Pursuing the poetical, paradoxical, metaphorical, lyrical, artistical, majestical, and mystical.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Doing 'I Do' Well


Our simple hand made wedding announcement had a quote from Shakespeare's 'King John' calligraphed on them. I believed it then. I do still.

"He is half the part of a blessed man, left to be finished by such as she; and she, a fair divided excellence, whose fullness of perfection lies in him."

There are men who complain about their wives to everyone. They ridicule, dishonor and expose their faults and vulnerabilities. They are sarcastic, easily making everyone laugh - jokes at her expense. Sometimes they passively don't engage in any way.

These women look flat, don't desire their husbands, have shut off completely from the criticism and to protect themselves. They have a broken spirit, look hopeless and have lost that captivating, inviting, enthused look. They look shriveled, dried up and somewhat forlorn.

The other kind of man covers his wife. Protects her. Honors her by speaking well of her to family and friends and children. Takes the blame and fault on himself. Takes the hits for her. Nurtures her. Encourages her. Empowers her. Treats her tenderly. Shelters her. Invites her. Plays with her. Compliments her. Is affectionate outside the context of sex. Gives instead of takes. Serves her. Prays with her, for her. Fights for her.

I was recently with a friend whose second husband is the second kind of man. Her first husband was the first kind of man. In the years I've known her she has slowly become confident, secure and relaxed. She looks younger and stunningly beautiful now. She glows! She has extraordinary poise and composure. She is accomplishing unbelievable achievements. He is so proud of her!

As we all hit the 50's, it is becoming pretty obvious....... a few girlfriends have bloomed into butterflies. It doesn't seem to be because the woman is or isn't anything, however. It's simply that a certain kind of high caliber man chooses to love her fully and well, all the days of her life, even when he doesn't feel like it! It's how the lover loves, not how lovable or unlovable the beloved is.

All of us women, at times, have the propensity for bitchiness, disrespect, bossiness, irritability, hormonal emotional roller coaster rides, and the common curse of control which we were born with. Yet, there are men who choose to love us, who consistently show us with actions and words, who have graced us with unconditional, on purpose love. It was easy to take for granted when we were younger. Not any more!

Love will make you beautiful! Love does change everything.

Thanks loverby, for ever saying 'I do' and meaning it, sticking with it no matter what. You have. You do. I do too.

Some Kind of Wonderful

Hopping on a horse isn't quite as easy as trick riders make it look like in the movies. In real life, you use a fence, a mounting block of some kind, some one's knee or their locked hands as a step; unless you are a gymnast, extremely athletic or your horse is really, really short!

Our girls went camping with some friends this weekend. First time these kids went without adults or parents. They planned it, found the spot, made their own arrangements through at least a thousand text messages and phone calls.

I googled the spot they picked and was amazed at it's beauty and the offerings available. We were a bit concerned as it was first come, first served - hoping that on a Friday such a place would have openings for all of them.

Craig and Kevin helped load some wood and kindling from Claude's pile. They asked to use the pick up. I baked them some cookies. They wanted to take the legendary cast iron breakfast pan.....the one that takes two to lift. They checked off item after item, separating needs and wants and things that needed bought for the other cooler when they arrived. Tess picked some tomatoes from the garden at the last minute. They had plans for gourmet meals around the fire. We suggested a few chairs and reminded them of a few necessities they hadn't thought about.

I wanted to call a million times and say dumb stuff, ask silly questions and taint it; then stopped my self in time. They can think, they know how to solve problems, they can make do, they have a sense of humor, they weren't worried, they were taught to crave this, they were together on an adventure!

All they needed was 'a leg up'........... and they were off like the wind. The joy of freedom, knowing they were capable of working it all out carried them far beyond us.

The short text message brought sweet relief ......... "Made it, found a good spot."

It will be fun to hear the stories they will tell of the memories they made. And, whoa there~these aren't kids, I keep forgetting, they are ADULTS! Freaky! I keep forgetting! When did that happen?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Living in Normal

Old friends are visiting from Iowa for a couple of days before they head to the San Juan's to get their sailing certificate. They will be able to check it off their list of dreams. It is inspiring to hear them tell how they planned for it and listen to their enthusiasm. We are vicariously enjoying it through them. We are treating them REALLY good, so when they get their boat, we'll hopefully have guest privileges? Craig can learn to crew, I'll be the busty mermaid ornament lashed onto the bow-sprit for decoration and good luck.

Having a few dreams dangling in the future is fun and makes life interesting. Always has until now. It is the weirdest thing ever.......for the first time in my life, I don't really have any. There's no burning in the bosom to accomplish anything specific, no fire in my belly to fight for some cause, no curiosity to explore or go, no unbirthed dreams that need some wheels put to them. Feels a bit empty, sort of a bleak or maybe blank horizon. Strange and unfamiliar.

However, there is contentment in the common everyday things. It's all very ordinary, a bit predictable, satisfying in a way and puttering. Not doddering; puttering - like puttzing. Dabbling. Lots of freedom to do or not to do. It doesn't feel like a waste of time or anything like that. Nor does it feel like I'm living by default instead of on purpose. But, nothing feels grand, intense, earthshaking or adventuresome; it's hard to see any one thing in my day mattering tremendously in the grand scheme of things.

Maybe I'm living in normal now? On a street named ordinary. With a common house number. It seems good. Maybe there is here. Maybe here is now. I do believe that the best is yet to come. That definitely gives me a little tingle of anticipation.

Ok, whew, there's still a bit of juice left. :)

Maybe it's not a blank horizon, but a blank canvas......to paint on? But what to paint?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Acres of Blackberries

Blackberries are the curse and bane of Washington property owners. There are people who make their living by destroying the thorny, crawling bushes that will take over sheds, plants, meadows, fences and pastures. We passionately hate blackberry bushes ~ until fall, when the berries are ripening on someone else's land. :)

Maggie and I headed to the river this morning armed with hope and two baskets. We started down at the farthest point and worked our way up to the main road.

Picking blackberries requires stealth and planning and a system. You have to find a patch off the road so it hasn't been sprayed or contaminated. You casually forget to tell anyone else where your patch is, because if you keep it groomed, you can go back every couple days and keep picking what ripens.

Long, thick sleeves and pants are a must. Gloves don't work as you have to sort of wriggle your hand into the brambles, cup it and entice each ripe berry to roll off your thumb into your hand until there's a handful to put in the basket. The less you have to put your arm in and out, the fewer scratches you get. Only the blackest ones roll off easily. They are tender, so you can't layer them too deep. You have to treat them gently.

Maggie wanted one every so often. I popped a few in every other handful, hoping there weren't bugs hiding. If so, I got my protein......

As we worked our way up to the road, I heard some really loud things crashing from the trees. Figured I had disturbed a bird's nest or something or pinecones were falling. Putting my earbuds back in, I kept going - we were on a roll! I started hearing this loud crashing and thunking in the bushes over the top of the music. Took the earbuds out and peered through the brush and brambles without seeing anything. It sounded like it was coming directly towards us and Maggie wouldn't go check it out for nothing! I tried forcefully saying, "Sick 'em, Maggie" to no avail. She just wagged her tail.

