Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Only 50 miles to go, but I was getting sleepy and needed a break. An ice cream cone and a cup of coffee sounded really good. Taking the first Fort Morgan, CO, exit, I walked into Burger King and asked for my cone. "We don't have ice cream", she said with a deadpan face. What?? Well, I thought I might as well get my coffee there and stop at McDonald's a mile down the road to get the cone. So I ordered my coffee, gave her the money, and waited. She disappeared and I waited. And waited. Finally, after several minutes, she appears, plops the coffee down, and starts to walk away again. "Where can I find some creamer?" I shout after her. She trudges back, reaches for a bucket of creamers, slides it towards me, and disappears again. I open the coffee, see that it is very strong, and add three creamers, noticing a lot of coffee grounds as I stir it in.
Now, off to get my ice cream cone. I take the next exit and drive up to McDonald's. It is closed!! Getting frustrated, I drive through a parking lot full of potholes; then I see a brand new McDonald's right across the street. I just may get my ice cream yet, I thought. Just as I'm driving into the parking lot, I see a sign - new McDonald's opening Wednesday. Well, this was Tuesday. By this time, I was wishing I had stopped at the Dairy Queen back by the Burger King; even if their small cones were more than $1. But after making my way through more construction and back onto I-76, I decided to give up on my little treat. Forty-five minutes later, after I pulled into my driveway, I took that horrible Burger King coffee and dumped the whole thing out.
It was good to finally be home.
Monday, October 11, 2010
It was another beautiful fall school day in Churchs Ferry, North Dakota. From time to time one of us grade-schoolers was lucky enough to bring a quarter or two to school. Why? Because during noon hour we would walk down to "Bert's" grocery store and purchase some candy. It was only a short walk, maybe 2-3 blocks. On this particular day, my friend, Lisa, had the money and she asked me to walk with her to Bert's. Enjoying the lovely weather, we skipped and hopped along the broken sidewalk. On an impulse, I hopped up onto the cement stoop of a little house that set right up against the sidewalk. Suddenly, the door flew open and I was confronted with ... a scraggly looking man ... with a shotgun! In shock, for a moment I was unable to move. I gaped at the whiskered man in the flannel shirt. He had his gun pointed at me. Lisa and I heard him say, "You stay off my property or I'll shoot you!" Like a human bullet, I shot off his stoop and Lisa and I ran the rest of the way to Bert's. We were shaking with fear.
My shaking lasted a long time. It may not have been visible on the outside, but it was weeks before my "insides" settled down. And you can be sure I never walked in front of Beanie Stein's house again; and I certainly never placed a foot on his stoop!
What is strange to me now is that we never told our teacher about this experience. No cops were called, the principal never found out. Eventually, I told my mother, but as far as I know, no one ever had a conversation with Beanie Stein about how he shouldn't threaten little girls with a gun. Maybe he was just another harmless old man ... but it sure didn't feel like it to me!
Friday, October 8, 2010
There is no other word that can more accurately describe the feelings I had. Why should others receive from my mother what I so strongly desired, yet was denied? I could hear it in the lilt of her voice; I could see it in the softening of her face. And I first noticed it in relation to my sisters-in-law. She seemed to genuinely like them. She said nice things about them and to them. She enjoyed visiting with them. As much as I myself liked these new women in the family, it hurt that they were so quickly able to have an affectionate relationship that was beyond my grasp. I saw the hugs, I heard the words, “I love you, too”. And I was intensely jealous.
Later, it was the children of my brothers. I would hear about how cute they are and how smart they are. I would hear about the nice cards they sent on her birthday and for Mother’s Day and how pleased she was with them. She would brag about their accomplishments and their activities and their dreams. Yes, that, too, made me jealous. I never saw any of that spirit exhibited towards my children, even though they, too, were cute, they were smart, they sent cards, and they had accomplishments and dreams.
Often over the years I would agonize on how to break the silence, the sterility of our relationship. Always the obedient and dutiful daughter, inside I longed for a relationship of love and tenderness, affection and pride. I would see the easy, fun and loving relationship some of my friends had with their mothers and feel … jealous.
If she had died in her 80’s – there is a lesson I would never have learned. I’m glad she didn’t die in her 80’s.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
I was only nine when Evie got married. It was so exciting. Evie even bought me a coloring book about a couple who became engaged. Every page to color was about the steps they took preparing for the wedding. I colored each page and dreamed. Finally, the big day arrived. I don't remember a lot about the wedding itself, but I vividly remember the reception line. Standing off to the side, I watched as my mother came through, gave Evie a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. I'm sure my eyes widened in wonder as I witnessed this demonstration of affection. From that moment on, I held it close to my heart - on my wedding day, I would receive a hug and kiss from my mother.
Ten years later, I was the bride. The ceremony went off beautifully and we were introduced as "Mr. and Mrs.". Walking down the aisle, I felt both anticipation and trepidation for the moment I had been awaiting for ten years. There were hugs, kisses and well-wishes from the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Then came my parents. A hug from my father, a perfunctory handshake from my mother. And a sense of something lost forever.
