Never Happy

A weak breeze gently fluttered the sheets Mom had hung on the clothes line nearby. I lounged on the grass in the shade of a backyard tree wishing it wasn’t so hot. Leaning forward, I stared at the garden beyond the wet laundry. Pale green plants marked rows of tomatoes, beans and peas. All around them the soil was a dry, pale brown.

Behind me, I heard the farmhouse door open and Mom yell, “Dinner’s ready. Come and eat!”

The heat of the day made me feel heavy and sluggish. Although I looked forward to eating, I couldn’t make myself move quickly. As I slowly stumped to the house, Daddy joined me from where he had been working in the machine shed.

Noon meals were usually rewarmed leftovers. My mouth watered as I recognized the juicy roast chicken from Sunday, the day before. Mom was such a good cook; her leftovers were better than most people’s fresh starts.

After blessing our meal, Mom began to hand around bowls of chicken, peas and mashed potatoes. Daddy ate a few forkfuls before telling Mom, “The field corn is looking good, but it won’t for long if we don’t get rain soon.” Continue reading

Is It a Llama?

The first week of quarantine I felt trapped and claustrophobic. During the second week I realized that I was safer at home rather than being, out-there-with-the-virus. By the third week of quarantine I began to think about changes I wanted to make to my office, which I was now sharing with a quarantine buddy, my daughter Tammie.

The futon in the office needed to go away. I wanted to replace it with a recliner. Supplies on wire shelving in the room were dusty and needed to be cleaned, organized and put into labeled boxes. A heater had to be installed. The room’s only heat vent was the furthest one away from the furnace, too far to warm the room above 59 degrees during six months of the year. It’s hard to be creative while freezing.

I wondered, “How am I to accomplish what I want? After all, I’m quarantined!” Once again, the sensation of being trapped and claustrophobic swept over me. When I told Tammie what was bothering me, her eyes lit up. She pulled out her phone with an enthusiastic invitation, “Let’s go shopping online!”

I ordered a heater and then called a local business man for installation, “after-this-is-all-over.” An order for a brown recliner we liked went out next. While we were at it, we made a big online grocery order. Following that my daughter purchased a yoga stool, clothing and craft supplies. I wanted garden supplies, a grandchild’s birthday gift and shoes. Tammie asked, “Did you know we can order our favorite restaurant meals uncooked and in bulk?”

Feeling like James T. Kirk, a science fiction spaceship captain, I pointed to her phone and ordered, “Make it so.” We both knew what we wanted. Continue reading

Going Batty

After yesterday’s chilly overcast weather, this morning’s sunshine made me want to spend time in my backyard. I paused at the backdoor to call out to my daughter Tammie, who was working in my office, “Do you want to take your break outside?”

While awaiting Tammie’s answer, my glance fell on a small splash of blood on the wall next to the door. Surprised, I thought, “Where in the world did that come from?” Then I spotted another small splash on the door, on the opposite wall, on the floor. There was even a minuscule splash on the ceiling!

Tammie found me washing the spots away with a washcloth. Looking perplexed she questioned, “Where did the blood come from?”

My answer sounded as troubled as I felt, “I wish someone could explain what happened.” As I went to dispose of the washcloth, I happened to look down and spotted a dead wood tick on the entryway floor. It looked as though it had been fully engorged when killed. “That’s weird”, I commented, “Is it possible that one of the cats had a tick on them and scratched at it hard enough to dislodge it and for the blood in it to splash around?” All afternoon that day, every time I went into the entryway, I found more and more small blood splashes. Continue reading

An Attitude Adjustment

I pulled a picture from a box containing photos from the 1950’s. It showed me and two of my neighborhood cousins sitting on swings Daddy had made under two large cottonwood trees near the barn. I looked to be four years of age, which made my cousins four and five years of age. They were wearing shorts and sun tops, but I was in a floor length nightgown that was visibly soiled.

Holding the picture up for my daughter Tammie to see, I exclaimed, “Look at the adorable expressions on our faces. This must be one of the first times we played together. I’ll bet their dad Tony came to visit my dad and brought them along.”

Recently I have spent several hours going through childhood pictures, looking for just the right ones to put in the family history book I am writing. A glowing bubble of rosy, happy childhood memories enveloped me as I examined pictures of three-year-old me chasing a small flock of Guinea hens, two-year-old me on my belly watching how a kitty-cat eats and dozens of family line-up pictures. Worries about the pandemic seemed far away and in another world. Continue reading

Pitiful

Preoccupied by my thoughts, I sighed and absentmindedly began to clear the table. My garden was nearly ready to be tilled, but how was I going to get the tiller to start? I needed help but absolutely did not want to ask for help. Setting the stack of dishes and silverware on the counter next to the sink, I sighed again.