I decided we had enough blackberries for the day. It could have been a buck grazing, a bear who was hungrily collecting berries also, someone guarding a meth lab camouflaged in the cedars or a neighbor who didn't want his favorite berry patch robbed and wanted to scare me. I didn't run, but I did look back. Casually, of course, like hair was in my eyes.

Came home and washed, sorted and bagged about 8 quarts. I'm feeling grateful, like I should make the property owner a blackberry crumble, blackberry tarts or at least a blackberry pie.......but I'm pretty sure he's an apple man. Macintosh to be exact.

ilove

ilove: a opening a new box of crayons. eating fruit, veggies and herbs from our garden. watching birds take a bath. the scent of loverby's t-shirts. burying my face in the sweet necks of people ilove. dewdrop diamonds on leaves. brown craft paper. seed packets. sinking my hand in a barrel of lavender. swinging. rocking. going barefoot. being naked. biting a crisp apple. lotioned feet. pesto. water. old sheet music art. avocados. watching surfers. lighthouses. sunshine soaking in. rocks. wood fires. sauteing mushrooms. hand sewing. sterling silver. soft wrinkles. loving eyes. kneading bread. picking a bouquet. planting seeds. music and lyrics. down comforters. reading. hand crafted artisan creations. books. boats. seals. kisses. you.

ilove you 'specially.
ilove you best.
ilove you most.
ilove you more.
ilove you forever and ever, amen.


Monday, August 24, 2009

ilike

ilike: the burgundy silk tassels on ripened corn clinging to the stalk, the perfume of fresh cut hay laying in fluffy rows, cows with full udders meandering home to the barn for relief, lambs playing king of the mountain, the pungent scent of silage, salmon pink sunsets hovering over the Sound, a throbbing motorcycle seat to straddle, warm wind gliding over me, barns with stately cupolas, fresh picked sun ripened blackberries with a dollop of heavy cream and a hint of sugar, a hug that folds me inside out/outside in and back again, a bath hot enough to melt the sticky layer of sadness away.

ilike tonight. ilike exploring country roads. ilike invited. ilike loverby.

It Isn't....

Isolation isn't solitude. Intensity isn't intimacy. Happiness isn't joy. Being poor isn't being broke. Being depressed isn't being sad. Being in love isn't choosing to love. Enduring isn't thriving. Hearing isn't listening. Seeing isn't noticing. Leaving's not the only way. Turning away isn't turning towards.

There's a heaviness today, sitting on my heart, squeezing my soul hard enough to cause my eyes to leak.

I feel sad.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Checked Off

Craig helps me check things of my bucket list. Today, we scratched another one off. It is so fun when he makes the plan, does the footwork, figures out the how and why and invites me along to join him. Romance at it's very best - I just sit back and enjoy the ride. Literally! :)

This morning, he woke me bright and early, too early, but he offered hot coffee to ease the pain of broken sleep. We dropped a car at the trailhead so we would have a way home when we finished, came back home and road our bikes to the bus stop. We started our adventure close to home with a transfer in Everett, then got dropped off in Snohomish to start at the South end of Centennial Trail, riding home ~ north 18 miles.

It was a very interesting ride. Two homeless women were giving each other tips on which dumpster to dive into for clothes, showing each other a few trinkets that were special and sharing their health issues and hopes. Neither had any teeth. Usually that is a sign of prolonged Meth usage? They were starting a new day, but it was 'Groundhog Day' again, it seemed. It was so sad. When we transferred in Everett, one gal with a bluetooth planted in her ear and a phone in her hand, also toothless, talked the entire time to an imaginary someone on the other side. A handsome, restless young man talked to himself, looking out the window, slathering it with hot steamy breath and words any time he saw a female outside. I felt violated for the unaware girl each time. A twenty something unkempt girl took a pacifier out of her mouth and asked us where the Seattle bus was. We told her we were new to the bus system, she shrugged, plunked it back in and started sucking on it again! ~ Oh, the broken humans we sat on buses with this morning! Makes me want to ride it more often, then really look them in the eye, see them and learn to love them, instead of feeling the tinge of repulsion I felt, quickly turning away, so I wouldn't meet their eyes.

Craig encouraged me the entire way, finding spots to rest with benches, uncomplainingly made a potty stop, showed me his favorite place - the dock on Lake Cassidy, clicking off the miles with, "Honey, we've gone 1/4 of the way, 1/2 the way, 3/4 of the way, we're on the home stretch now".

When halfway into our ride, my 'lunar cycle' unexpectedly caused 'the tide to come in' and threaten to swamp me and soak my clothes and seat, he knew exactly where a midget store with emergency supplies was, only 150 feet off the trail in Lake Stevens. Unembarrassed, he payed, pointed to the restroom which I couldn't see and waited patiently till I found my composure again.

When we passed under the final bridge and had only 4 miles of easy downhill, he encouraged me to keep going, instead of stopping to rest once more, using my momentum to ease into the finish - enjoying it.

Before we put the bikes in the truck, he hugged me tight and told me how proud he was of me, riding 18 miles in 2 1/2 hours. Him celebrating me doing something which seemed impossible, but which I needed to check off my list, made my day! It wasn't at all record breaking, but we finished what we started.

I dearly love this man and his tenderhearted loving kindness, understanding care and encouragement.

Friday, August 21, 2009

When Movies Make Me Cry

Last night all four of us were together for supper, lingering over our lemonade in the garden room. Brita had mowed the lawn earlier, the scent drifted sweetly over us. My family looked so soft and beautiful in the candlelight. It was a treat, we don't have many meals together any more. I felt like a mama hen with her brood all cuddled close.

Earlier, before supper Tess and I harvested her basil and made a batch of pesto by adding olive oil, sea salt, garlic, parmesan, cream and toasted pine nuts. It had an incredibly intense flavor. This huge pile of leaves only made 6 small portions when it was all ground up. I hope we can glean one more harvest before winter.

Afterwards, Tess wanted us to watch a movie called "Big Fish". We all cried and cried at the end. Well, us girls did. Very sweet love story. My favorite line was, "I get so dried out".

It was simply a lovely, quietly satisfying evening. I love my family and love times when we're together and cozy. Being. Becoming. Bonding. Snuggling. Talking. Catching up. Connecting.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Feelin' the Love

Richard took us out on his boat last night. He was taking his boat from Marysville to Everett. It doesn't seem like it should take very long, but it is always a perfect evening trip.

A couple of weeks ago, the Sound was still and calm, the evening balmy enough for us to jump in. Tonight, I wanted to jump in and swim with the whales! Yes, we came upon 2 grays, feeding in the shallow water between Hat Island and the marina. He cut the motor so we could drift and watch the one whale feed within 20-25 feet from the boat. No exaggeration!