If she had died in her 80's - there is a lesson I would never have learned. I'm glad she didn't die in her 80's.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Friday finally came, the votes were counted, and YES! I was one of the elected cheerleaders! I was so excited. But with great trepidation, I broached the subject with my mother that evening. Surely she would be happy for me; be proud of me; understand how important this was to me. "Mom," I said, "I'm going to be a cheerleader." "No you're not," she replied. "But I was already elected!", I cried. "That's too bad. We're not going to start driving you all over the place and pay for those silly uniforms. You better let them know on Monday that you can't do it." My heart fell, but I would not give up. I had all weekend to work on her. And, she didn't know it, but on Monday after school I was meeting with the rest of the cheerleaders to pick out our outfits. I planned to stay overnight with my friend, so there would be no inconvenience for my parents.
By Monday morning, the answer was still "No!" But I didn't let on to the other girls. Together we went through the catalogs, choosing the skirt, the sweater and the shoes. I began to worry about how to pay for them, as it was more money than I had. Tuesday night, I approached the subject with with my mom again, and it was not a pleasant conversation. It ended up with me crying in my room behind my locked door once again. I knew I had lost the battle. Knowing I could not face the class without crying, I wrote a note to my friend and had my brother give it to her the next morning. And I played "sick" and stayed home.
Oh, life went on. I went to a few basketball games and cheered on our team from the stands. I listened to the cheerleaders talking, I watched them practice, I told them what a good job they were doing. But this big disappointment rooted deep in my heart. Throughout the years, if I looked hard enough, I could sense a little resentment against my mother -- buried deeply within me.
If she had died in her 80's - there is a lesson I would never have learned. I'm glad she didn't die in her 80's.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Health and Wealth
We squander health in search of wealth;
We scheme and toil and save;
Then squander wealth in search of health,
But only find a grave.
We live, and boast of what we own;
We die and only get a stone.
Monday, September 27, 2010
- A home filled with furniture
- Buildings, farm machinery, cars and trucks
- Trinkets, nice gifts, worthless gifts
- Pots and pans, utensils, dishes
- Quilts and blankets, towels, tablecloths
- Washers, lawn mowers, refrigerators
- Many more things than any of us would ever be able to recall
A lot is accumulated in over 90 years of living. But eventually, the accumulation of things begins to go backwards. Each stage of life was a down-sizing - from a 400-acre farm, to a house in town, to an apartment, to assisted living, to a nursing home. The process of getting rid of goes much faster than the process of gaining:
- Throw away
- Give away
- Leave behind
Early the morning after mom passed away, I went to her room at the nursing home, sat in her chair, and marveled at how little she had and how little she needed to meet her needs. I fired up my laptop and, along with brother Jim (who also arrived early), listed her final possessions. Here is what she had the last weeks of her life:
- Furniture - chair, love seat, dresser, TV stand, side tables, doily
- For snacking - packets of crackers and peanut butter, salt and pepper, packets of sugar, Altoids, coffee cup and candy
- For self care - hearing aid with extra batteries, chap stick, clear fingernail polish, eye drops, emery board and nail file, mineral ice, neosporin, baby powder, 2 tweezers, a few bandaids, mirror, combs, handkerchiefs, magnifying glass, clothes
- For entertainment - TV with remote, word search puzzle book, emails received, Yahtzee, Cribbage board, deck of cards, radio, an altoid box with quarters (for bingo)
- For reflection - Bible, devotional book, Estate Planning Guide, Guidepost magazine, Nicole's essay, the birthday calendar, funeral folders (Zola, Nolan, Charles Hanson, Eva), miscellaneous family pictures, one doll, one stuffed animal, cross stitched wall hanging, picture drawn by Makenna (great granddaughter), award to dad from the Farm Bureau in 1975
- For getting along - scotch tape, spool of white thread, paper clip, 2 ziplock bags, screwdriver for glasses, knife, John Deere letter opener, scissors, 7 pens, flashlight, address book
Mom managed the process of her possessions. She kept control of what to do with nearly every item until she was left with the list above. It took only an hour or two to distribute the last of her things. She went out of this world like she came in, with only a body and a soul. Twelve hours after she died, the ridding of the remaining possessions was all over. The circle of life was complete.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
From a very young age I was fascinated with the piano. Vaguely, I remember one of my older sisters waking me up in the morning with piano music. Every Saturday when I dusted the furniture, I lingered over the keys, wishing I knew how to make beautiful sounds. I imagined myself playing lovely music and my parents being so proud of me.
Now - maybe it would happen! The next day I bounded off the school bus, ran to the house, and told my mother that I could take lessons, and they wouldn't have to drive me at all! "No," she said. You are not taking piano lessons. We're not going to have all that noise in the house again." It felt like I hit a brick wall. But, being a pre-teen, I thought it would only take a matter of time to wear her down. After all, this was something I really, really wanted to do.
