She was my little girl.
On school mornings, I would comb her brown hair into two pigtails before school, and she always had an opinion. She would feel them gingerly, then hold up her thumb and forefinger and measure from her ear to the braid, then carefully holding the space between her fingers, check the distance from her other ear to the other braid to see if they were the same distance apart. Because I knew that this was going to happen, I would try hard to make sure that they were as even as possible. If they weren’t, she would tug and tug at the one that wasn’t right so that it would be a bit more compliant. I would secretly look at the result and think that the offending braid wasn’t actually moved that much, but it was the principle of the thing! At least she felt better about it.
There came a time, as a fifth grader that she wanted to go to New York City with her Grandpa and Grandma Yoder and decided that she would learn to comb her own hair. She didn’t want to have something as simple as needing someone to comb her hair to prevent her from having an adventure, and though she knew her Grandma would do it, she did not want to have to rely on anyone. And so, she learned.
The years passed. My girlie grew up. She graduated from high school, went to Bible school, went to Bangladesh, and from there set out to travel the world, taking any excuse to go on yet another excursion, independent, brave, and strong. She became an RN, and took a job as a hospice nurse which she has held for over 11 years. She made friends that were loyal, loved the many children in her life, bought land, built a house, loved her church and neighborhood and family with intent and abandon. She grieved the losses of things that mattered to her, and she laid aside her dreams of marriage and children without rancor or bitterness or resentment, though she sometimes cried when choosing what she knew was right over compromise.
She is still my girlie, though she is an adult.
These last weeks have been hard for her. There was the sudden diagnosis of breast cancer, and almost as suddenly, a double mastectomy. She had never been hospitalized, much less had even minor surgery, and the anesthesia and pain meds had a debilitating effect upon her. When she finally got awake enough to realize that she was the only patient left in recovery and that the nurses were staying late because of her, she forced herself to sit up, and then instructed those responsible to get her dressed and get her out of there. She came home nauseated and teary and in so much pain. Somehow the hospital messed up and didn’t get her prescriptions called in as they said they would and there was an anguished gap in some much needed meds. But we made it with some desperate, pleading prayers (with the help of some close, professional friends). The next five days were pretty much as expected but then came the nagging pain in the leg, then the shortness of breath, and then the diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis in the leg and pulmonary emboli in both lungs. This time she got admitted to the hospital, and spent two long days trying to find answers, solutions and resolution. It was a holiday weekend, and although her caregivers tried hard, the hospital was understaffed, orders got overlooked and the days were long. It was a huge relief to her to finally come home on Tuesday night to her house, her cat and the familiar.
One of the things that she is not allowed to do is comb her hair. It is hard for her to accept. Her bout with Covid caused her hair to thin, and just when it seemed like things were starting to replenish a bit, she got hit with this surgery and it’s falling out at an alarming rate. There is really nothing she can do about it, and even if there was, she couldn’t do it for herself.
So once again, this Mama is combing her girlie’s hair. I pull the brush as gently as I can through the thin tresses and then I braid it in one lone braid down the back. She never moves to measure distance, but I look at the braid and it isn’t straight. I wonder what she’s thinking. I resist the urge to try to tug it a bit to the right and say, “I don’t know, Deborie-girl. It’s not very straight . . . “
“I know,” she says, matter of factly. And then, as she has said a hundred times over these last two weeks, “It doesn’t matter. It’s fine. Thank you, Mama.” My eyes burn with sudden tears because I know that behind those quiet words is another decision. It does matter. I know it does. But she has decided that anything someone does for her is going to be considered a gift, and she is not going to complain. I pick up the brush and carry it to the bathroom and put it away. I think about courage and strength and love and hard decisions. I think about how hard this could be for us all, including Deborah, if she gave in to the preferences that sit firmly in her OCD’d brain and thank God for Grace extended – to us through her, and to her, through the One who gave her to us in the first place.
You know, It’s a pretty special thing to be able to comb my girlie’s hair. I am glad for this opportunity. I’m so thankful that I can walk this journey with an adult daughter, and have the opportunity to help in any way that I can, even if I don’t always get it right. And I’m glad that she isn’t measuring the distance from her braid to her ear. I would really come up short.
For this, and so much more, my heart gives grateful praise.
She was my little girl.
Almost every year for the past 25 years or more, on this particular day, Shady Acres has had a big picnic with friends from church, family, neighborhood and even from afar, gathering to eat, play, and fellowship. There was always the Jones Express, activities for the children as well as the adults, relays and water games and it was hot, with flies and other things that bothered, but it all seemed to be worth it!