We stayed and watched for about an hour. They had this rhythm. Roll, roll, turn and stir everything up from the bottom into it's mouth with the bottom fin while the top fin rose completely out of the water. Wait a few minutes then this 30 foot smooth mound would roll up and down doing it all over again. We saw it's head first, then it's back glistening and rolling. The fin was huge! Quite a few times, we saw it's tail come up. It never smacked the water though, like you expect from cartoons and other such notions. Watching it blow, hearing it up so close and almost feeling the mist......in our imaginations we smelled it's foul whale breath! :)

I was so happy with the 2 eagles and several seals and 2 sea lions we saw! The whales feeding, so close up was over the top! We've lived here 12 years + and we're still awestruck and continually amazed.....




Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Overflow

Please please please don't save your pretty things for someday! Pull them out, use them, enjoy them, bless others with them.

Invite people to eat plain food on your best china, use your silver for everyday if you have any, wear your pearls next to your skin all the time-they absorb your natural oils and essence which give them lustre, wear your velvet vintage coat out to watch the stars and swing, drink water out of crystal goblets, light candles for simple meals, drink tea out of porcelain cups, use the best balsamic vinegar possible, invite people over for breakfast, buy your favorite scent and bubble bath your troubles away, give yourself over to the joys of a pedicure, smile at your dog, moisturize your thirsty skin, let someone caress it and enjoy the silkiness, watch a honeybee dance on a flower, feed hummingbirds, STOP, really stop and smell the fragrance of a flower. Breathe love, beauty and life in, then out.....

Just be still for a while somewhere beautiful and alone soaking up the goodness through every pore and sensual portal. Ahhhhhhhh. Notice. Remember. Rumble around in your own mind, go exploring in your own heart, let love restore your soul and body. Take it all in till you overflow. Let yourself be loved. Please?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Just Another Day in Paradise

Yesterday, three of us girlfriends went to Friday Harbor. The San Juan Island's never cease to enthrall me! We drove out to Lime Kiln Park to enjoy the trails, the lighthouse and hoped to see wildlife. They had never been there, so it was fun to show them around.

The madrone trees in the park are peeling and revealing the pale yellow flesh underneath layers of eggplant, plum, apricot. The bark strips off like thin, delicate paper, giving the limbs so much texture. I don't know if they do this all year, or at a certain time. The smooth bark is irresistible, it must be caressed! I stopped to rub my cheek on the silky smooth places, blushing in their nakedness.

This is how I count the wonderfulness of a day, like points. Yesterday was amazing; 1 eagle, 23 seals, 3 porpoises, 1 jellyfish, 3 does, 1 Paul Bunyan big sea lion and one broken little toe from climbing around on rocks with flip flops on. Ouch. But it couldn't rob me from enjoying the wonders of the park.

Kathy and Sarah were caring friends, getting some ice and helping me put my foot up when we made it back to town.

Next time, we have to remember to pack a picnic lunch to share. The sunshine was glorious, a rip tide made swirling eddies to intrigue us, making it hard to leave.

Living here is full to the brim with unmatched scenery, abundant wildlife to enjoy in their natural habitat and water enough for any kind of water sport or enjoyment.

Winter is on it's way, but not quite yet. We will squeeze, then wring out every last drop of summer before it comes.

Just another day in paradise. Will someone send me this post sometime in February? :)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Easy Street Shopping

Binford, North Dakota has a population of about 200 or less. This is the town where Craig's relatives have lived and died for a long while. We lived there for a few years when Tessa and Brita were little. It has a post office, bank, bar, restaurant and grocery store. Shopping is stress free. When we were back home last week-it was painless to shop and cook. If they had watermelon that's what I bought. Sure, I needed to add sugar and lemon juice to give it some umph, but it worked. The cucumber's were like limp biscuits, but when you need a cucumber, a limp one works. There might be steak, perhaps not. She could have ordered nectorines, they could be gone. You are thankful to purchase what is ordered. There are 3 kinds of cookies. They all taste the same. You can be done going up and down the 3 short rows in record time and the clerk carries your bag or bags out to the car. It is SOOOOOOO simple and uncomplicated. You have to go to plan 'Q' sometimes, but I like adventure.

Shopping here isn't an adventure, it is starting to be an ordeal. Maybe I'm getting senile, or aging or am phobic about going out or something. The thing is, I really don't want to play this game anymore. Should I order everything from Amazon?

Saturday, I needed to replenish some toiletries and basic staples. I stood in Rite-Aid's lotion row for what seemed like hours. The foot, face, hand, tinted, non-tinted, glowing, sun-block, oil-free, organic, botanicals, brand name and generic options and decisions to make, made me dizzy. I finally shut my eyes and grabbed, hoping Brita would approve.

If you see me all bed headed and greased up next time, know it has all been too complicated and overwhelming, and I caved in to mayonnaise for conditioner, olive oil for lotion and dish soap for shampoo.

In the toilet paper isle, I go straight to the Scott 4 roll pack. NEVER vary! I know exactly where it is, along with everything else, which makes me a repeat customer at our local Safeway because of this.

I'd rather take a whipping than go shopping, for anything! Can I go to the river yet?


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Horse Days

Naming my blog "Almost Paradisical" was easy. My childhood was just that.......almost, but not quite paradisical. At least in Glenwood. Writing down memories, (mostly the good ones) while knowing there are also catastrophic events that string them all together invisibly is an interesting undertaking. My siblings have totally different memories which don't match mine. Mom could make hundreds of corrections. But these are my memories, this is how I remember them. The bad ones don't stand out in three dimensional clarity as well as the good ones. There are a few, but if I write them down, they will be real................so I continue as before, traveling back to Glenwood where Almost Paradisical got it's name and I became.

Noel was first and almost horse. She was a donkey and so cute she was ugly. It was a game to see how long someone could stay on her as she darted underneath low hanging branches to scrape the bareback rider off - deliberately. She later was bred to a regular horse and had Lily, a henny, jenny or mule, however you call the mixture. Lily always looked awkward, but she was mine and I loved her. Noel's hee haw was loud and long enough to wake the dead.

Horses are graded. Sold at sales for chicken or dog food. Sold privately through word of mouth or expensive advertising. Ahab, our little horse with a big heart was rescued from almost becoming dog food by neither method. Mom discovered him at the mangy looking feed store whose owner was predatory, abusive and an all around nasty person. Somehow, she persuaded him to give Ahab up, cheaply. She did have a dazzling smile and for a while, that guy would watch for her yellow scout to come down the only road to town and try to stop her by coming out onto the road waving. She was kind hearted and innocent, the first few times, then started gunning for him, aiming to maim him if he stopped her one more time. He terrified me!

Ahab was spunky, never realizing how puny he was. He turned out to be quite handsome after he was nursed back to health and vitality, but stayed small. Grandpa custom made a bridle for him, braiding the reins artistically round, like a cord, then attaching them to a handmade silver bit that would be soft and fit his injured mouth. Ahab responded to the love and care and trained alongside mom, who was just being introduced to the world of horses.