A few days later, as we were all sitting around the supper table, I heard dad tell mom, "they're going to be here about 7:00 to get the piano." What?!?! With a broken heart I ran to my room, locked my door and flung myself across the bed. Awhile later I looked out my window to watch some strangers load my precious piano into their pick-up truck and drive away. That night I cried myself to sleep. That night my dream died.
If she had died in her 80's, there is a lesson I would never have learned. I'm glad she didn't die in her 80's.
Monday, September 13, 2010
And I do remember. September 13 will always bring my thoughts back to you. After you died - after everything was over and I was back home - I felt drained and, yes, relieved. Relieved that your struggle was over. Relieved that (dare I say it??) I no longer had to worry about you. But today, on your birthday, I find myself missing you. Over the past couple weeks I've been reading books that you gave me. They are books full of humor: "Cream and Bread", "Holy Hilarity", "More Holy Hilarity", and the one I just finished, "Stories I Couldn't Tell When I Was a Pastor". It seems like a dichotomy; I so seldom saw you smile or heard you laugh, yet you had a collection of humorous books, readings and poems. And at unexpected times you would throw out a statement that had everyone laughing.
Today, on your birthday, I hope you are liberated from any earthly restraint or piety and are reveling in joy and laughter and freedom of spirit. I miss you, but I'm so glad you are where you are. Happy birthday, Mom!
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Making our way to the room of one of our parishioners, I finally started to thaw out. We entered her room and the unfamiliarity of it all assaulted my senses. There were strange smells, there were tubes and lines everywhere, there were beeping and whooshing sounds. And my friend looked so fragile. As Rod began to speak with her, I began to feel surreal. The sights and sounds were swirling around me; I began to feel hot. Knowing I was in trouble, I quickly unzipped my coat and started to pull it off. The last thing I remember was grabbing Rod's arm.
I was in a different place. Where I was, I do not know. I saw no one, I saw no light. But my soul was instantly whole. There is no way to describe the completeness I felt. I've tried for 30 years to describe it; but words fail. I only know that it was perfect and completely satisfying.
I'm sure it was only a moment or two. I found myself coming back to awareness with the words, "Jesus, Jesus" on my lips and feeling the cool floor beneath my supine body. A nurse was hovering over me, loosening my clothes, putting a cold cloth on my forehead. "She's coming around," I heard her say.
Just a little fainting spell, but, oh, so profound. From that day on I never felt a shred of fear over my own death. From that day on I have had complete confidence that the next life is so wonderful that there is no need for concern about entering it. It took me 30 years to be brave enough to share this very personal story. And for 30 years I've thanked God for that special gift in a moment's time. My fear of death was finally conquered, never to return again.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
As many of you know, I am collecting a single teacup and saucer from twelve different countries (note: must be made in that country). This one came to me from India - in a roundabout way. Here's how it happened:
sister - was a missionary in India.
My daughter's mother-in-law asked this missionary to bring a teacup and saucer for me next time she returned to the United States. And she did!!
And I love it!!
Then, suddenly, I encountered death like I had never imagined. Completely unexpected to me, my dad died. Died. The man in whose home I lived for 18 years was dead. This time I could not ignore, I could not run out of the room and flee from it, I could not think it away. The grief was overwhelming and all-consuming. Along with my mom and siblings, I lived and breathed this loss, pretending to be so strong. As plans were made for the family service and the funeral service, my fears were added to my grief. There was no escape.
At the family service, the setting was beautiful. The soft music was playing, "Be not dismayed what e'er betide; God will take care of you..." Coming into the room I saw the open casket at the front. Praying, and acting strong, I made my way to the front. Dear dad; he looked so good, so peaceful, but .... so dead. As I was standing there alone, I reached out to touch his cheek. It was cold ... and hard. And suddenly, the assurance rushed over me - he is not here, this is only a shell. My eyes were opened and I realized emotionally a truth I had embraced mentally - the real person, the one we love, is a spirit. Our spirit lives temporarily in a body. When the body gives out, the spirit, the real person, moves to a new place. My heart flooded with peace, with understanding, with comfort.
I encountered death, up close and personal. Although the grief remained, the fear was gone. At least, the fear over the death of someone I loved was gone. I had finally reached the end of my fear journey -- or at least I thought I had.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
One summer day as I was going about my work, “spreading sunshine” (as my colleagues said I did) I started getting my charges up from their naps. I bounced into Mr. Olson’s room, singing a little tune. Thinking it a little strange that he didn’t respond the way he usually did, I went over to his bed, put my hand on his arm and gave it a little shake. Looking at him, I suddenly felt a cold fear sweep over my body. Something was not right. I ran from the room and called for one of the other aides to please come quickly. She took a quick look at me and ran into Mr. Olson’s room. Soon the room was full of people; one went to call the doctor, another started straightening out his bed, closing his eyes, making him look nice. I was plastered against the wall, watching what was going on, wondering what my role is supposed to be, and feeling very, very weak.