Life happens, and the last seven years have taken a toll on Certain Man and Delaware Grammy. There have been so many things to come into consideration and we realize that we aren’t as young as we once were. (Fancy that!) Also, The June days of these last years have held deaths and funerals and health crises and so many unexpected schedule challenges.
This year is no different. We had hoped to have the annual picnic this year until Middle Daughter’s cancer diagnosis and we realized that surgery was going to complicate more than just her life. It was with a great deal of relief, actually, that we realized that the Certain Man and Delaware Grammy were on the same page in their thinking. There was to be no Fourth of July Picnic at Shady Acres this year.
However, I had planned to have a quiet day, and maybe Middle Daughter would have recovered enough from her bilateral mastectomy that she could join us for an afternoon cookout as a family. If not, we could go over to Ambleside Cottage and at least be together as a local family.
Instead, I’m heading for the hospital this morning. Deborah was admitted yesterday with blood clots in both lungs and one in her left leg. She is doing pretty well. She is discouraged, and there has been a lot of pain. Please pray for our girlie. Our Heavenly Father is not surprised by this, and He walks with us. It makes even my darkest valley a place to walk with courage and confidence, and I am so grateful. But it’s hard to see our children suffer (something that has happened to us a lot in the past two years) and if He wasn’t with me? I do not like to even think about it.
So say a prayer for us, but especially for our Deborah Girl. We are so grateful for the love, support and prayers that have been so freely given to us. We need the prayers of those we love and who love us.
The first thunderstorm of the season was rolling in on dark skies. I love summer storms. The grandeur of the lightening, the crash of thunder and the smell of spring rain feeds something in my soul. I listened to the wind picking up, and felt like there was something that I should be thinking about in this context, but couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. Maybe a sadness creeping in with the usual delight?
It will be two years tomorrow (May 9, 2020) since our beloved Lena, Daniel’s sister, my sister in law and favorite aunt of our children came home to Delaware. We knew something was wrong when she said she would be meeting us at the curb of the airport in a wheelchair. We just didn’t know how wrong things really were. 45 days later, Lena was gone. It was the middle of the pandemic, life was crazy. Sometimes I felt like all of my emotions were put on hold, lost in a sea of the demands of the moment. Our handicapped adult (whose care I could not ignore, and who, because of COVID, could not go to respite) was present 24/7. Lena’s sisters, Ruth and Rachel, came in with their husbands, and her sister in law, Ruby was here as well. Our adult children were here, with the grandchildren, and while everyone needed to be here, I barely had time to think, much less process anything.
Lena loved thunderstorms and in the few weeks before she went to the hospital, she would watch the rain, long for thunder and lightening and have a delighted peace whenever she could experience a storm. In the months and now years that followed her death, every now and then, a summer storm would come through, unleashing a wave of memories and emotions that would threaten to drown me with salt water. Most of the time, it was easy to think that she was just off on one of her jaunts, heading somewhere new with her motor home. But when a storm came through, it was easy to remember how desperately we were missing her.
Our middle daughter, Deborah, had built a special place in her house for Lena to live for the months of the year that she planned to be in Delaware. Lena, a little person, had a bare 6 weeks to enjoy her suite, with lowered light switches, and a handicapped accessible bathroom with built in, slide out risers at the sink. Deborah had also chosen her kitchen appliances to allow Lena to have full access to controls and shelving that she might need. Deborah and Lena often traveled together, and it’s safe to say that Deborah knew her auntie better than any of us, and the loss to her was inestimable. A few weeks ago, Deborah sent me the link to the following song, saying that the song (not necessarily the video) reminded her of Aunt Lena.
I couldn’t listen to this song without tears, as I thought about Lena, and missed her with all her delight in the simple things of life – garden tea, tomatoes, still warm from the garden, rhubarb in almost any form, family, friends, the baby foxes playing in Deborah’s yard in the middle of the nights in May, family card games (when she would unabashedly cheat and even lose to keep someone else from getting a card she knew they needed) Summer thunderstorms, the bigger and louder the better. Deborah shared that love of thunderstorms, and she also felt keenly the emotions of this song.
Little did we know that our Deborah-girl was about to face a tumultuous life storm of her own.
On Friday, May 6, 2022, Deborah was diagnosed with breast cancer.
There have been many reassuring words. “Early,” “non-invasive,” “lots of advances,” (and some that I am not sure about) “not something your die from,” even while they hasten to add, “But we don’t know if there are more, invasive cells that we need to check out . . .”