Mom wore a leather split skirt with double rows of long delicate fringe around each leg. It had probably been Annie Oakley's, Dale Evans' or Sacajawea's at one time, although she says she found it in a saddle shop, new. Perfect fit for her. She saddle soaped it often, along with the saddles to keep it supple and soft, wearing it every day during riding lessons. The thinner, longer and thicker the fringe is on any leather item, the more skilled the artisan who made it and the higher the price. This split skirt had the thickest, longest, thin cut fringe I've ever seen. The generous fringe would lift gracefully, showing her bare calves and sometimes slapped gently against the side of her horse. She looked so exotic and beautiful to my admiring eyes.

Riding happened in the morning. Chores after that. When I think of horses, it seems like they were ALOT of work for a little bit of fun? Feeding, medicating, mucking stalls, fixing fences, grooming, taking good care of the tack, and exercising them was never ending. Lunging was a strange way to exercise them, but it really made a change over time. Mom or grandpa would stand and go round and round in the same spot while the horse had to obey commands in a circle from the length of a long tether. By the end of a session, an indention would mark where the human had dizzily drilled down with their feet in the dirt in the riding ring, which was soft, deep and as fine as flour. It seemed like all it was wanting was some eggs and milk to make a big batch of biscuits. I can vividly recall the silky feel of it sifting through my fingers.

The catholic nuns had a retreat center down below us, which at one time was the town of Glenwood. Once, a few of the younger ones came up to visit and were invited to ride. Ahab was terrified of the long flowing habit and veil streaming out behind them, his eyes rolled desperately back in his head trying to keep track of where the wind was blowing it. He was so relieved when they dismounted!

Mom upgraded to a large palomino named Chain, who was skittish when anyone touched her head. It took patience and love for her to finally let mom bridle her. Grandpa thought someone had beaten her over the head. Anyone who would beat or mistreat a horse was the lowest criminal on earth in his opinion. We allowed him this opinion and agreed with him, as he was the original horse whisperer. His skill was remarkable. Horses almost begged to obey him.

He had a big black and white pinto named Wea, short I think for Sacajewea, who would effortlessly obey him without any outward visible signs from him. They worked as one, gracefully complimenting each other. It's a big deal now to do a rein less routine in a horse show. Grandpa did it without an audience. He trained a horse effortlessly and oh so gently.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

What is Worldly?

For 35 years I endured life feeling as conspicuous as an Amish girl. The first 19 years in a small Weslyan Holiness church. The clothes weren't quite as severe or plain however, and I was always grateful that we didn't have to wear any kind of head covering; white, black or hankie variety. Whew! I think as much as I hated the rules, it was familiar and the only thing I knew. We didn't have a concept or awareness of our insides being the important thing. We truly felt like looking strange was a silent evangelistic tool. No one was drawn to us, our church or God by this, however.

A plain watch was acceptable in the church I grew up in. Wedding rings were not. Nylons had to be worn at all times from puberty on. Uncovered legs might insight lust in men. Naked legs labeled a girl as a Jezebel. Sleeves couldn't be above the elbow, hemlines below the knee. Mini skirts were in, so while mom measured our dresses we would scrunch our knees, hitch our shoulders; anything to make the hemline shorter. Dresses that became too short needed the hem taken down, which left a faded mark in the fabric. Braid or trim sewed over the top of this line was supposed to hide it, but just drew attention to it. Hair wasn't supposed to be cut. Make-up and jewelry and pants made you a backslider. Rock 'n roll caused pregnancy. Smoking, drinking, drugs, and cussing were unmentionable. Using slang could raise disapproving eyebrows. The first and only time I heard my mom say 'darn', the earth shook! Slang was almost as serious as cussing.

Getting left behind to endure the tribulation made us terrified to come into the house with nobody home, thinking it had already happened. Alter calls week after week were a cruel joke. The young people went up over and over again to 'get saved', which was a grueling process. The more snot, tears, and length of time on your knees, the more hope everyone had that it would work this time. After you 'got saved', soon after you had to 'get sanctified'. Getting sanctified meant that the root of sin would be forever taken out and you would be pure, live pure, live a sinless life. The pure sinless older people would sit in pious, sanctimonious pride while us young people went down that long isle over and over again week after week. It didn't seem to work for us as well and we were too honest to pretend. It was agony. It was fertile ground to live a double life in order to survive and be accepted. So many gave up on God, instead of the falseness of man made religion.

One Irish women evangelist who came for 'revival meetings', made her dresses out of dark thick wool, used the same pattern for all two of them and wouldn't use buttons. She was afraid of attracting men. As young as I was, it made no sense, because she was as homely as an inbred horse! She made it clear that all of us should follow her example. No one did - we were different enough already! God would have had to send us a personal letter, with a stamp on it through the mail, letting us know first.

TV, bowling, sports, movies, glee club, etc were banned. Dancing wasn't done. I remember asking my maternal grandmother to dance with grandpa. It would have been wonderful to watch them. Before she became zealously religious, they were champion couples' roller skaters and dancers. She piously refused to indulge in such worldly behavior to amuse us. I can only imagine how graceful they were. Inside me, there is a dancer - for when music of almost any kind comes on I feel the rhythm in the air and want to move. It makes me break out in a cold sweat and want to faint as I begin............

I spent hours taking the ends of my hair and flipping them over my forehead to make them look like bangs. Bobby pins, barrettes and beads tied to a loop of string would be fastened on my ears to imagine how earrings would look and feel. In secret of course!

Baby sitting for my older sisters and their worldly friends was so fun. They had left home and didn't follow the rules which meant that their dressers were full of make-up and fancy clothes. They had a TV, which allowed me unrestricted hours of programming, watching everything possible without discernment. The children I was supposed to be taking care of were completely neglected I'm afraid. The mascara, blush and lipstick disappearing so fast was probably a great mystery. Scrubbing it off before they returned, without any telltale signs, was tricky.

Once in a while during a revival, Brother Johnson would run laps around the church by stepping on the backs of the pews. We held our breath, waiting for a misstep which never happened. He called it 'gettin' blessed'. One older women would wave her hankie and wail and wail and WAIL. Gettin' blessed had all sorts of strange manifestations. It was interesting and entertaining all at the same time. Our little church didn't do the falling, get pushed or 'slain in the spirit' thing. Neither did they believe in speaking in tongues. Healing was huge though! Even though I believe strongly in supernatural intervention and know God does choose to heal, it doesn't resemble in any way the manipulative drama and disappointment of those healing services. It was sickening, like some of the circus- like, snake- oil acts now days.

One pastor's wife had 4 little girls all in a row. She was frazzled, miserable, looked abused and wretchedly endured her extremely obese life. She would grab 2 girls with each hand, almost yanking their shoulders out of the socket and drag them around making them obey her every command. Their names were always used in sequence from the oldest to youngest. CARRIE, RACHAEL, LARINA, RHODA.........harp, harp, harping with a fierce frown. They'll never have a torn rotator cuff, from the callouses and scar tissue in their shoulders!