The nurse, noticing me on her way out of the room, said, “Audrey, you better go take a break. We can finish up here.” Running from the room, I locked myself in the bathroom, and leaned against the door, trembling. This was the first time I had ever seen someone who was dead. And it shook me to the core. Unexpectedly, with no warning, I was suddenly face-to-face with my biggest fear, my biggest demon. And I was unprepared. I resumed my duties, but I was never the same. The fears returned with a vengeance, just as before.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Sometimes I went weeks, sometimes months without experiencing this episode of fear. But many times during my youth this would come back to me in the night. How do I get rid of this fear? I didn’t feel I could talk with anyone about it; death wasn't something that was talked about. I was probably the only person in the world who just couldn’t get it together concerning death and my personal eventual demise. I had no one to turn to, nowhere to go. It was like a hound, biting at my heels, coming at me unexpectedly; but always at night.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
We started out being twelve. I don't think I've ever seen a picture of all twelve of us at one time. It seemed like we had forever to take family pictures; we'd get around to it some day. But suddenly, in 1975, Dad was gone. It was then we realized that we need to make the effort to get the pics -- while we could. Over the next 32 years, several pictures were taken of the "Eleven"; the most recent was at mom's 90th birthday party in 2006. We had a professional photographer come to that party so we could get some really good pictures. I'm so glad we did, because the very next year, 2007, we lost David. That put us at ten; Then in 2009 LeRoy left us. Down to nine. One year (minus seventeen days) later, mom, the matriarch, passed into the next life. So now we are down to eight. I get an odd feeling watching my family unit gradually roll over from this world into the next. Makes me realize how temporal and mortal our human bodies are. Some day, one of us in this picture will say good bye to the final sibling, and be the only one standing. I wonder - who will it be?
For those who haven't seen us for awhile: Each row Left to Right - Bob, Tom, Jim, Don; Audrey, Vivian, Sylvia, Evie.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Hi, Dad. I'm back. As you must know by now, Mom is here beside you. I want you to know that her end was peaceful and without pain. I turned away for only a minute or two, and when I looked back, she was gone. I don't understand everything about the spirit world; it is hard for me to comprehend what it is like. But I hope you have reunited with her by now.
I wish you could have seen your nine grandsons, who were pallbearers. You would have been so proud of them. You would have delighted in seeing all the granddaughters and all the great grandkids. We miss mom, but her funeral was a wonderful gathering of the living, a celebration of the family you both created.
I want to thank you both. Thank you for loving one another. Thank you for the example of a committed marriage. Thank you for your "old fashioned" values and for your strong work ethic. Thank you for your involvement in your communities, your churches and your families. I sorrow over the end of the Oscar-Viola era.
Now that you are finally here together, I will be leaving you. Tomorrow I will be driving out of North Dakota. It is time now to focus on living the rest of my life. I don't know what the future holds for me, but I am confident that the same God who holds your souls still cares about me. It may be many years before I am back at this spot, but I will always hold you both very close to my heart. I love you and I miss you. Good bye - until we meet again.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Rather than curling up on the love seat, I decided to sit in her recliner. I looked through her Bible. I found her devotional book, with the bookmark on July 24. Had it been that long since she felt she could read from that book? I organized her magazine rack, throwing away Kleenexes and napkins and old church bulletins.
Suddenly, looking over at her, I felt I needed to check on her again. Throwing off the quilt, I stepped to her side and knew immediately. Can it really be? I touched her and she was as warm and soft as ever, but no rising of the chest. I felt for a pulse, knowing there would be none. I put my finger under her nose to feel the soft whoosh of a breath, knowing there would be none. I hugged her, crying tears of rejoicing and sorrow. Reluctantly I reached for the call bell. "She's gone," I said.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
I met Kay in the lobby and tried to prepare her. With apprehension I led her into mom's room. Just as I was about to lean down to wake her up and let her know that Kay was here, mom suddenly lifted her head. A big smile came over her face and for a moment she looked like her old self. "I would have recognized you anywhere!", she clearly said. Within five seconds she was sleeping again. Then she woke up and began taking with Kay, sharing memories from 45 years ago. Kay left when mom was again nauseated and retching with dry heaves. After she was all settled down, she said, "Where's Kay?" I told her she had to go, and she went back to sleep.
I knew when it happened -- that would be the last big, spontaneous smile I'd ever see on my mom's face. That brief moment was a final glimpse into the spirit of my true mom. I didn't catch it on camera, but I will always remember how beautiful and full of life she looked at that moment.
Friday, August 6, 2010
The body is failing fast. How can it not, when she takes in so few calories and drinks so little? It is getting harder to tell a story; there are more and more mistakes in what she says. Her skin on her lower legs looks like a bad burn. Her toes and fingers are cold and blue. She sleeps a lot. Sometimes she will rally for awhile and seem "better". But it doesn't last long anymore. She hates what is happening to her, but is powerless to change it.
My heart breaks to see this happening to such a strong woman. My prayer has become, "Lord, release her. Bring this devastation to an end." Meanwhile, all I can do is be there, listen to her, advocate for her, let her know that she is not alone.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
But the cemeteries are still there. Cemeteries that are far removed from city streets and noisy activities. How appropriate that my ancestors were laid to rest in these beautiful and peaceful spots; close to the churches they helped build; near the farms they carved out of the prairie grasses. Most of them spent their lives toiling just to survive. Most had little more than the necessities. Some were so poor they could not even afford a granite stone to mark the grave of their infant child.
