You Did A Good Job Honey

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My mother is an astonishing 102 years and 8 months old.  Five years ago she still drove herself to church and to the grocery store.  Just two years and two months ago she lived by herself.  She fought fiercely to stay in her home and to keep her independence but her eyesight gave out and we finally convinced her the time had come to move in with my sister Carolyn.  A new environment combined with very poor eyesight made her much more vulnerable and fearful.  She wasn’t as sure of herself and became much more dependent on those around her.  Just a few months after she was in her new home, she came down with a horrendous case of shingles.  She had problems with her false teeth rubbing her gums sore.  Her and Carolyn were involved in a minor collision that could have been much worse.  Mother was checked over at the hospital and it was decided she had a hairline fracture in one of her vertebrae so she was in a neck brace for several weeks.  This summer, she came down with a case of pneumonia but my sister, being a retired RN caught it immediately and after several weeks in a hospital and an after-acute care facility, she was given a fairly clean bill of health.  All of these things have taken their toll on this once amazingly independent woman and her quality of life is now pretty much nonexistent.  She receives the most wonderful care anyone could ever have.  Many times I have told people, my sister Carolyn does not take care of mother, she dotes on her!  But Mother is so blind now, not only does she never wear her glasses, she never opens her eyes.  The cruel arm of dementia is rapidly taking its toll.  When I see pictures of her from just a year ago, it takes my breath away to still see the light in her eyes compared to the shell of a person she now is.  Conversation with her is pretty much non-existent.  The one phrase she does hone in on is “I love you.”  When someone says I love you to her you are pretty much guaranteed to hear her say “I love you too.”

 

Poignant moments you remember forever don’t seem like anything at the time.  It is later when you realize a certain memory will be with you forever.  I had one of those moments with mother this summer, before the pneumonia weakened her and dementia increased.  Carolyn and her husband wanted to go to their granddaughter’s sweet 16 party and would be gone till late in the evening.  So Mark and I went to stay with mother so they could go.  I had never helped or been around when Carolyn got mother ready for bed so Carolyn had written me out a list of what to do.  When it was time to get mother settled into bed we went into the bathroom to go through her nightly routine.  As we went through the list mother started getting fairly agitated and fearful acting.  When we came to one particular part of her personal hygiene routine, she firmly cried out “NO!  We don’t do that!”  A dear friend who had gone through this with her mother, told me one of the most important things we can do for an elderly parent is protect their dignity  when they no longer can. Her words rushed back to me and I said, “Mother, you know what?  I don’t have any idea what I am doing.  I need you to tell me what you want me to do.  I will only do what you tell me to and I won’t do anything you don’t want me to do.”  She immediately perked up and said, “Alright!” and proceeded to give me instructions.  We brushed her false teeth and she brushed the few remaining ones she has.  We washed off her face and applied face cream.  We washed her hands and rubbed them with lotion.  We went into the bedroom, got her undressed and got her jammies on.  I put eye drops in her eyes and gave her the very few pills she took before bed.  We got her in bed and all tucked in.  I knelt beside her and we said her prayers.  It struck me how reversed the rolls were, it used to be her kneeling beside my bed, teaching me to pray.  When we got all done, I told her I loved her and she said I love you too.  Then she reached her hand up and cupped my cheek.  She smiled and said, “You did a good job honey!”  I said, “Well, thank you!”  I thought, “How Sweet” and fought a few tears as I went back to the living room to sit down by Mark for the rest of the evening.

 

Now, after several months have stolen more and more, in fact everything from her, this small exchange is burned into my mind and I know it will become even more precious to me with every passing day.  I have had a few small conversations with her since, but this is the only and last one I remember.   I have also come to realize what took place.  Anytime I helped with her care, she became extremely agitated.  I could tell she didn’t like me helping her.  I thought it was just because I was different from her usual caregivers, but I don’t believe that was the only reason.  She looked at me different, I’m almost two decades younger than my older sisters, who are both retired registered nurses.  She accepted them and my older brother as her caregivers, but she didn’t like it when I tried to put myself in that role.  That night, at the moment I told her I didn’t know what I was doing and I needed her to tell me what she wanted me to do, I took myself out of the caregiver position and became her little girl again.  And in return she became my Momma once again.  The feel of her soft hand on my cheek and her sweet chuckle as she told me what a good job I did – Sigh – Words cannot even begin to express how precious that moment has become and  will always be to me.  It is a memory I will have as all the others, the ones of how much time has taken away from her, will fade completely away.  I am so thankful for this precious moment she gave me.  What a gift.