When she went for her biopsy, they had told her that only 10-20% of the type of calcifications she had were malignant. She decided that she could go alone for the results, and when she texted that it was, in fact, malignant, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Eventually she called me and gave me preliminary results and what it means, and over these last few days, we’ve looked over her reports and tried to get a handle on what is actually going on. It’s so easy at a time like this to overthink, over imagine, over react. And this old Mama has certainly done all the “overs” that are possible. On Friday, I finally decided that I could take the day for lament. That it wouldn’t hurt to cry, to grieve, to be really sad. And then, starting Saturday morning, I could go about the business at hand – that of figuring out the “what” and “How” of all the logistics. I also felt like it was a good time to remember that Deborah had been given to The Father before she was born, that she was a child of promise, and that I didn’t need to let this draw me into the vortex of despair. Deborah herself has given me courage and examples before me the path to peace even while acknowledging that this is hard.
Sometime in the first conversations after she received the diagnosis, she said to me, “You know, Mama, this year, I’ve been choosing a song a month for my theme song for the month, and this month I chose, ‘Oh, Love that will not let me go.’ The words are comforting to me as I think about them and my present situation.” (Listen here: https://youtu.be/TvA6PYa54sg)
I’m so grateful for her attitude, for the people who have prayed for her, for our church family that gathered around her to pray for her this morning, and for an overwhelming sense that Jesus is walking with us. This is hard. We don’t know what the future holds. It looks stormy ahead. I wish I could take it for her. Just so many unknowns.
But this I do know. Deborah is not alone. Each of her siblings have responded to the news with caring and hope and promises to help where needed. Our church family is the best, and they love her, and are already in the trenches with her. She knows the Master of the Wind in this summer storm, and He is in the boat with her, with us.
We covet your prayers. The prayers are still the best gifts! So please, PLEASE! Pray for wisdom, for discernment, for peace, for health and healing, for an eye for joy on the journey, and that our awesome God would be glorified in it all.
And Yes, my heart gives grateful praise!’
I think she is an improved edition – but she is right about people saying that she looked like me. I was in the well baby clinic at Mt. Carmel Hospital back in early 1980. Deborah was a fussy baby unless she was held around her tummy, her back against me, looking out on her world. I was standing in the waiting area holding her just like that, when a perfect stranger looked at the two of us, did a double take, and then said, “if that baby looks that much like you now, what will she ever look like when she’s all grown up?!?!?!?” I laughed because I honestly did not see it. Even now, I don’t really think about it. She’s my girlie. I have loved her from the minute that I laid eyes on her. I’m so glad that she is ours!
The house phone rang into the evening quiet of the farmhouse at Shady Acres. It was my cousin, Julia. I listened to her voice carry over the miles from Virginia. It was tentative with uncertainty underlying the pleasant tenor of her familiar voice. I wondered what was in her heart.
We were planning a family reunion together, and the time was getting closer. The details had come together in usual Yoder fashion, with lots of last minute questions and glitches, and we were drawing a sympathetic sigh of relief that things were finally pretty well finalized, and it looked like everything was going to be okay. Shew!
For Julia, though, the weekend was carrying a significant weight of an unfinished task, left to her nearly two years ago when her mother, my Aunt Mimmie had passed away.
Aunt Mimmie. The youngest of the family of David and Savilla Yoder. Growing up was hard for her, and the deficits that she experienced before coming to Grandpa and Grandma’s house were probably not really understood. She had severe malnutrition resulting in Rickets and she suffered long term effects from the care she hadn’t received as an infant. In spite of being a slow learner in school, she learned how to keep house, cook and was probably the best “ironer” there ever was. She married when she was 20, gave birth to three children in the first five years and then abandoned them and her husband about five years later for a new life in Virginia. D was 9, Julia 7 and E was almost 6. In the chaotic and confusing years that followed, her three children paid dearly for the choices that she made. Their Daddy and other family members tried hard to pick up the slack and fill in the gaps, but nothing was really good enough to compensate for the lack of a loving, present mother in their lives.
Each of the three children have their stories, but Julia is the one that is in my heart. We were not close as children, and there is much that she has chosen to forgive me from our past. Never feeling quite accepted by either her mother’s family nor the church community, Julia stumbled through some devastating adolescent and early adult years searching for resolution of the inner pain and for someone to love her. She moved to Virginia, to her mother’s area, in her twenties, hoping to find a safe place for herself, and also searching for that “someone” who would help her make a stable and nurturing home for herself and her young daughter.