It was in this setting that I found my grandparents, Lars and Petra. It was here that I found my great-grandmother, Christine Westad, from whom I got my middle name. It was here that I found the "temporary" grave marker of my aunt Florence, who died at age 2, nearly 85 years ago.
Enjoying the peace and beauty of this balmy North Dakota summer day, it is easy to romanticize about how life must have been. But I know North Dakota. I know the long, cold winters. I know what it is like to lose crops to hail or to drought. I remember the three day blizzards. I understand the devastation of a sick cow, a horse that needs to be put down, chickens that are killed by the foxes. Life was hard. But it was also full. Families were important and neighbors took care of each other. There was love and laughter. There was a sense of belonging, there were deep roots.
Thanks, Susan, for taking me on this trip through the past. It helped to anchor my soul and give me hope for my own life and for the legacy I will be leaving my descendants. It helped me focus on what is really important in my life.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
Dad ... thanks for helping me today. Now I am going to rise from this grass. I will set my face to the wind and march on. After all, I am my father's daughter - and I am strong, like he was.
But before I go ... there is another thing I want to tell you. Mom is going to be joining you soon. I don't think it will be very much longer and she will be lying here beside you - just where she wants to be. We're taking good care of her, but her heart is already in the next world. So I'll be back to see you again. And by then, things will be much better. I'm sure of it.
Mom is so frail. I was here at the end of June and I can see decline since then. The fluid in her legs build up until they start leaking out profusely, pulling the skin apart in the process. Once the pressure is off, they are fairly dry for a short while. Then the process begins again. She has a deep sore above her right heel and the skin on both legs is breaking down. I used to be so glad she enjoyed her ice cream every day, as that was a source for some calories. But she doesn't even want ice cream anymore. She eats barely enough to keep a bird alive. She told me she just has no appetite at all, her gums hurt when she tries to chew (I'm sure her gums have shrunken, leaving her teeth to be very ill-fitting), her eyes are no good, and today she mentioned that she is short of breath. She doesn't do puzzles anymore and she sleeps a lot during the day. It is almost like she is disappearing right before my eyes. Tomorrow I plan to meet with her nurse and on Tuesday morning I hope to meet with the hospice nurse. She is taking morphine from time to time for the pain that she is now experiencing in her legs.
I encourage you to send her short, large-font (18 or more) emails. She said there was one whole week she didn't get a single email. How about we all make an effort to send a bunch of emails while we can. Short emails are okay!
I plan to spend a lot of time with her over the next week. Much of that time is just sitting there with her. I'll give another update after I have a chance to speak with the nurses.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
by Edgar A. Guest
I have to live with myself and so
I want to be fit for myself to know.
I want to be able as days go by,
always to look myself straight in the eye;
I don't want to stand with the setting sun
and hate myself for the things I have done.
I don't want to keep on a closet shelf
a lot of secrets about myself
and fool myself as I come and go
into thinking no one else will ever know
the kind of person I really am,
I don't want to dress up myself in sham.
I want to go out with my head erect
I want to deserve all men's respect;
but here in the struggle for fame and wealth
I want to be able to like myself.
I don't want to look at myself and know that
I am bluster and bluff and empty show.
I never can hide myself from me;
I see what others may never see;
I know what others may never know,
I never can fool myself and so,
whatever happens I want to be
self respecting and conscience free.
Monday, May 17, 2010
- Letting the cats in the house when mom and dad were gone (absolutely forbidden!)
- Throwing water on my brothers - through the screen by the kitchen sink
- Drinking lots of water, then lying on the couch, moving her belly so I could hear the water slosh around inside her
- Malted milk balls in the top dresser drawer - and sharing them with me
- High heels and lipstick and going on a date
- Laying awake until she came home to see if she had a ring on her finger
- Telling me I was going to get a baby brother or sister
- Telling me I got a baby brother
- Telling me what happens to girls when they start to grow up
- Buying me my first razor to shave my legs
- Reading and responding to lengthy letters filled with teen-aged angst
- Beautiful handwriting
- Baking cookies, making "tomatoes and macaroni"
- Introducing the family to pizza
- Playing the piano and singing
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
The experience was both satisfying and distressing. Mom has refused to do anything that may prolong her life, including taking her "water pills". There is a huge amount of water retention in her body right now. Her feet look like footballs, her legs are huge, weeping fluid, and blistering. A lot of fluid has settled in her left arm. When I spoke with the nurse, she said she has pitting edema all the way up to above her waist. At this point her lungs are still clear, but the fluid will keep rising until she ends up with pulmonary edema. It bothers me that she is refusing any treatment for this, yet I understand her desire to not prolong life. There's got to be a better way to go! She has absolutely no mobility left and cannot even adjust herself in her chair anymore.
