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Sunday Afternoon Oasis

I rushed around the kitchen preparing supper. My nerves were strung as tight as guitar strings. I didn’t know when it would begin, but wanted most of the supper prep done before then. Tammie, my two-month-old daughter began wailing before I had the potatoes pealed. Glancing at the wall clock I thought, “She’s starting early tonight.”

The pediatrician told me Tammie suffered from colic. He said eventually she would stop her incessant evening-into-the-night cries; cries that sounded as if she had great pain; cries that nearly drove my husband and me out of our minds.

Tammie had been born missing her fore arms and with a bleeding disorder. I was well past feeling upset about her missing bones. My fear at this point was that all her straining while crying for hours every day would cause an internal bleed. When I examined her in the mornings while she was calm, I noticed that her skin had freckles of broken capillaries from her waist on up. The roof of her mouth was bruised from suckling. Nothing was easy with this baby.

Dumping the unpeeled potatoes into a kettle with some water, I put it on the stove over a medium flame and went to scoop my infant out of the bassinet. I knew from experience cuddling, bouncing, back pats, diaper changes, sips of food or water wouldn’t calm her. Placing Tammie on her stomach on my shoulder, I trudged from one end of the house to the other. Walking reduced her crying a little, but she continued wriggling as though uncomfortable. Continue reading

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Wild Storm

The jangling of an alarm woke me. Instead of a light-infused spring dawn peeping through the bedroom windows, a dark, foreboding quiet surrounded our mobile home.  I had the day off from work, but Arnie, my new husband needed to get up. I shook him and gently pushed him out of bed.

Being the good little new wife, I got up with Arnie and made him a scrambled egg breakfast. It didn’t matter if he appreciated my efforts or not, I was filled with self-satisfaction. The minute he stepped out of the house, I trotted back to bed.

Far away thunder rumbled. Rain pelted our metal mobile home roof. I stretched, yawned and snuggled under the covers with a smile. I loved to lay in bed listening to thunder storms. An occasional flash of lightning and closer rumbles of thunder entertained me for the rest of the morning. Continue reading

Good Old Fashioned

A glance at the kitchen clock told me that if Arnie was on schedule, he would be in the house looking for supper soon. I glanced into a kettle and gave the stroganoff a stir. It looked perfect. Carrying the pot of cooked noodles to the sink, I tipped it to drain the water. Steam clouded the evening-darkened kitchen window.

The slam of the front door signaled my husband’s arrival. I had another five minutes before he’d be done washing in the bathroom. Our two daughters also having heard the door slam, ran screaming to the entrance to greet Daddy. Hearing them chatter about their day made me smile as I poured bright orange carrots into a serving dish.

Arnie came into the kitchen just as I placed a frosted cake on the counter next to the table. Tammie, aged four and Niki, aged eight tumbled into their places at the table. Niki blurted, “Daddy has a surprise for us.”

Smiling, Arnie said, “I had some business in town today. Before coming home to start chores, I stopped to look at television video tape recorders. I ended up buying one. I’ll set it up later after milking the cows.”

Not sure we needed a television video tape player, I nodded and answered doubtfully, “Okay..” Continue reading

Healing Laughter

I dropped down on the sofa and watched my three-year-old daughter sitting in the middle of the living room floor playing with Harvey, her long-limbed stuffed toy. Flicker the cat lovingly purred as he rubbed against her. His long tail kept getting into her face. The tickly sensation seemed to delight her.

A little over a year earlier, the black and white tuxedo cat joined our family on the first day after we’d moved to this house. The cat was young, about six months old. That evening as I unpacked boxes, he silently moved around the perimeter of the room checking out the place. From the corner of my eyes I saw only small flickers of his white markings in the shadows so I named him Flicker.

Flicker had started out as a slim, long-legged male feline, but he had turned into a large, sleek handsome pussy cat during the past year. He fell in love with my daughter. Niki adored her kitty. They often played together.

I smiled with happiness. The holidays were very close. My husband and I had a sweet little girl and I’d just found out that a new baby would arrive in July.

Other than feeling a little morning sickness, I felt well as I dove into preparing for Christmas. Niki was excited by all the decorations. Flicker tried to eat the ribbons. On Christmas Eve I raced around to make the gifts look as if they were put under the tree while Arnie and Niki waited in the car before going to church.

On Christmas day I knew something wasn’t right with my pregnancy. As a precaution, I began to rest and not move around as much. That didn’t help. The problem persisted.

The afternoon of January 4th I started to feel like I was in labor. Horrified, I told Arnie, “I’m only 14 weeks along!” Continue reading

The Casserole

I stood staring at the raw chicken carcass on my kitchen counter a few moments. Watching Mom cook meals while I was growing up wasn’t the same as actually doing it myself. There were, I knew, certain joints between the legs and thighs, wings and main body that would be easy to cut through. Frowning, I wondered, “Where in the world am I supposed to cut after that? The back, tailbone, ribs and breast must be separated, too.”

A month earlier, following the two simple words, “I do”, I’d mysteriously changed from the person being fed, to the person feeding everyone else. Being newly married meant my husband and I pay pay the mobile home mortgage, electricity, telephone, groceries and whatever other bills found their way to our mailbox, so eating out every night was not an option.

Grasping the clammy, goose-bumped chicken flesh, I sawed off its legs, thighs and wings. Peering into the body cavity, I noticed fewer bones in certain areas and cut accordingly. Shrugging, I thought, “So what if it isn’t the way Mom does it. I’m not doing surgery, so the chicken can have a better life. I’m doing surgery, so we can eat it.” Continue reading

Good-Bye Mr. Greta

I sat at the dining room table reading the latest letter from my elderly pen pal, Mr. Elton Greta. Across from me sat Arnie, my husband. Having finished mowing the lawn, he’d made himself a cheese and sausage sandwich before going back outside to work on a boat he wanted to rehab.

After taking a swig from a bottle of Busch beer, he asked, “What’s new with the Greta’s?”

Putting the letter down, I said, “They want to meet me and would like it if we stopped for a visit when we take our summer vacation.”

Taking another bite from his sandwich, Arnie looked thoughtful as he chewed. Swallowing, he commented, “You don’t look excited about the idea. What are your thoughts?”

I shifted uneasily in my chair and looked around the room before finally saying cautiously, “Well, I’d like to meet them, but…”

Correctly interpreting my hesitancy, Arnie finished the sentence for me, “But, you like how you are both a mystery to each other right now. You’re also afraid that reality will disappoint them, or you.” Continue reading

An Unusual Pen Pal

I came home from working an evening shift at the hospital and found a package from Mr. Greta on the dining room table. It was wrapped in brown paper and plastered with stamps. My children were in bed and Arnie was asleep on the sofa with a magazine on his chest and the television blaring.

As I turned off the television, Arnie mumbled in protest, “I’m watching that.” His eyes were closed when I looked at him. Slowly, he lapsed back into the long, slow breaths of deep sleep.

At the dining room table, I ripped open the package and found a set of Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I knew if Arnie had been awake, he would’ve been teasing me about my elderly boyfriend who liked sending gifts.

Pushing the torn wrapping paper aside, I examined them and wondered how despite loving to read, I had managed to reach adulthood without being familiar with them.

My correspondence and friendship with a man born 47 years before me, was hard to explain. I liked to think of our friendship as a divine gift. Although I seldom mentioned how stressful my life was to my elderly friend, the cares dissipated as we doled out bits and pieces of our lives to each other. Continue reading