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Quarantine Bucket List

I mounted the bike Arnie had bought for himself 15 years ago. Tammie got on the one he’d bought for me at the same time. Seeing no approaching cars on the road, we peddled out the driveway. My entire yard slopes toward the river, so it follows the road in front of my place does the same. Enjoying the cool evening breeze, we coasted downhill across the Little Eau Pleine River bridge.

My daughter and I peddled the next quarter mile in companionable silence. Two deer stepped out onto the road and stood gawking at us. I said, “They won’t survive long if they stop and stare at approaching cars like this!”

Tammie called out, “Go back where you came from.” As if heeding her words, the two animals leapt gracefully off the road to disappear into the dense roadside growth. Turning to me, my daughter said, “By the way, I’ve decided to return to my home in Saint Paul next week.”

From the beginning of our quarantine, I knew Tammie would eventually go back to her own home. The irony, of course, is COVID 19 hasn’t gone away, but spread to even more places now, than at the beginning. The new normal is masks, social distancing and chapped hands from frequent washing. Continue reading

A Big Deal

Several tall trees shaded the picnic table where my high school friends and I were sitting. Hot rays of sunshine baked the nearby sidewalk, but a cool breeze playfully ruffled our hair. One of the girls took a drink from her can of pop. The minute she set it back on the table, an insect appeared and hovered over the can. She screamed and all three girls who were with me jumped to their feet. Staying where I was, I calmly reminded them, “The bee is after the sugar, not us.”

One girl exclaimed, “If a bee goes into the pop can and we take a big drink, we could accidentally swallow one!”

Another girl asked with a shudder, “Would it sting us on the insides?”

Bees and wasps never frightened me. I had the benign belief that if you leave them alone, they would leave you alone. My wry quip always was, “Panic makes them see you as a pincushion.”

Although there are many wasp nests in my yard, deck and buildings, before the year 2013 I can only remember two times that wasps stung anyone in my family. The first time was on a Sunday afternoon when Niki and Tammie were small. A nest in the garage was disturbed when we arrived home from a picnic. A wasp stung Arnie on his left ear. It hurt so badly he laid on the sofa for an hour or two with an ice pack. The second time was when ten-year-old Niki disturbed a nest behind the garage. The two stings on her leg were very painful, but by evening, only showed as slightly red, irritated spots. I concluded that wasps were unpleasant, but no big deal. Continue reading

The Path Best Not Taken

Sun-dappled shade blanketed the woodland floor. Green ferns peeked through last year’s papery fallen leaves. We heard the rustle of small feet scampering and the sleepy call of a bird in the tree tops. Along the trail, ferns stood guard over a slumbering, moss-covered log.

Ahead of us, we saw a sun-filled clearing. Stepping into the sun made me squint. Cleared by man, the woodland corridor allowed poles topped with electrical wires to march through the property. The path diverged at this point. A map mounted on a post showed different route options.

The path to the left would take us directly back to The Clearing’s campus schoolhouse. The path to the right would meander further from the campus, but eventually bring us back to the schoolhouse, too. Glancing at Tammie, I asked, “Which path do you want to take?”

My daughter stated, “I want to take the one to the left.”

When my daughter Tammie and I visit The Clearing for a vacation, we take classes to learn new crafts or perfect crafts familiar to us. This year, because of COVID 19, classes were canceled, but the venue remained open for self-directed retreats. We decided to go. A handful of other people had done the same. Consequentially, the campus was strangely empty and quiet. Following the hiking paths on the 128-acre campus, we found the less traveled paths were not as trampled or easy to follow. Continue reading

Lactose Intolerance

The meal looked beautiful. My guests were in for a treat. I’d prepared everything I love to eat. A salad with liberal amounts of feta cheese and walnuts would start the meal. Moistly tender chicken breasts wrapped in bacon and smothered in a mixture of mushroom soup and sour cream was next. Our desert to end this delectable meal was cheese cake with a graham cracker crust, covered with a generous scoop of glazed fresh blueberries and whipped cream.

My tummy rumbled. I glanced at the clock. Even though I hadn’t eaten since an early lunch, I wasn’t hungry. My tummy felt as though I’d just finished drinking a gallon of water.

I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Intermittently I’d felt sick for most of the past year. Did I have cancer? My imagination ran wild with other dreaded possibilities.

Frowning, I wondered why some days I felt fine and other days not. Last Friday morning I was very sick. By three in the afternoon I felt much better. Since I hadn’t eaten anything since my breakfast cereal, the rumble in my belly indicated hunger. My daughter was home for the weekend. She suggested, “Since you’re feeling better, what do you say we go out to eat?” Continue reading

Out of Sorts

Recently, I walked into my office and handed Tammie a cup of tea before sitting down to enjoy my own. Looking up from her work, my daughter thanked me and questioned, “Are you going to write today? What topic did you pick out?”

Shrugging, I admitted, “I haven’t even thought about it yet.” Swiveling in my chair to look at the computer screen, I changed the subject, “Did you know that an elephant has over 40,000 muscles in its trunk?”

Tammie laughed as she admonished, “You just don’t want to get down to work, do you? But no, I didn’t know elephants had that many muscles in their trunks. Overall, how many muscles do humans have?”

Being a true trivia lover, I knew the answer. “Humans have a little over 600 muscles in their entire body.”

I also like silly Mom jokes, so I decided to throw in one into our conversation for good measure. “I want you to know that I’ve entered into my snapdragon phase of life.”

My daughter questioned, “Really…what does that mean?” Continue reading

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

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