It was also, in all probability, an attempt to mend the relationship with the mother who had traded so much for so little; a mother who would live the rest of her almost 83 years in those Virginia hills, living in a marginal mountain house with an abusive and alcoholic man for over 30 years, working in a local hospital in Environmental Services for 27 years, then divorcing her second husband to marry someone she met at work. I am certain that Aunt Mimmie loved her third husband, and that he loved her, but the relationship was complicated and muddled, and frequently there was not enough money.
While there was, of course, increased contact between Julia and Aunt Mimmie, the relationship was anything but satisfactory. Julia, her life back on track, successful in a job, her daughter grown, tried hard to understand her mother, providing groceries and essentials in those last years, but always feeling like there was so much more needed. The animosity between them was almost tangible, leaving both of them on edge and caustic. There were times when Julia brought her mother along to Delaware for a family reunion or the death of a sibling, and they would stay with us. My heart often broke for Julia as I observed her mother’s unkindness towards her. I remember saying to someone following one of those visits, “I just do not understand why Aunt Mimmie is so resentful of Julia! It’s almost as if she is hoping that Julia will fail. And not just hoping, but trying to make it happen. It doesn’t make any sense to me. She should be so proud of how Julia has redeemed the wasted years of her life!” But it appeared that she wasn’t, and I watched with deep sadness how Julia gave up hope of ever having a relationship with this highly irregular person who had given her birth. She formed a protective shell that kept the hurt at bay, and invested in her husband and daughter and grandson, even while doing what she felt was her duty– picking up groceries, sometimes paying bills, checking up on her well-being. And Aunt Mimmie kept getting older and older.
Then, in 2019, Aunt Mimmie fell ill and in late December, less than two weeks shy her 83rd birthday, she passed away, leaving a final instruction for Julia. “Scatter my ashes on the old home place in Delaware where I grew up,” she insisted on more than one occasion, “I want to be back home.”
So after the memorial service, the attractive box came to Julia, who had promised. She promptly wrapped it up and stuck it on a closet shelf. “Every time I open that closet door,” she confided to me one time, “I say, ‘I know you’re in here, Mama!!!” She said it with a self conscious little laugh, but it actually weighed heavily on her. Our extended family was supposed to have a gathering at the old home place in September of 2020, and early on, Julia expressed a desire to have a bit of a memorial and scatter the ashes at that time. Bit COVID happened, and the reunion got rescheduled for a year later. This was where we were at last. September, 2021. The reunion was held in Dover, 30 miles north of the farm, with no plans to do a memorial and scatter the ashes. However, Julia needed to finish this chore, and she said that she was going to bring them along.
“I think,” she told my younger sister, Alma (who, along with her husband Jerrel, has lived on the home place for over 35 years) “that I’m just going to drive by and throw them out as I go past.”
Alma did not think this was the greatest idea. “It’s kinda creepy to me,” she told me later, “to think that Aunt Mimmie’s ashes might be anywhere, blowing around the property.” I was pretty sure that Julia had no intentions of actually doing that, but I also thought that something wasn’t right. I decided to talk to her about it the next time that we talked and ask her if she wanted me to go with her after the reunion to spread her mother’s ashes. It didn’t seem like it was the sort of thing anyone should have to do alone. This is what was feeding the uncertainty in her voice when she called me. I brought it up and made my offer, she readily accepted, and we began to plan.
The reunion was a wonderful time! There was incredible food, a rousing outdoor auction, good fellowship and wonderfully reminiscent singing. All the stuff that good family reunions are made of. It was over at noon on Sunday, and Julia and I planned to go in the later afternoon to honor Aunt Mimmie’s last request. We came home, Julia took a short rest, but she was restless, and I sensed that she was “dreading the doing, but anxious to have it done.” There didn’t seem any good reason to delay. We had agreed that we wanted “Amazing Grace” piped in from the car stereo and that a prayer would be said.
We collected gloves, the box and and set out. I was scarcely down the road when I heard Julia weeping in the passenger’s seat. The heartbroken words came tumbling over each other so interspersed with the sobs that I could barely understand them. I looked over at my cousin and thought about what it would be like to be doing this one final chore for someone so significant as a mother with so many bad memories and nearly alone. I heard the anguish in her voice and it sounded to me like the voice of her little brother, sitting under the open window of a classroom at Greenwood Mennonite School, some 50 years ago. “I want my mommy,” sobbed the confused, abandoned little boy. “I want my mommy!” But that mommy was never there for him again. She came to his funeral when he drowned at 17, but it was too late.