Mrs. Noble

I was raised in what some would think a very sheltered way.  Born in the 1950’s to parents well into their forties, with siblings decades older than myself, I wasn’t exposed to a lot of things other kids were.  I remember once, after having moved across the state on my ninth birthday,  my mother and I were going for a walk with cousins and they said a word I had never heard before.  Thankfully, I waited till my mother and I were alone before asking what that four letter word that started with an F was.  I say thankfully, because my cousin, who soon became my very best friend, would have never let me live it down if she would have heard I did not know the common word for passing gas!

I have to say though, bad language was  not a common thing in those days in my small town.  I don’t remember much of it anyway.  But as I entered my older teenage years, I was around more and more people from surrounding towns and heard quite a bit more colorful language, and of course started using some of it myself.  One day in my Senior year, in composition class taught by one of my favorite teachers, Mrs. Noble was trying to get us to understand how to put emotion into our writing.  She said, “Think about when you are sound asleep, warm and toasty in your bed, and your Mom comes in and switches on the light and says, “It’s time to get up!”  I turned to one of my friends in what I thought was a quiet voice and said “Oh Man, that p _ _ _es me off when she does that!”  Mrs. Noble, immediately and vehemently demanded, “Who said that? Beth! (the name has been changed to protect the innocent) Out in the hall!”  I knew I couldn’t let “Beth” take what I had coming, so I said “It was me”  Mrs. Noble just looked at me for what seemed like forever, then quietly said, “Norma, out in the hall.”  Up and out I went, standing by the door, waiting for I wasn’t sure what.  After about 10 minutes, Mrs Noble came out and I steeled myself for the lecture I knew was coming.  She didn’t yell, she didn’t lecture, she just quietly said, “Norma, I can’t even begin to tell you how disappointed I am in you.  I would have expected that out of “Beth” but never out of you.  I think of you as a lady and it just really hurt to hear that kind of language come out of your mouth.”  I don’t remember how I responded or what happened next but I can tell you her words had a profound effect on me.  I have never forgotten them.  I’m not going to say another coarse word was never uttered from my mouth, but if one ever did, I remembered Mrs. Noble’s words and quickly felt ashamed of myself.

I am so very grateful in this day of seven cuss words in every sentence for the lesson she taught me.  When ever my husband is around a woman who has horrible language he will comment, “I sure am glad my wife doesn’t talk like that.”  I always tell him, “You have not only my parents, but Mrs. Noble to thank for that!”  And Mrs. Noble, if you happen to read this, I like to think your few short sentences that day are still changing lives, because I did my best to teach my children to watch their language and I know they are doing their best to teach theirs the same thing.  I know this is an extremely old-fashioned and some would think fuddy-duddy post.  But in this school-year beginning, I just wanted to thank a teacher who I feel made a difference in my life and remind all the teachers out there, how much of a role they can play in their young students lives.  More than you’d ever imagine!

Homemade Ornament Blessings

Was not expecting this.  Just a cold icy end to Thanksgiving weekend.  A good day to put up the tree with Christmas music playing in the background.  Just like dozens of years before.  Where once it was accompanied by tons (seemed like tons) of children, helping, laughing, fighting,  it is now peaceful and quiet.  Funny, that does not bother me.  All my children and grandchildren live fairly close and I see them often and talk to at least one  of them everyday.   I am never lonely or miss my children, they are still a huge part of our lives.  Actually, the biggest part of our lives.

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So why are these tears falling down my cheeks?  As I strategically place each ornament on the branches, just like in years past, my favorite ones, the homemade ones, receive the places of honor, front and center.  They are the ones made of construction paper and yarn, popscicle sticks and glue.  A school picture adorns the front and “To Mom and Dad” or “MaMa and PaPa” is written on the back.  They are priceless to me, probably some of the most precious things I own.  They take me back in time like nothing else.  It isn’t the pictures of my children, the ones twenty-five years plus that get to me the most.  It is the ones of my oldest grandchildren, Lexi, Brett, Kyson and Bryce.  Seeing the pictures of them when they were two or three years old, I pause and realize I now have strong hints of the adults they will become. 20151129_132957 They are such sweet, good kids.   That cute little girl is now less than a year away from the age I was when I got married.  The other night she curled up to PaPa on the couch and had a heart to heart with him about boys and life and later told her Mom, “PaPa gives good advice.”  The three boys, who range in age from almost 16 to just turning 13, have been best friends all their life.  Now they are way taller then me and their deep voices startle me when they speak.  All three of them are here in an instant if Grandma calls and says we need help.  They have cleaned out the chicken house and goat barns for us, helped mulch the gardens, hauled bales and bales of hay, cleaned the shop, and helped put brakes on semi-trucks.  I don’t know what we would have done without their help butchering chickens, turkeys and rabbits this past year.  They are all great kids, going through the usual ups and downs of teenager-hood, but I know, just like the toothless grins smiling at me from the decades old ornaments, these kids will make it to adulthood with strong character, strong faith and a deep love and appreciation for the blessing God gave them with this big extended family.  And I love them, and I’m grateful, and I’m a little sad that maybe I haven’t appreciated it enough.  I make a vow that I will start right now, even as I know life will once again take over and get in the way, and I will make the same vow a year from now.  But, I know it’s OK and I am overwhelmed with the feeling of being blessed.  And I continue to put ornaments on the tree, and I smile, and another tear slips down my cheek.