My daughter Tammie was standing at the kitchen counter mixing cake batter. She glanced over at me and setting down the hand mixer, questioned, “What’s wrong Mom? You’ve been sighing.”

I reluctantly admitted, “It’s time to till the garden and I know from experience that I can’t pull the starter cord fast and hard enough to make the engine turn over.”

Pulling a cake pan closer to the mixing bowl, Tammie advised, “List the people you could call for help. Decide which one you feel the most comfortable approaching. Then give that person a call and ask.”

With hands on my hips, I scoffed, “You’re a fine one to be giving advice on how to ask for help! You are completely stubborn about getting help. You’ve even admitted to me that you don’t want people to think you are weak and pitifully handicapped.”

Picking up a spatula, Tammie scrapped the cake batter into the pan as she defensively pointed out, “Some people only see me as a short-armed individual. I want everyone to see how many things I am capable of doing. Some things, like not being able to reach something on a high shelf are just physically impossible. But my not being able to do that, doesn’t define who I am!” Continue reading

Little by Little

Looking into the bathroom mirror at Arnie’s shaving-foam covered face, I stated emphatically, “You have to till our garden this morning before leaving for work.” It was more a demand than request.

Arnie slipped on his glasses and picked up his razor. After pulling the triple blade across his jawline once, he answered, “You sound like you’re in a hurry.”

Combing my hair, I sighed impatiently, “I am! “Today is my day off from the hospital. My next day off won’t be for another five days. The weatherman on TV last night said it will rain by the end of this week. I want to plant my garden today.”

Making eye-contact with Arnie in the mirror, I saw a twinkle in his eye. He said, “It won’t hurt to put the garden in next week instead of this week.”

Crossing my arms, I glared at his reflection for several seconds before grumbling stubbornly, “I don’t think you’re funny. I want to plant my garden today because I have time today.”

Using a washcloth to wipe away the last bits of foam from his now clean-shaven face, Arnie leaned down to give me a kiss and said, “Don’t get yourself into knots. I’ll get it tilled for you this morning.” Continue reading

Eating Pi

Standing in line for a favorite food item wouldn’t sit well with my plans. I’d been on my feet for most of the previous six hours. All I wanted to do was quickly buy something to eat, then sit down to enjoy it and my co-worker’s company. Thirty-minute lunchtimes pass as quickly as the flash of a camera.

Stepping into the cafeteria, I discovered there was a long line of workers waiting to be served hot food. Only a few people were around the cold bar making salads. Salads always satisfied me, so I turned to pick up a bowl and make one for myself.

Barb, my coworker, nudged me with her elbow and hissed, “They’re serving shepherd’s pie!” In unison we turned to join the line. As we waited, Barb commented, Shepherd’s pie is supposed to have a spring mix of vegetables in it and not sauerkraut. The hospital just calls this meal, ‘potato-sauerkraut casserole’.”

Shrugging I confessed, “I prefer the kraut. Switching the ingredients should automatically require the dish to have a different name. Maybe it should be called, German shepherd’s pie.” A mental picture of a happy, tongue-lolling German Shepherd suddenly popped into my mind.

Barb grimaced in response to my comment as she reached for a dish handed to her by the cafeteria worker. It was heavily laden with mashed potato-topped sauerkraut with a satisfying bottom layer of creamy ground beef. Continue reading

Changes

The shelves under the stereo in the dining room nearly sagged from the weight of photo albums. I stood examining them. Which one did I want to pull out? Each one was like a black hole that would swallow the rest of my afternoon, so I needed to be careful in my selection. I wanted pictures from the first ten years of my marriage for the family history project I’m working on.

Luck was with me. The one I finally pulled out was labeled, 1968 through 1980. Between the shelf and the dining room table, five photos fell out and scattered on the floor. Sighing impatiently, I glanced at my daughter, who works remotely from my house, and asked, “Would you like to help me this week end? I want to put these pictures into a new album; one with pockets.”

Tammie eagerly offered, “Sure. Looking at the old pictures will be fun. What’s wrong with that album?”