I looked at my beautiful cousin, weeping, crumpled on the seat beside me, and thought of a song that had been rattling around in my head so often in recent weeks and I asked her if I could put it on. I said to her, “This may apply more for your Daddy than your Mama, but it’s also for you . . . “
(Excerpt) “ . . . ‘Cause there’s a wound here in my heart where something’s missing
And they tell me that it’s gonna heal with time
But I know you’re in a place where all your wounds have been erased
And knowing yours are healed is healing mine
The only scars in heaven, they won’t belong to me and you
There’ll be no such thing as broken, and all the old will be made new
And the thought that makes me smile now, even as the tears fall down
Is that the only scars in heaven are on the hands that hold you now
I know the road you walked was anything but easy
You picked up your share of scars along the way
Oh, but now you’re standing in the sun, you’ve fought your fight and your race is run
The pain is all a million miles away . . .”
She listened and sobbed quietly and then the song finished and the sobbing settled into an occasional sniffle. She talked about life with her Mama the last few miles, then we pulled in to the long farm lane leading back to the ditch bank at the edge of the first farm field of the old home place.
I parked the minivan, started Amazing Grace on the speakers, turned them up high, and together we went to the back of the van, donned gloves, carried the decorative box across the autumn weeds to a rise in the ditch bank, and surveyed the area. I looked questioningly at my red-eyed cousin.
“I think this is far enough,” she said simply, and I agreed. I pulled the surprisingly heavy bag from the box and looked at Julia. Neither of us quite knew what to do next. Untie the ribbon? Who should do what? The bag that held the earthly remains of a person we knew and loved weighed like dark wet sand in my hands.
“Do you want to hug her one more time?” I asked impulsively, and held it out to her.
“Oh, Mama!” Cried Julia, and wrapped it to her chest and wept again. Then we opened the bag and together, broadcasted handfuls of ashes into the quiet September evening until the bag was nearly empty. Somewhere behind us the strains of “Amazing Grace” were echoing sweetly. We emptied the remaining ashes into the weeds at our feet, a prayer was said, and Julia said, “Rest in peace, Mama. I’ve done what I promised you I’d do . . .”
And she had! The relief was tangible, the freedom was remarkable. The spot in the closet was empty and the cloud was gone. It took courage and commitment and determination . . . And she wrapped it up in forgiveness and put it away, somewhere in the corner of her memory and heart, and when she takes it all out to remember, it is my prayer that she could hear her Mama say in her heart, the words she never heard in her life, “You done good, Julia-girl. I surely do love you!”
As I said to our families, “Some of you have gotten this, and some of you haven’t–
and some don’t really care!
For those of you who do, here is our family Christmas Letter and Photo Card”
Dear Family and Friends, December 25, 2021
It’s Christmas Day all over the world! What Good News to a world that needs good news today as much as any time in history, “Unto you is born . . . A Savior!” To this truth, we have given our very lives, and we believe it today as firmly as we ever have.
This letter is late, but it has been incredibly sweet to receive Christmas cards and pictures from many of you in these past few weeks. The cards are inspiring and precious, the faces are dear, and when there is a personal note or letter? That’s just icing on the cake! Thank you each and every one who have remembered us.
There is some really BIG news for us as a couple that has truly defined this year in exciting and unexpected ways. We ended 2020 with both of us, (as well as our handicapped adult, L) sick with COVID. Daniel & I recovered fairly well, although there were days when I wondered if I was going or coming. Bursitis had settled into my hip, I had some other health issues, but L needed care, even when my own vitals were worse than hers. It was in those hard and lonely days that I felt strongly that my 35-year career as a care provider was coming to an end. I had a strong sense that I had God’s word to me on it, that it would happen soon, and that when it happened, no one would miss that it was HIM and no one else that did it. The story is a very long one, and I’m not at liberty to tell it all, but following her extended bout with COVID, L had a stroke, ended up in the hospital for about 6 weeks, and was then admitted to a long-term care facility near her mother and sisters in upstate Delaware. The move, the timing, the place, the 24-hour care, and a whole lot more were all part of a miracle. She had only eight months to be near her mother, to have whatever visitation was allowed, and to be as comfortable physically as was possible. We didn’t know it then, but her journey was almost over, and on November 21st, she went quietly into the presence of Jesus. She was a part of our family for over 21 years, and she taught me Life Lessons that often stopped me in my tracks and refined me in ways that nothing else could have, and I’m grateful for the years we had with her. I’m also glad that her suffering is now over. We miss her quiet presence in the corner of our little room off the kitchen. Through most of the year 2020, she was here 24/7, and I seldom left her. I sometimes still think in terms of arranging care for her, and have dreams about being somewhere and thinking that she is still at home, and I haven’t gotten her up, showered, dressed, fed and medicated. (“Oh, dear! Poor L!!! I need to get back home right now!!!”) It’s disconcerting! However, the ensuing months have proven that the timing of her leaving was nothing but a “God Thing” as the events of this year have unfolded.