In the midst of this, her mind is still good. We played several games of rummy and she talked intelligently about everything. But she looks and sounds so terribly frail. She eats so little, her eyesight is deteriorating, and her hearing is atrocious (most of the time). It is often hard to understand her because her voice is just wearing out.
Though the trip was hard, I'm glad I went. The days go by so slowly for her. She looks forward to any activity that is out of the ordinary. Next weekend David's widow, Nancy and their daughter Jennifer with her two little ones will be there. Mom is so looking forward to seeing them. And there are several family members coming memorial day weekend. Personally, I don't really expect her to last much longer than that.
Remember to send her emails. She counts on that every day. Just be sure to increase the font to 16 or 18. You don't have to say much. Just hearing from you is enough.
Now don't you go telling Mom I put all this in my blog!! I'd be in trouble for sure!
Friday, April 30, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
For my and Nadine's birthday, Sue (niece-in-law) gave us each a "tea" at the Hilltop Inn. I had never heard of this place, but Sue had been there before with her mother. What a wonderful place it is! And what a wonderful time we had. This was a very traditional English "High Tea" with scones, tea sandwiches, sweets, and lots of tea. We spent an hour and a half enjoying our tea and goodies. It was very refreshing and fun. Maybe that is why the English cherish their tea time so much. It is an opportunity in the middle of a busy day to slow down, enjoy one another, nourish the body and soul, and leave all the hassles of life behind us for awhile.
Thanks, Sue, for the wonderful time, and for introducing me to another special place! I'm sure I'll go back again and again.
We made our way to the Happy Cooker and had a nice little lunch. In anticipation of the upcoming tea time, I ordered only water to drink. And what a lovely walk it was going the two or three blocks to the house of tea. I always get excited when I find an unusual and out-of-the-way type of place to enjoy a pot of tea with a friend or lover. As we step across the threshold, I see nothing but dark clothing in a dank room. It even smelled a little "old". But, wait! There is another room off to the right. I peak around that room, see more clothes, and a heavily tattooed lady comes from "somewhere", and starts explaining the great sale they have going on now. They are changing, she says, from the current shop to an Athena shop.
I'm sure my confusion showed on my face, but we politely looked at a few clothes and quickly left. Turning around to look at the sign again, I see "a T h E n A". The a, h, and n are just a white outline - but look at the T, the E, and the A - bright and bold colors. How strange. As we moved on, however, I noticed a fenced-in patio with tables and chairs. So maybe, when they finally convert to Athena, they will also have TEA. I can only hope.
Since we didn't get our tea, we made our way to the old-fashioned soda fountain shop and had hot fudge sundaes and coffee instead. And enjoyed listening to the lady at the shop tell us stories about the goings-on in Georgetown. The more we egged her on, the more she gossipped. It was fun.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Today I wore her necklace. And many times throughout my busy day I would fold it within my hand and think of her. And be thankful for her. And miss her. This is the necklace my aunt Elvera gave me last month. At the time I didn't think she would be leaving us so quickly.
I have regrets. I wanted to get to know her better. I wanted to spend a lazy afternoon with her, just chatting and learning more about her. I missed so much of her life, spending years, even decades, never seeing her. I envy my Washington cousins who grew up around her and knew her so well.
In her Christmas card just last year she wrote that she had a story to tell me next time she saw me. I wanted to ask her about it when I saw her in March. But it was already too late. That was not a time to search for what I wanted. It was a time to support her in her illness and her weakness. And now I will never know. No, I shouldn't say that. Someday I am certain we will have unlimited time to talk, laugh, and catch up on all we missed out on while living on this earth. Someday ... I'll hear her story.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
On Sunday, April 11, the baby of the family turns 80. Duane, the youngest of more than a dozen kids hits another decade. Duane is another uncle that I became reacquainted with in the early 2000's. My memories of him prior to that time are rather sketchy. I remember, in 1960, when he took my mom and me through his office supply store. I was in awe that a relative of mine would work in such a wondrous place. (I've loved office supply stores ever since). I remember that he and his wife, Martha, lost a baby while I was there in 1960. And I'm almost certain that it was Duane who met us at the train station when we arrived in Seattle/Tacoma after a 2-3 day train trip. As little as I knew him then, I am making up for it now. I love this guy's sense of humor, his warmth, and his openness to me and all the nieces and nephews. He always seems so calm, so kind, and so thoughtful. When I hear stories about his dad, my grandpa Frank, it seems like they must have been very much alike.
Duane is pictured above with his wife, Martha. This was taken during my last trip to Washington about a month ago.
Duane, I've enjoyed getting to know you better over the past several years. I'm glad I found yet another uncle to love. You are looking mighty good for being 80! Happy Birthday!
Last night we went to Outback Steakhouse for a nice dinner together. I thought I'd try something different - the Shrimp en Fuego with fresh steamed green beans and potato bowl. Sounds good, doesn't it? And it was. Here's how this delicious meals looks nutritionally. Calories: 1,356; Grams of fat: 90; Milligrams of Sodium: 3611. It just keeps getting worse!! I did leave most of the potato boat and a lot of the cream sauce on my plate, so I didn't consume quite as much as I could have. But I ate a couple slices of the bread, topped with salted butter.