21 And Counting

Right after our morning chores, just like every morning, Mark and I walked out to the shop, started a fire in the wood stove and made a pot of coffee.  We are never alone for long,  our son Bryan and other employee Nathan join us and soon the truck drivers show up with the first trucks to be serviced.  We have an assortment of chairs circling the wood stove and everyone visits for a few minutes and drinks a cup of coffee before the guys start their day and I head back to the house.  I had just settled down with my coffee in one of the rocking chairs when my phone rang.  It was our youngest child, son Kyle, calling to say he and his wife Dani were at the hospital, she was dilated to an 8 and they wanted to know if I could come take pictures.  Of course I said I was on my way, I just hoped I made it in time as the hospital was over thirty miles away and we had received more snow overnight.  After getting instructions from Mark about driving on the snowy roads and Bryan pretty much telling me I was an idiot for going on these roads (He does not understand the necessity of a grandmother seeing her new grandchild at the soonest possible moment) I headed north.  Here’s a picture of the roads I slowly drove on:

snowy roadI didn’t speed because I knew that would make me an idiot, but I sure prayed I would be on time.  I needn’t have worried.  As they sometimes do, the epidural slowed things down, and even though I got to their room about 8:30, the new little Miss wasn’t born till 3:15 in the afternoon.  But I didn’t mind.  It was nice to have nowhere to go and have nothing to do but sit and visit and catch up with one another.  Here she is, brand new Ella Kay, about five minutes old:

EllaAnd here is the happy family, joined by new Big Brother Noah.  Yes, she was grandbaby #21!  But it never gets old.  In the blink of an eye, you meet a new person and you can no longer imagine life without them.  God is Soooooo Good!

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What Are You Doing To Her?

We have one turkey hen named Gertie who just loves us.  She follows us everywhere we go.  This weekend Mark did some much overdue trimming on Liddy the goat’s hoofs.  As usual Gertie was right there by our side.  She got her face right down by the action as if to ask, “What’s going on?  What are you doing to her?

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Snowy Chores

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Even though it takes forever to get all my clothes on, to walk through the drifts, to break all the ice, to haul extra straw, etc, etc, etc………………there is just something very fulfilling about doing chores in the snow and cold.  Making sure the animals have plenty of food and water and a warm dry place to stay just gives me the warm fuzzy’s.  It is one of my favorite things to do!  In fact it is on days like this when I linger a little longer, talk to each animal, stop to pat a head, gaze on the mamma’s and babies, look out on the beautiful white scene around me and listen to the silence.  God is good!

New Babies!

Last July when Mark and I were feeding, he made the comment, “I didn’t know Rambo wasn’t cut!”  I said, “No, he isn’t.”  You see we had gotten Rambo, a little male lamb, at the Amish Chicken Auction a couple-of-months earlier, planning on raising him to butcher.  Mark thought he had been castrated and I guess he finally got a behind-the-scenes view of him and realized he was still “intact.”  He then said, “Let’s see if we can find some little ewe’s for him and we’ll raise our own lambs to butcher.”  Well, I was all over that!  In less than a week I had some found and off we went.  We ended up with six young ewe’s and of course, Rambo in our little flock.  Our efforts paid off – two days ago we went out to feed and this is what we found:

20150225_072529  Two adorable little girls!  Last night, the temperature was supposed to get down into the single digits, so Mark and I separated the other Mamma who was close to lambing and put her into the shed alone.  Sure enough, when I opened the door this morning, look what was waiting for me:

20150227_084200Two little bucks!  How fun is that?!?  No other mamma’s look close so we will have to wait for the rest of the gang to come along, but we have other newbies coming to make the wait go quicker.  Our goat Liddy should have her babies sometime in the next couple weeks and most important of all, grandbaby number 21 is due any day!  That should keep me occupied for awhile!