For the first time in almost 46 years, Daniel and I find ourselves alone without another dependent human being in our care, either foster child, our own children, or one, two or three handicapped adults. It’s more than a little strange to suddenly be free to do things together, to pick up and go if we want to. I am no longer responsible to another authority for time spent, medications given, classes taken, appointments met, daily documentation done, monthly paperwork and reports for case managers, state nurses, and support personnel submitted, and it feels really good! To both of us! One night in particular was pivotal in our understanding. I was getting something ready to take to a young family in our church and giving Daniel instructions about the delivery, when we suddenly looked at each other and realized that I could go, too! And I did! The realization gave us an almost heady sense of freedom!
Even in the things this year that were not easy or what we wanted, there has been reassurance over and over again that God went before and freed up my time to do things that would never have been possible. In February, Daniel was on the chicken house roof and slipped on some ice and slid to the ground, suffering a couple of compression fractures in his vertebrae (Lumbar #1 and Thoracic #12). He didn’t need surgery (thankfully!) and it could have been so much worse, but it has impacted Daniel’s usual busy moving about and strong-arming just about anything he wants to. The pain is real, and it does haunt him still, sometimes worse than others, and he has learned that there are some things that he just shouldn’t do. That doesn’t necessarily stop him, (although it should!) but I am free to help and to spend time with him, and we are both learning a new normal.
Daniel has been recruited often for sundry jobs in the plumbing industry since his retirement. He really didn’t want to go back to running his own business and even more, knew it wasn’t wise to take a job that required daily, physical labor. However, in the early summer, he was asked to help out at a local private inspection agency and after much thought, and discussing it with each of his five children (“Dad, if it’s what you want to do, go for it!” was the unanimous response) he agreed to help out part time. He has proven to be a valuable employee to First State Inspections, and has enjoyed it very much. He works 3-4 days most weeks, sometimes less, occasionally more, and has procured a Maryland license as well so that he is more useful to the company. I like him to be home, but I also enjoy seeing his interest in the contacts that he makes and the places he gets to see as he travels up and down the coast.
We enjoyed a Mark Yoder Family reunion this summer, held at the farm that belonged to my grandfather, then my father, and now belongs to my sister, Alma, and her husband, Jerrel Heatwole, Sr. It was a most gratifying time for me. The memories of being a child on those very acres, and spending time that day with all of our children and grandchildren, all of my brothers and sisters, and many of our nieces and nephews, made me feel peaceful and happy. I was reminded of how good a childhood our Daddy and Mama provided for us, and how they lived their faith before us in ways that impacted us. We cannot really know how much they sacrificed for us, but the older I get, the more I understand how important the values are that they taught us, and how they must have felt as they watched us grow into adulthood. They weren’t perfect, (they never claimed to be) but they were safe to follow, and they loved us. I am grateful for Daddy’s prayers and Mama’s nurture and for the memories that are always with me.
After the reunion, our three Ohio grandsons; Si, Liam, and Frankie (now 12, 11 & 10) spent about another week between here in Delaware and Washington, DC. One day we took our oldest granddaughter, Charis, (12) and the three boys to the Sight and Sound production of “Esther.” We had such a happy day, and the production was so good that we hope to take them to see next year’s production of “David” when, if plans carry, they spend another week on the east coast. What a time to look forward to!