This is very discouraging to me. It is obvious why I'm having difficulty taking off 20 pounds. I eat much larger portions than I should, I eat high fat, high calorie, high sodium foods, and I don't move around enough. What to do???
I think I'll go take a brisk walk - and turn into a raw vegetarian. A message to my body - "I'm so sorry for what I've been doing to you. I'll try harder. Honest."
Saturday, April 3, 2010
From your brother, Tom ,,,
"The day we killed a steer, we skinned it out, gutted it (I took the heart, tongue, liver and kidneys to the house to be wrapped or cooked), salter down the hide and rolled it up to be sold (for leather), and quartered the carcass. It was then hung in the well house, covered by clean white sheets, to age for several days before it was processed and frozen. This was possible because we killed the steer in the fall when the weather was cool.
Also, there is no lard in beef to be rendered. It is tallow and was used (as you said) to make soap."
I must have been about the age of Julia (above). Any older and I think it would have been humiliating. All the girls in my class had to make an "Easter Bonnet" from a paper plate. Then we all had to wear our bonnet and parade through the other classrooms to the tune of "Put on your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it" and then I would "be the grandest lady in the Easter parade". I must have been older than Julia is, because I remember feeling rather foolish. But today when I was telling her the story she said, "Can I make an Easter bonnet?" Of course, she could. And she thoroughly enjoyed it. Turned out rather nice, too. But I didn't make her parade around the neighborhood. Just out to the back deck for some pictures. By the way, Julia is 7 years old. A good age for paper plate bonnets.
Friday, March 26, 2010
I don't remember how mom made the butter yellow, but it always came out beautiful and delicious. We shaped it just right, wrapped it up, and put it in the freezer with the rest of the family food. One of my most pleasant memories is going into the kitchen in the evening, all by myself, and popping up a couple dishpans full of popcorn. I would melt a big pan of butter on the stove and smother the popcorn in butter and salt. Each of us would get a bread pan full of this delicious popcorn. I made my bread pan last for at least two days, because I knew I wasn't allowed to make popcorn more than once a week.
We all laugh about the night my sister, Evie, who was home from college, dished up ice cream for dessert. She brought the ice cream to each one of us at the table. At last she sat down to her own dish, smothered in homemade chocolate sauce. She took a bite, then accusingly said, "who put butter in my ice cream?" Ha ha on her. She is the one who put chocolate sauce on a dish of butter instead of ice cream!
I'm glad I enjoyed all this butter when I was young. Now-a-days, I wouldn't think of consuming so much butter. It really isn't good for my health. And, well, it just doesn't taste that good anymore. But maybe if I had the homemade kind ... maybe it would taste good again.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
I have vague memories of the "rendering of the lard"; mostly I remember the horrible smell. I don't know how it worked, but all the fat, along with some lye (and maybe other things) eventually turned into bars of soap. Every wash day (Mondays), mom would shave off pieces of a bar of homemade soap into the wringer washing machine.
As a child, I never cared much for beef, though I did like meatballs. I still don't care for beef. I've often wondered if it has anything to do with my fondness for the cattle ... and the unavoidable butchering day.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Country cousins and city cousins. What a different upbringing they had! I doubt if any of the city cousins ever baled hay, butchered chickens, plowed fields, moved manure, or went to a high school with less than 30 students. And I know the country cousins had little, if no exposure to city buses, tug boats, 2-story department stores, or a school class of hundreds. Yet we have so much in common. We have a blood-line; we all came from Frank and Sophia. Twelve of us first cousins (about 1/4 of the Peterson first cousins) met together last Friday night. How fun it was to see some again, get to know others better, and meet some for the first time. The first guest arrived before 6:00 p.m. and the last one left at 2:00 a.m. A good time was had by all. Besides the cousins, we had several spouses/significant others join us; all wonderful people to know. We thought about inviting the aunts and uncles, but they said, "No, you don't want us old folks around. You young people just enjoy yourselves." Our ages ranged from mid 40's to 70. I'm all for that being the new young! For those who aren't sure who is who, here is the list. The name in parenthesis is the Peterson child from which they came.
Back row: Kay (Irene); Debbie (Glenn); Kandy (Irene); Audrey (Viola); Karen (Irene); Janice (Stanley)
Front row: Barbara (Wilma); John (Irene); Bob (Elvera); Greg (Elvera); Curtis (Stanley)
Sitting in the front because he is the oldest and the tallest: Raynoir (Stanley)
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Friday, March 5, 2010
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Yes, I got a tour through the past today. After landing in Seattle about 10:30 this morning, Cousin Kandy took me to see Aunt Elvera and then she drove me around to places from that memorable trip "out west". I found the "reservoir" and the chain link fence where I got my picture taken with Grandpa. Kandy showed me the probable route of my very first city bus trip when Grandma, mom and I went downtown. The department store downtown is where I saw, and rode, my very first escalator. I was hoping to see the corner store where grandpa bought me a 5-cent push-up each day, but it is no longer there. Another first from that trip was watching my Grandpa wash the siding of the house with a hose. I had never known anyone to do that before.