The Gaither's were just going public at this time. Old fashioned hymns were the norm before the Gaither's changed all that with rousing choruses. They were refreshing. I'll never forget a small concert we went to. It was the first time I remember a crowd spontaneously getting to it's feet during a song, without any cue. When they got to the chorus of 'The King is Coming" every one stood respectfully, giving silent obeisance and honor. It gave me goosebumps and caused me to look down the isle towards the back door expectantly waiting for him to burst through.

Life is ironic. I can buy all the make-up I want, but very seldom wear any. Any jewelry I have is plain sterling silver and never changed. I had my hair short for a long time, now am letting it grow out a bit. We have a TV, which doesn't interest me in the least other than using the DVD player for movies. There were times when my emotions and wretchedness caused me to be harsh and abusive with my children. They have forgiven me. I have so much compassion for people who are driven into hiding and living a double life ~ hoping desperately for them to live in complete freedom someday. When I feel overcome or 'get blessed' - I'm alone with my Maker, it's quiet, private and intimate. And someday......... someday I'm gonna dance with complete wild abandon like the juicy, succulent woman I am!

Never once since I boycotted pantyhose has any man turned into a savage beast over my naked legs! Darn. Shoot. Dang. Blast it. Bummer. Hang it all.

Don't even start to raise that eyebrow, sister.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ruthless

Ruth wasn't her name nor was I less because of her, even though it seemed like it at the time. She was about 5 years younger than me - a spunky, spirited, rebellious baby of a well off family.

Once a year, Special Meeting happened, a gathering of all the local house churches. It was a big deal, anticipated for weeks. We really looked forward to showing off a new dress more than the long morning and afternoon sessions.

Typically, the Friday night before, we would either be frantically sewing or shopping for the perfect dress. I usually needed to sew mine as cheaply as possible, while trying to disguise the fact. It was always obvious the next day in my insecurity that it didn't compare well.

We compared each other from the top of our heads to the bottom of our feet, then felt dowdy and neglected or noticed and gorgeous. It only took one look, one encounter for the verdict.

The new dress seemed pivotal to success. Successful at attracting attention from guys and approval along with envy from the girls.

It took me years to realize that it never was the dress, but my shame, insecurity, shyness, introversion and the fact that maybe my body hadn't begun to release pheromones yet. I was a late, late bloomer! Very late, which ultimately saved me for Craig. Thankfully!

This particular year was the year I learned firsthand about cutthroat ruthlessness. Even though I knew it would be necessary to once again sew my dress, window shopping became irresistible. Not only did I look, I went in, touched and tried on several. Finally, the perfect dress made me gasp in delight as I looked in the mirror in the dressing room. It was the softest fabric, hanging like a dream and fitting me like it was made for me. It was simple, understated yet elegant. The royal blue and black pattern trimmed with a touch of white was unusual and set off my thick pile of black hair and green eyes. As I hung it back on it's hanger and left it on the rack, I couldn't help but cry in disappointment.

When my roommates came home, I regaled them with the details of this perfect dress, describing what store, what rack, which mall. I wonder if I wanted them to surprise me?

My roommates' ruthless little sister listened intently and quietly left.

Next morning, putting the finishing touches on my dress, which in comparison seemed ugly, I dressed for Special Meeting. While trying to make an inconspicuous entrance, across the room, RUTHLESS came waltzing towards me in MY DRESS! She was about 6 sizes smaller than me, looked undeniably stunning and confident. She enthusiastically complimented me as her lip scrunched and her nose curled. Her words didn't match her face as she pitifully looked me up and down, preening all the while. This might not have been exactly how it went, but it was my perception and it felt real! My brain imploded loudly, my heart needed resuscitated with some nitroglycerin and a paper bag to hyperventilate into would have been nice. Somehow I pasted a false smile on the fragments of my cut up ego that had scattered all over the floor.

I knew without a doubt that it was about competition, with a winner and a loser. I felt betrayed by a friend. We both lost. I quit playing the game sometime after that, becoming a dowdy, granola slob, not realizing that prideful humility is an oxymoron and is just as ugly as ruthless arrogance.

Looking back from a distance and seeing where each of our lives have taken us, I wouldn't trade mine in for her's or anyone's! Through every single experience ~ good, bad, hard, easy, hurtful, sweet or harmful ~ I'm so thankful for how life is turning out. I LOVE my life! How my young, unpromising adult life started out is surprisingly different from how things are playing out now. And when I push the fast forward button, I have even greater hope and expectancy. I might need to wear shades for the brightness.

Ruthlessness on the part of another human being can't rob us of being highly favored, approved of, delighted in, accepted, chosen and blessed. What a relief.


Woops

I've been posting about last week and the emotional upheaval of the auction and selling of Craig's family's homestead. During the aftermath, discovering that an old habit/addiction which I haven't indulged in for quite some time, still has it's hold on me was a bit disconcerting! It seemed like it was gone, so having it spring up unexpectedly was surprising.

On the way home, driving away, I immediately wanted to chew, get comfort from salt, sugar- carbs. I had an ouchie in my heart, a boo-boo in my soul that needed balm and a band-aid; food was my pacifier, my drug of choice. Every time we stopped, I bought something to munch on. Many some things. Every stop! This wasn't carrot sticks, nuts, apples or boiled eggs, either! It is too disgusting to reveal what those bags were full of.

It wasn't until night when we checked into our favorite hotel, The C' mon Inn in Bozeman, that I could process what was going on. I was a little shocked at how easy it was to fall back into the old grooves of mindlessness, instead of exploring what was laying underneath it all. Mostly, my poor body felt sick and my heart still empty. As I cuddled with Craig and we talked about how we both deal with 'inside' things, it hit me that I had forgotten what I knew. Completely forgot to go to the one I usually ask for help, the one who can heal, fill, comfort and stop the internal bleeding. I didn't access the power available to me and tried futilely and mindlessly to fill myself. Help myself. Cure myself. Comfort myself. Didn't dial daddy dear up, even though he was waiting and waiting for the phone to ring!

Slapping my forehead, I felt like the guy in the commercial from years ago. "Ugh, I could have had a V-8."

We walked over to Outback and ordered the simple special - steak, salad and potato. It was so satisfying. But, my heart, mind and soul had been doctored and bandaged by then.

It's how I learn. Woops is my favorite word most the time..............

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Unwilling Spectator

When Sister Erdman licked her lips, which was frequently, it obviously didn't satisfy her lips' natural need for moisture. Her tongue dryly scraped and rasped futilely over her thirsty lips, clicking desperately to quench the craving. When I finally found courage to ask her why, she explained it was a side effect of the medicine she had to take. It was a disturbingly fascinating habit to observe. I wanted her to do it often. Willed it silently. Water gave no relief at all. I've had 'dry mouth' a few times, but it wasn't even a close relative compared to her suffering.

In the small, strict, rule loving church I grew up in, every adult's name was prefaced with 'Sister or Brother'. The older people would be respectfully addressed with their last name, the younger adults with their first name.