Daniel & I had been planning a trip up through the New England States for some time, and on Saturday, September 18th, when the chickens were finally gone and the local things arranged, we headed out. It was a magnificent time! We headed west, stopped at the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania the first afternoon, and got to Raph and Gina’s that evening. We spent a happy Sunday and Monday there, and left Tuesday morning, stopped in Solon, Ohio, for a delightful breakfast with Daniel’s youngest aunt, Esther Zeitz. She not only made the breakfast but sent us on with fortifications for our trip! Later that day, we got to Waterloo, NY, and spent two nights with Rachel (Daniel’s sister) and Ivan Zehr. There we had supper invitations to the homes of two of their children, and met members of the family that we had never seen. From there, we revisited Boldt Castle on the St. Lawrence Seaway (a place we visited on our honeymoon over 48 years ago, and have followed the renovations since by stopping whenever we are in the area). While there, we got to witness a wedding on the lawn of the beautifully refurbished estate. The happy days seemed to run together after that—we visited the Almanzo Wilder Homestead, stopped on whim at the spectacular High Falls Gorge near Wilmington, NY, crossed Lake Champlain by ferry 3X! (It wasn’t planned, but it was still fun!) and stopped at covered bridges in Vermont and New Hampshire. We took a canoe portage trail near Leed, Maine to see an impressive, turbulent section of the Androscoggin’s River, then headed to Bar Harbor where we took an afternoon cruise on a 151-foot Schooner, the Margaret Todd. We took various scenic routes in our travels in hopes of seeing a moose in the wild, but there were none to be seen, much to Daniel’s disappointment. We visited the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory (and YES! I did go up to the top of that 447-foot monster and actually “observed”). We stopped at Historical Fort Knox and wandered around those sobering grounds for several hours, then headed out to see if we could find a “Fresh Maine Lobster” for a Certain Man. We found exactly that at a dubious looking place in Belfast. Young’s Lobster Pound plucked a living lobster from one of their watery crates and cooked it to perfection. Daniel was delighted with it and I enjoyed a bowl of clam chowder that had more clam in it than was necessary. From there we made our way on towards Massachusetts. We considered stopping in Salem to learn more about the witch trials, but the town was overrun by people, so we went on to Lexington where we visited the Minuteman National Historical Park. We walked one of the trails and then went to the North Bridge at Concord, where “The Shot That Was Heard Around the World” was fired on April 19, 1775. The bridge is modest and the grounds uncluttered and peaceful. The stories there, both told and untold, gave us a quiet sense of awe. Then it was back on the road again. All along the way, we stopped whenever there was a lighthouse that was accessible. By day or by night, these New England wonders drew us in and we were always glad. We stopped at an old timey diner in Woonsocket, Rhode Island on the next to the last day of our trip, had an impressive amount of food for an equally surprising small bill, and found our last hotel. Which is also a matter requiring some attention. We slept in some chain motels that were surprisingly good and others that were disappointing. We also slept in out of the way, little places that were absolutely enchanting. We made careful note of those because we really want to go back again. Will we go? We certainly plan to, because one of the places we had planned to see on this trip was Prince Edward Island, but it took almost an act of Congress to get into Canada, so we gave it up. In the months since, we’ve made new friends, Tim and Nancy Jacob and their family, who live in New Brunswick, Canada, and we want to visit them and P.E.I. before too many more years pass. But God knows our future, and we will see what happens.
Our children and grandchildren continue to give us much joy, as well as cause for prayer. Christina, Jesse and Charis still live down the road from us and we see them often. Jesse still works for Burris Logistics, Christina is a homemaker, Charis, a 7th grade student. Deborah is across the woods and is still a hospice nurse. She has done an impressive lot with plants and landscaping this year around her lovely home, Ambleside Cottage. Raph and Regina are still in Canton, Ohio. Regina is working part time at NuCamp as a receptionist while Raph is enjoying his promotion to Customer Experience Manager at the same business. The boys and Ellie (now 4) are growing and the personalities are diverse and interesting. Lem and Jessica have continued to work from home (in DC, at the same jobs as last year) while coping with Jessica’s serious health issues. A rare stomach disorder has taken a toll on the Jessica we knew, but in the last few months, there has been a marked improvement, giving us hope for better days ahead. Their little Stella, (also now 4) started preschool in September, and loves it. Rachel and Rob rented their own place (also in DC) this summer. Rachel continues as a therapist and Rob is working on his Masters’ degree. The two of them came for our annual cinnamon roll baking day, and Rob helped me roll, cut, fill, and bake, while Rachel got to help with one of her favorite childhood jobs- that of helping her Daddy deliver the finished product to neighbors, friends, and family. It was our best day ever for cinnamon rolls!
This year has been full of lots more, but my page is full, and I’m going to quit. We trust your Christmas had meaning, and that Hope for the New Year warms your heart and gives you courage! And in the words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us, Everyone!”
We send our love.
Daniel & Mary Ann
I do keep changing the recipe — a little here, a little there, and I’ve found that it works better to have a kitchen scales to make this. In any case, what I said on my last blog about this is still true:
“I’ve been asked rather often whether I give out my Party Mix recipe. I’ve never been one to keep my recipes a secret. However, over and over again, I give someone a recipe and the recipient reads over it and decides that it’s too much work or too big or too fattening or too expensive or whatever.