Oh, what a good time I am having! Tomorrow I will be having lunch by the water with my aunts and uncles. Then we go for a visit with Elvera. And Friday night is the "cousin" party. Currently there are 23 planning to attend.
One big disappointment - Kandy took a couple good pictures of Elvera and me -- but I lost the pictures from my phone. So tomorrow we'll try again. Be looking for a picture and an Elvera update soon!
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Monday, March 1, 2010
Then there were the cookies. We didn't just make a couple batches of cookies. On Saturdays we made triple batches of three or four different kinds of cookies ... chocolate chip, peanut butter, ground raisin, oatmeal, molasses, sugar, and many more. The all time favorite that we made each time was chocolate chip. Many times I sat on the kitchen stool with a big bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough anchored between my legs as I used a big spoon to stir in the chocolate chips. And what fun it was to use a fork to press down the peanut butter cookies. We used the bottom of the toothpick holder to press down the molasses cookies. We ate cookies when they were fresh and we froze cookies for later.
Besides all the breads and the cookies we also made bars. Every time we had company, mom would go down the basement and bring up a variety of bars to put on a plate and thaw out while visiting with the company. When it was time for "coffee", the bars were all ready to go. We tried lots of different recipes with bars. They were all good.
The best baking of all, however, was the birthday cake! Every birthday (and we had lots of them) there was a large angel food cake with frosting and candles. Melt-in-your mouth angel food cake. I can taste it now. I told my family the only thing I want for my 60th birthday (I'm giving them plenty of warning) is a home made angel food cake. Will they come through for me? I hope so!
Friday, February 26, 2010
Isn't he a good lookin' 82 year old? This is my uncle Glenn Peterson. I have practically no memory of this man during my childhood years. I vaguely remember seeing a tall, thin, quiet-kind-of guy around the farm a couple times. I remember his wife, Nancy, much better. Nancy was the social one, the one who talked, laughed, and got after the kids. It wasn't until after the turn of the century (2000) that I re-met Glenn in Tacoma. Wow, what a guy! I'll never forget how he welcomed me with warmth and hugs - as if we had been close buddies all those years. I instantly felt a kinship with Glenn. Every time I've seen him since, he has continued to win my heart. He drove me to the airport, he came to see me where ever I was, he always showed an interest in what I was doing. Uncle Glenn, I am so thankful I found you. I'm sorry this is a day late, but Happy Birthday! May you be filled with health and happiness throughout your 82nd year of life. I love you!
- for having child #8
- for your patience with me through the teen years
- for really good cinnamon rolls
- for letting me do the housework rather than the cooking
- for the sewing machine I started using at age 10
- for hosting the 4-H club, even on your birthday
- for welcoming my best friend into our home on a regular basis
- for loving my father
- for working so hard for all of us
- for creating a home of stability and security and peace
- for letting me take the car to my job in Cando, even when you had to go to church in the pickup
- for teaching me the honor of hard work
- for meatballs and gravy over boiled potatoes
- for Christmas traditions and Christmas foods
- for taking me to Tacoma in 1960
- for coming to my college graduation, even though you just broke your shoulder
- for taking care of me
- for being proud of me
- for loving me
- and most of all
- Thank you for living long enough for me to realize how much I love you
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Sunday, February 14, 2010
- Spending most of the winter in places like southern California and Phoenix
- Staying in full-service Marriott hotels with the really comfortable beds and with a concierge
- New foods and unique dining experiences
- Working with lots of men (not because they are men, but because of the way they think and the way they approach their careers)
- Continuous intellectual challenges
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Early in the spring I would come home from school to find we were the owners of a bunch of freshly hatched baby chicks. They were ugly, with hardly no feathers. The delicate little chicks were put in the "brooder house", which was specially prepared with a heat lamp, water and special chicken feed. Throughout the summer these little chicks grew into full-grown chickens. I dreaded the day they were declared to be "just right". It was a family project. My older brothers would help mom catch the chickens, one-by-one. The head would go between two nails on a board and one swing of the ax ended it all. The head fell to the right and the body was thrown to the left. A brother picked them up and dipped them into a tub of boiling hot water. Meanwhile, down at the chicken coop, everything was set up for my job (and a brother or two). That sopping wet chicken was hung by its legs in front of my stool and I began plucking feathers. It's surprising how easy they came out. After a quick round with the blow torch to sear off all the little fine feathers, it made it's way to the basement. Mom and Dad were there, cleaning out the innards and giving them all a good washing. Then several of us wrapped them up in freezer paper, labeled it with the date, and into the freezer they went. After a day like that I said I'd never eat a chicken again. But who could resist the delicious fried chicken that came from mom's kitchen? Not me. You know, after all these years, I can clearly remember the smell of wet chicken feathers on a freshly butchered chicken. Weeding the garden wasn't such a bad job after all.