Sister Erdman's first name was Edith, which no one dared to use. Brother Erdman and she looked a lot like the models for Grant Wood's American Gothic painting of the severe Midwest couple holding a pitchfork, except they weren't dressed like farmers, hungry looking or poor.

He always sported suspenders, a starched white shirt tucked into dress slacks riding loosely up over his stomach. She wore belted jersey dresses modestly covering her neck, knees and elbows along with thumping, sturdy shoes from what looked like an antique store. Her feet and legs were stuffed like sausages into long, thick, flesh colored cotton stockings, held up by a garter. For the longest time, I imagined she was hiding wooden legs. (That was before the trip.) He wore little round eyeglasses with delicate curved ear pieces, she wore plain, outdated cateyes....professor/librarian style.

Books and scholarly study along with letter writing were their orderly passions. We were invited into their prim home when mom offered to cut Brother Erdman's slick, brylcreemed hair. Sister Erdman's thin, long hair was skinned tightly and severely back in a flimsy, flat pancake on the back of her neck. Her one concession to decoration was the tip of a lace hanky peeking out of a pocket and one very disciplined wave pushed in above her forehead, held in place with plain pins.

One summer, after her husband died, she invited me to be her companion during the annual camp meeting. It was an adventure, a free ride and a comfortable place to stay. The novelty being this; she was pulling their travel trailer, and I had never camped in such style. She helped me feel like I was doing her a favor. Three hours later as she manhandled the trailer into it's predetermined spot, I was wondering what I had agreed to. Her vision wasn't so good!

She slept on the bed. I pulled out the kitchen benches and slept soundly until I woke to unfamiliar noises - her attending to her morning 'toilet'. It took an excruciatingly long time for this procedure. I stayed as still as ice with my eyes clamped shut. I did not want to see what I could imagine and hear all too clearly and close by. The trailer was small~

She first filled a bowl with water, dunked a cloth, then slowly lathered it with soap, the bar rolling over and over. She started from the top, heading downwards underneath her tent like flannel nightgown. Her face must have been heavily whiskered as my eyes popped open to try and figure out what the rasping sound of sandpaper was. It was both horrifying and fascinating to listen to the cloth getting rinsed, re-lathered and applied to her sagging, loose underarms. The suds gurgled in the unshaven atmosphere. That poor cloth disappeared for a long time, drowning quietly underneath her heavy chest.

When she lifted her nightie to wash 'down there' the sudsy cloth squished and flapped energetically underneath the modest covering. I tried my hardest to think up something distracting. There weren't any ipods with earbuds at this time. Unfortunately.

When she finished washing her feet, she dried everywhere, brushed her teeth and dressed piece by piece underneath her tent. Since she didn't have a full beard or mustache by the end of the week, I'm assuming she shaved when I was out. She didn't shave her underarms or legs. I came to the conclusion that wooden legs didn't sprout hairs.

This was a ritual I didn't want to be a spectator for, but somehow couldn't wake up early enough to escape the trap of the trailer in time to miss it. She must have really believed that old saying, 'cleanliness is next to Godliness', because her thoroughness was lengthy, legendary and unforgettable.

Having just gotten back from North Dakota, where pioneer living is still quite fresh in every one's memory, it makes me wonder if they just looked away, closed their eyes and ears to all the personal human activities and bodily functions taking place inside a 10x10 soddy or shack? It was common for families to have 6-10 children all co-habitating in a cramped space! None of the children seem scarred for life................ neither am I. It is easy to imagine the woodshed, wagon or haystack being put to good use once in a while, huh? :)








Monday, August 10, 2009

Stripping Down For The Final Lap


Let me describe a North Dakota Public Auction. It's a social event. It's an eating occasion. Eating supports a good cause after all. Hopefully it doesn't rain. If you're a dealer/collector or just a dishonest person, you jiggle around the goods, hiding things in junk boxes or camouflaging a treasure. It's great fun haggling and outbidding someone, coming away with the prize. It's great fun as long as you don't know the story or the people who all this stuff belonged to. I will never go to another one without some compassion for the family. I think auctions should be 'by invitation only' - to keep the cannibal like dealers away and let the family and friends have some dignity while salvaging some keepsakes..... but then it wouldn't be very profitable.

My father in law and uncle in law both had a combined sale. It rained off and on, the food cart made history, we came home with a $15.00 upright piano in perfect condition in the back of a new to us pickup.

I was rude and cruel and disgusted with the dealers lusting ruthlessly over the personal treasures of women I have loved so much.

It felt like the auctioneer and his wife who is the clerk, his daughter, son and son in law were the enemy, even though they have been friends of the family for years and years. I came home promptly and made amends for treating them so bad. Hope they forgive me my passion, grief and sadness.......... taking it out on them. They did a great job. It was a very successful auction.

North Dakota Norwegians are stoic. Cliff's matched pair of Percherons showed off in the front pasture as the bidding took off; when the bid closed, they were loaded and taken to their new home. Cliff never liked machinery. He trained and broke so many horses to harness that when I asked him how many, he laughed and looked confused. Probably hundreds! He loved his horses. After they went, he came in the house and sat looking out the picture window till his composure returned. No drama, no tears, no trembling lip. He did clear his throat a lot, however, when he told me it was time to quit, as he couldn't handle them any longer. And he must have had dust in his eye when he told me the owner said he could come see them work any time. He knew the exact farm that would be their new home.

When Myrtle's prized china hutch went to a local gal who would cherish it, instead of a dealer who would double his money, it made me happy.

When her Cape Cod ruby Avon collection of dishes was broke up and parceled off to several different bidders, it was tragic.

When the blue bird dishes that she spent her life collecting painstakingly one piece at a time (no e-bay or craigslist or internet) went to a dealer with a diamond stud in his ear - I hid behind sunglasses and took a walk till the kill was over.

When her ancient drop leaf table, which had a hitch in it's gettyup on one side - only she could usually close it - when it was opened, I started blubbering like an idiot, for how would the new owners ever get it closed?

It wasn't that I wanted or coveted anything. It's hard to explain, but I'll give it a go. Prairie women have an unusual life. Little things matter, because they are sort of removed from the city and all it's offerings. They worked so hard! To have the pretty things, that she and Evelyn had spent years collecting and caring for, their treasures that brought them so much pleasure, casually treated and going to the highest bidder was a bit traumatic for me. Even though my head knows, it was never the 'stuff' that was important to them. Yes, it was entertainment, pleasure, maybe the hunt, the acquiring, but never ever was it the priority. I think they used their pretty things to bring joy to others. I LOVED sitting down to a table covered with a crisp white tablecloth, laden with home cooked comfort food, served on her beautiful dishes artistically arranged. We felt so loved, nurtured and pampered somehow!

Evelyn had boxes of Norwegian bibles, leather bound, 200 years old or more! There were precious things that had been on some immigrant ship and traveled on some prairie schooner. There were things in boxes sitting in the rain that had been kept and cherished through great hardship and sacrifice.

