” and “We can fix this”. Being able to allow an objective person (who also happens to be ridiculously high energy) to kick-start the process is the best thing I could have done. And having that person be respectful about it, and able to see when I’m about to have a melt-down and declare it’s time for a break and a beer, is priceless.

At one point during the spool-up to a melt-down. I started apologizing for the mess and said it was very embarrasing. You see, I sort of have this unreasonable fantasy that my place should be looking like something from Southern Living, forgetting that even the places in Southern Living don’t look like that 99% of the time. This place looks more like people who live there enjoyed living there, and did a lot of things, had a short enough attention span that there were a lot of half-finished projects, and lacked the patience to clean up well afterward. Now, it is spanking clean with a 12 yard dumpster full of shi…I mean…stuff soon to be toted away and forever lost to history.

In fact, the process was SO cathartic, I may very well rent the dumpster again and attempt to fill it up one more time. I am not sure there is that much stuff left to discard, but I didn’t think it would get filled up the first time.  Homes have been found for a lot of stuff we don’t want- patio furniture, kitchen stuff, and the like. I have 2 closets full of things I don’t use at all- I know I don’t because those closets haven’t been opened up any longer than it takes to stare at the contents and close the door back.  The Fella has a couple of closets like that as well. I, however, shall not be the decision maker on his closets. But there aren’t very many closets at The New House (that was intentional) so a lot of purging and culling will need to happen if our respective properties are going to be combined.

One of the things he said while hosing off the driveway was that it is so much easier to help someone else with their stuff than it is to make a decision about your own. He’s certainly right about that. I can be at his place in South Carolina and make quick decisions about it, just like he did at mine in Georgia. That, however, is a job for some other time down the road. One place at a time is all either of us can manage right now.

But shedding a 12 yard dumpster full of useless junk was probably the best feeling I’ve had in a long, long time. There’s still a lot of work to be done. There’s still more golf clubs that any reasonable person ought to have (I’m going to offer them to My 4 Sons first), but the process is less daunting and scary now. I’ve figured out getting rid of junk isn’t the same as getting rid of the memory, or the person, or the dreams. It’s shaking off clothes that don’t fit anymore and weight that isn’t necessary, and that is a very good thing indeed.

Once the extra stuff is gotten out of the house, we can make some interior repairs and get the place on the market. It needs a few licks of fresh paint, some moldings put in (never got put back in after getting new floors….in 2014), possibly some floor refinishing (but only it if will actually help the value of the house), and that one room that used to contain a teenager de-funky-smellified (maybe just washing the curtains and mopping with Simple Green and throwing out the mattress?)…I don’t know. One thing at a time.

But I tell you what…I am sure grateful to The Fella and his high energy sensibility and compassion and understanding of what was needed. His ability to say “one of your sons might want this” and “This won’t every be repaired” and “I think you could sell this on Ebay” at the pile I would look at and panic then ignore was a real Godsend.

 

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