Several more pictures spilled out of the album as I turned pages. Trying to put them back in place, I explained, “This album had sticky pages covered with plastic cover sheets. After 50 years, the pages have stopped being sticky and now the pictures don’t want to stay in place anymore.” Continue reading

Playing Tag

The bush near our farmhouse’s chimney was a cedar tree. At least that was what Mom called it. To me, it just looked like a tall, narrow bush. I snuggled into its green branches, trying to melt into it and be invisible. Suddenly, two of my big sisters galloped past and around to the front of the house. They didn’t seem to realize I was even there!

I sighed with relief and discovered that the cedar smelled really good. Tearing off a flat cedar leaf spray, I held it to my nose, took a deep breath and peeked out at the surrounding lawn. I didn’t see anyone. Maybe it would be safe now for me to run. Shouts from the other side of the yard emboldened me. As I sprinted off, my hasty departure making the cedar sway.

My brothers and sisters were playing a tag game called, “7 Steps Around the House.” The rules were simple; if the person who was “IT” saw you take more than 7 steps as you ran around the house, you became the next “IT”.

I didn’t want to get caught and be “IT”! The prospect filled me with great dread, too horrible for my five-year-old mind to express. Just thinking about getting caught made me shiver as if with chills. Continue reading

Zoo Doo Review

The sun felt warm, but a chilly wind kept trying to find a way down our collars and up our coat sleeves. My daughter and I stood on the deck at the back of my house inspecting the yard. Pointing to the row of pine trees along the backside of my property, I proposed, “For our walk today, lets walk the perimeter of my land.”

“That’s a good idea.” Tammie enthused. “We can see how high the river is and check for buds on all of your shrubs.”

My daughter and I decided to shelter together when the “Safer at Home” order was given. We knew being together would ease our anxiety about the situation.

As we settled into this new, unfamiliar lifestyle of never going anywhere to ensure an extreme form of social distancing, we decided that keeping busy would make us feel better and that we needed to get fresh air and exercise every day.

Keeping busy is an easy plan to follow. Tammie’s job for the last two years allows her to work remotely. All her meetings and social gatherings are done online now, too. For my part, I keep busy by managing the house, making meals, cleaning, washing clothes and writing my family history.

As Tammie and I walked across the lawn, the sound of an eagle call made us look up. Soaring overhead we saw a beautiful bald-headed eagle. Its white plumage glowed in the sunshine. As we watched, it called, “Screee!” and disappeared behind tall trees upriver.

When my daughter and I reached the line of pine trees we discovered it had a solid boarder of deer doo-doo. Tammie exclaimed, “Now we know what all the local deer did this winter. They came here every day to take a dump!”

The lawn ended as we neared the river. Picking our way through the trees and winter-bleached grass, we discovered another much-used deer trail. All along it, we found more doo-doo. Tammie dissed the deer, “What dirty animals! There’s hardly a clean place to walk.”

Sounding like a wise old Indian scout, I pointed out, “This wasn’t all done by deer. Notice the pile by that tree? A rabbit did that. It’s shaped differently.”

My daughter observed the difference, “Hmmm, yes, I see what you mean. One is shaped like jelly beans and the other like skittles.”

I muttered to myself as we continued our walk, “Another reason I won’t be eating those kinds of candy this Easter.”

Nearing the bridge, we found more doo-doo that looked different. Stopping to look at it I guessed, “Coyote or fox?”

A few steps further, Tammie exclaimed, “Ew! This is from a very large dog…or maybe a bear?!”

Seriously considering her last possibility, I mused, “We’ve had a few warm days this week. I guess the bear along the river have left their dens already.”

Looking nervously around and over her shoulder, Tammie quickly suggested, “Let’s walk on the road.”

Smiling, I nodded in agreement and confided, “Several years ago I read an article about how some gardeners like to use manure from zoos because of the different beneficial nutrients some plants require.” My daughter didn’t laugh. She listened, nodded and looked as if she was evaluating the possible benefits.

I chuckled, “I told my friend Val I wanted to start a business selling zoo manure. When people called to order their poo of preference, I would answer the telephone by saying, “Zoo doo-doo! What can I get for you?”

Giving me an eye-roll, Tammie suggested, “You could gather up all the doo-doo we saw today and advertise it as, “Just the thing you need for your wild garden this summer; deer and rabbit septic results without inviting them over for dinner.”

Groaning over her joke, I pointed out, “We were pretty good at guessing whose was whose back there… After our “Safer at Home” quarantine, we’ll be expert scatologists.”