One thing that visually symbolizes the auction agony for me was a simple jewelry box that held just a few homely trinkets. As a friend and I were turning them over and digging around we came upon 2 extremely old miniature photographs in matching hand wrought frames with pin clasps on the back. They had to have been ancient relatives, but no one knows who they were. No one cares. The entire box probably went for fifty cents.

Gordon and Cliff both have wives who are room mates in the nursing home about 20 miles away. The men actually did every one a huge favor by doing this hard thing now, instead of later when they have passed on. Dealing with grief, while dealing with the practical matters has to be so difficult. They are free from the encumbrances, traveling light. There aren't any u-hauls hitched to a casket. Only love and relationships are eternal. They have all our love. They have dignity. They are both highly respected and liked in the community. They are starting over. Finishing well...........with courage and composure.

With a gigantic lump in my throat and through blurry eyes, my heart stands and salutes them. We are all grateful for their brave foresight. The pain now is actually thoughtfulness later.




Friday, August 7, 2009

Life in Boxes

Craig and I are in North Dakota. Along with his dad, 4 brothers and wives, we are packing up the house and shop. Packing everything in boxes, shallow boxes, so people coming to the auction will be able to see what is inside without disturbing, breaking or hiding something valuable in a box of doodads worth a buck. As the 4 long trailers slowly fill up, the reality starts having a dark dimension. Gordon and Myrtle have been married 60 plus years and the boxes represent everything in their life. Some things were scrimped, sacrificed and saved for-yearned for.

There are dish sets that were added to one piece at a time. Furniture which has been redone over and over again, re-apolstered, re-finished. The cream separator from when Gordon and his boys milked cows twice a day. The same cows who tied them down to the farm so that vacations were special and rare. The cows who were literally their bread and butter, grocery money week to week. The hand crank drill press that has been in the shop for so long that nobody remembers it not being there. It has a fly wheel the size of a ferris wheel......where are the little people going to play at night? There were boxes and boxes of cards recived by everyone over the years for birthdays, anniversaries, thank you grandma, etc. Saved because.......we don't know for sure, but probably because life on the farm can be lonely and somewhat isolated, especially a farm buried in a little town surrounded by wheat fields, sunflower fields, cow pastures, sloughs full of cattails, rock piles, corn, soy and hay. Saved for the same reason she fed and watered her yard full of birds and planted lovely flower beds. Saved because they were a pretty, colorful bright spot in her day, her life. Something to savor over and over again.

I completely broke down last night. Each of these words are a tear. Each sentence a sob. Coming home, won't be coming home any longer. It is finished, that part. Only death is more final. The auction tomorrow will seem like a funeral, except the auctioneer gets paid. Gordon will make some money, feel lighter in so many ways and have some freedom from endless chores. It is a good thing, but doesn't feel good. We're just doing it sooner than later. Will the emptiness fill again? I know in my knower that it is people, experiences, memories which make our lives full, not things! But what has been unexpected is how symbolic the things are, how they represent a person.

The boys wanted each of their children to have a keepsake of grandma's. There were enough collectible plates to go around. Myrtle used to have one wall by the huge table completely covered with nursery rhyme plates which she had collected one at a time. When the grandkids came, they would beg her to 'tell the plates' meaning, tell the story behind the picture on the front. She would patiently go through each one till there weren't any more. They would snuggle as close as possibe, the smaller ones crowded on her lap. Brita and Tess remember caressing her soft, velvety elbows while she spoke. All of us have a house full of our own things, we don't need or want much of anything from the boxes. Her handwritten notebook of recipes is sweet, but my kids would just have to haul it away with my stuff someday.

There were games and puzzles that had been so well used, that the box had layers of tape on the corners holding them together. A bookshelf Craig made in shop when he was in 9th grade, always in a place of honor.

That big old house, held together by thick layers of wallpaper soaked with love, laughter, memories, tears, scents of meals and music, won't fall and rot away by the searing summers and desperate winters. It makes it easier and we are so grateful. It helps that a young, energetic, hopeful farmboy, his wife and two children will carry on the tradition of family farming, right there, collecting their own memories which will all be boxed up someday too.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Indian Royalty, Mexican Maids

Grandpa Jose used to tell stories for as long as anyone would listen. I loved to listen! One of my favorites was when he lived in a lonely prairie cabin on the Rosebud Ranch in Montana. He was a ranch hand, wrangler and cowboy poet. A real one...... chaps, spurs, branding, cutting, round-ups and a greasy hat. He would shiver at the memory of those cold, lonely winters. He never was warm again, ever!

I don't know what tribe of Indians were in that area, but he made friends with the chief and his sons. They brought him a cat, to keep the mice down. He HATED cats, but endured it as the cure for not only mice control, but company. The sons savagely taught him a better, more efficient way to wade through the castration process each spring. When all the hundreds of calves were rounded up, they would wade into the pile, bite the sack - tearing the testicles away with their teeth, quickly creating steers out of what would have become bulls. My imagination went wild picturing the bloody mess. My gag reflex always kicked in.

There was a bit of romance, but it had some loose ends. Along with the sons who became close friends, the chief had a daughter whose name was Klatawa, which means, something- going-fast-makes-a-noise. She was graceful, ran like the wind, was a legendary local beauty and I think gave the young, lanky, arrogant, bold, golden Spaniard a run for his money! His eyes always twinkled when he spoke of her. The chief had already sort of adopted him as son, so being son in law was just a step away. But he moved south to the sunshine and warmth. I always thought of it as a love story without an ending. A question mark instead of a period.

He moved to Monterey to work at the splendid Del Monte hotel, training horses and their riders. Elite, wealthy people who had all the outer accouterments to make them look like equestrians, but they didn't know anything about their horse or how to ride. Sometimes it would be the children of such.

One of the first things he did was to remove the cherub fountain in the riding ring. He didn't want the children violated when they saw the water squirting out of the chubby innocent's thimble sized genitalia.

The women were perfumed Potifer's wives mostly, lined up, signed up and clawing at each other to have lessons from him. To have his undivided attention disguised with something as innocuous as riding lessons was the prize. They were lonely and bored. He loved teaching the children. Even when they were spoiled rotten, he somehow imbued, influenced and injected them with a more noble outlook.

Grandma was a shy, poor, Mexican housekeeping maid at the Del Monte. They both had simple room and board on the lovely grounds. The young people who worked there had wonderful picnics, dances in the magnificent dance hall after hours, ate together and walked to Lover's Point on their days off. It was quite the adventure and good opportunity for her. She wasn't beautiful, but had long, thick black hair, great legs, large bosom and black, unreadable eyes.
When he payed a little attention to her, she withdrew. With all the woman throwing themselves at him, this must have been confusing and tantalizing? The first time he asked her for a walk, he brought her chocolates, which she despised. He ate every one of them before the night was over. The rest of the story is their story and we don't know for sure all the details of their whirlwind courtship. Her mother threatened her with the words, "It will NEVER work".
They were like salt and pepper! He - intellectual, refined, wealthy upbringing, blond curls, blue eyes, well read, well traveled. Her - abandoned by her father causing her mother to work menial jobs to survive and provide, spanish speaking, shy, unexposed and naive.

They married quickly. Her diamond solitaire was hawked to pay for a stay in the sanitarium when he had polio. She faithfully massaged and worked his muscles, both of them determined that he would not be crippled. He was her adventure, but she ended up funding most of them by hard work in the Levi Strauss factory where she worked and retired.

At the end of his colorful life, she was still making him cocoa and tenderly rubbing his head with the hand that had only her wedding band. The engagement ring never returned to her finger. They lived through the stock market crash, through his infidelities, through bitterness, broken dreams and beyond.

I have her wedding band. It forever symbolizes staying. I have some of his silver work, engraved by him. His buttons and bridle bit templates are a prized possessions, symbols of a call to a creative life. I have a picture of their ancient hands clasped together, his gnarled, hers silky with perfect nails. Beautiful hands.

I have hundreds of memories flooding me and their hands are the predominant, common denominator that prompts most the feelings that go with them. These will have to wait, I'm going to have to swim up to get air in the avalanche of memories that just piled on top of me.








Vista

Madeleine L'Engle says, "I have a point of view, you have a point of view, God has a view".

Henry Blackaby says something to this effect; we are nose to nose with the circumstance, like seeing the Chamber of Commerce float going by in the parade, while God sees the whole parade, the beginning where it starts and the also the end. His view is different than ours-big, wide angled, aerial. Ours is locked onto what's directly in front of us, small, confined, narrow.

"God's glory is just around the corner" someone will say when you feel like you're drowning in a deadly storm. Instinctively, I want to punch them in the nose! Scream! But I have to save my breath and strength........

It seems like it is true though. It's a trust thing. Today it is comforting to borrow his view.



Saturday, August 1, 2009

Craig's Accident

In the month of June, when Craig was 19, his first job after college was plumbing in Jamestown, ND. He was living cheaply with his brother and wife. With his first paycheck he exuberantly went out and bought a brand new Yamaha 550 street bike.

Monday morning he rode to work wearing a helmet. A fellow employee who also rode his motorcycle to work, assured Craig that just riding around town, they didn't need a helmet. The next morning he went to work without his helmet or his wallet. As he was going back home to Lyle's for lunch, a lady pulled out from a side street onto the main two-lane he was on with another car. She waited for the car to go past but didn't see Craig, which caused him to T-bone her van at about 30 mph. He went through the large side window panel catching his face on the right edge, filleting it wide open from the top of his forehead to underneath his chin. He fell back out onto the ground unconscious, his eye completely popped out of it's socket.

At the intersection was a gas station, where there just happened to be an ambulance filling up with gas. At that same intersection there just happened to be a nurse walking across that particular road going to home for lunch. She came over, tried to clean and flap his face back on, put his eye back in, staunching the blood as best she could with limited means. The ambulance came rushing over, transporting him to the hospital which was within one mile of the accident.

They started surgery immediately sewing his face back together. He actually had a tear in his eyeball that needed sewn along with his severed flesh. One of the later challenges was getting his eyelid to work properly, to blink naturally. It would take three more reconstructive surgeries to get it as normal as possible. Interestingly, the doctors told his parents that the way his face caught the window frame, it was likely that he would have broken his neck or been completely decapitated if he would have been wearing his open faced helmet. His knee was a mess also, but his face, eye and brain is what they worried most about. (Funny, his face scar is hardly noticeable any longer, his eye has vision and is only a minor inconvenience once in a while during allergy season and he can never weld, which is sad-he's good at it! But his knee hurts like crazy, the damage is irreparable.)

The doctors had no idea who they were saving. Since he didn't have his licence/tabs, registration or wallet, when the police tried to figure out who he was, it took 4 hours to trace him through the serial number. It was only then, four hours later at 4:30 that his folks got the call. They lived 60 miles away. They were told that their son was in a motorcycle accident, in serious condition, still breathing but no guarantees he would live. By the time they got to the hospital, they told them the news that he was coming around but would more than likely be a vegetable all his life. It must have been a long two weeks waiting for him to wake up.

Once he came out of his coma, the doctors told them there was nothing more they could do, just take him home, let him live his normal life, put him to work on the farm and wait to see how it all turned out.

He had long term memory but couldn't remember anything short term. Hence, after noon lunch he would confusedly ask his dad what to do. Gordon would have to take him to the right field and get him started again on the tractor where he instinctively and mindlessly finished his day.

His poor mild-mannered mother had a hard time adjusting to her now not so mild-mannered son. If meals were not on the table at exactly the proper time, Craig would get belligerent and even curse at her. Unfamiliar behavior upsetting the entire family.

By the fall, his memory and abilities were starting to return; he could remember a couple of weeks worth. All his brothers and cousins were preparing to go back to college. For some reason, Craig wanted to give all his cassette tapes away. He had at least 250 in his collection. This was a windfall for all the cousins and younger brothers. Someone had the brilliant idea to make it fair and auction them off. He's still wondering if Todd has his favorite England Dan and John Ford Coley that he bought for a nickel?

In October he was able to drive himself to Jamestown for the first reconstructive surgery on his eyelid. They used a lot of Valium and only a local anesthetic. They told him he couldn't drive, so Lyle came to check him out of the hospital. As they walked out of the hospital, he convinced Lyle that he felt great, everything was alright and he could drive himself home, allowing Lyle to go back to work. Thirty miles along the way home there is a little town of Courtney. As he crossed the rough railroad tracks he was jolted into a different zone somehow. Not knowing where he was, and seeing an open bar, he asked to use their phone. He called his mom at home and told her he didn't know where he was but he would be sleeping in his car and promptly hung up. He saw a pop machine, bought a Mountain Dew, felt great again, jumped in his car and took off letting his instincts lead him home. As he approached the driveway, his parents were just leaving, as his mom had to go to find dad, tearing him away from field work first. They had no idea where he could be, just headed towards Jamestown, hoping.

It had to have been a terrible experience for his parents, wondering about the future. Gordon treated Craig as if he was functioning normally, even though on the inside he was probably worried sick and watched out for him without making it obvious.

He kept making progress, with two more surgeries throughout the winter. He worked at home on the farm the next summer and was able to go back to college that next fall. Launched............

Two summers ago, Craig's dad had cataract surgery and the now-not-so-young doctor was his surgeon 28 years later. Also, last year while visiting a Jamestown nursing home, through some coincidental conversations, Craig was able to meet and thank the now-not-so-young nurse, who essentially saved not only his eye, but his life.

Craig is the same age right now that Gordon was when he received the call. Tess and Brita are around the same age Craig was at the time. We are only beginning to comprehend the agony they must have suffered on his behalf and pray that we will never have to know what it was like for them as they put down the phone to take that long drive to the hospital.

I'm so grateful his life was spared! We all would have been robbed of being loved big, as only he can do.