So let me just tell you before you even begin —
THIS RECIPE IS TOO MUCH WORK, TOO BIG, TOO FATTENING, AND TOO EXPENSIVE!
There, now you know.
So you can adjust the size or skip the steps or substitute the ingredients to your heart’s content. And you might be just as happy with the results as I am with my results. I can only tell you that it has taken me years to fine tune this recipe and have it where I like it and feel good about giving it away. Maybe some of you would like to get together with friends or family members and share the ingredients. And that’s fine, too. This specific recipe with this amount of ingredients will make almost 4 gallons of party mix.“
Mary Ann’s Party Mix (Smaller amount)
1 – 12 oz. box of Honey Nut Chex
1 – 7.5 oz. bag of regular Bugle snack
3 – 6 oz. bags of Caramel Sweet and Salty Bugle Snacks
8 oz. Pepperidge Farm Goldfish snacks – (Or any small cheese cracker of your choice – I use “Whales” from Walmart))
8 0z. Pretzels (I like the very skinny sticks, but it doesn’t matter)
1 box (11 oz.) Club Miniatures (or a box of Ritz sandwich crackers, peanut butter or cheese)
1 ½ lbs. pecans, large pieces
3 cups (or 3 oz.) regular Cheerios
3.5 oz. Wheat Chex
3 oz. Corn Chex
3 oz. Rice Chex
1 lb. cashews (large pieces or halves)
1 lb. large Spanish peanuts
Mix all together in a very large container.
Then mix together thoroughly:
4 Tablespoons Lawry’s Season Salt
2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
I sprinkle this over the container of mix a little at a time, tossing often to distribute evenly.
Mix the following, using a whisk:
3 generous cups vegetable oil
1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce. (again, generous!)
When that is thoroughly mixed, pour it over the mx, tossing again after each cup or so until it is gone. The toss and toss and toss until the oil mixture is evenly distributed.
Take three of the large foil pans (like 11.5”X19”X3”) and divide the mix evenly between TWO of them, keeping an empty one in reserve. Preheat oven to 250, and space the racks so that you can get both roasters in at the same time. Put the two roasters into the preheated oven. Every 15 minutes, dump one of the roasters into the empty foil pan, and then dump the other into the one that you just emptied. Put the party mix that had been on the bottom rack onto the top rack, and the top one on the bottom. Bake for two hours, changing the pans every time, and every 15 minutes. After the two hours is up, empty onto a kitchen table that has been covered with brown paper. (If I’ve used Ritz Bits sandwich crackers, NOW is when I don a pair of latex gloves and search through the pile and just “blick” them apart. (This is strictly personal preference; I just do not care for sandwiched crackers in my party mix). When totally cool, store in tight containers until ready to use. (Some of my relatives also store it in Ziploc freezer bags in the freezer.) If you have questions, please call. 302-382-0418, or 302-422-5952
It was a lovely Saturday. There was a season of rain that made it unnecessary for me to water my outdoor flowers. I puttered around in my house and did Saturday kinds of things. There was a baby shower for a friend at 4:30 in Dover, and I planned on attending. Youngest Daughter was driving over from DC to attend as well, and I wanted to see her as well as celebrate her good friend’s expected baby boy.
It dawned on me that I had a package that needed to go to the UPS store in Dover – an Amazon return that was actually past it’s return time, but I checked with Amazon and it appeared that I could still return it. However, that store closed at 4:00, so I decided to go a little early, take care of that and then go to the shower.
I had made 9 pie crusts the night before and put them into my refrigerator because it had gotten late and the bursitis in my right shoulder made it feel as if it wasn’t a good idea to roll them out just before trying to sleep. The morning passed with usual speed, and suddenly, I realized that I had better get on those before it got any later.
Certain Man, who had been traipsing in and out of the house, doing any of a number of important things, stopped at the counter where I was rolling out the crusts and said, “I’m going to the chicken house. Before you leave, Just stop out at House #2 and let me know that you are leaving.”
I looked at the clock and said, “I need to be leaving in 45 minutes,” (thinking that maybe we could just say our ‘good-byes’ now and save me the trip to the chicken house).
“That’s fine,” he said, as he went out the door, “I’ll be around.”
I hurriedly finished the crusts, stashed them in the freezer, gathered up the gift that I had for the new baby, and got into better clothes. I had some new leather tie shoes that I save for good occasions, and even though they aren’t stylish, they are comfortable. Because they are rather expensive, I had been trying to keep them dry so they will last longer. Even though it had been so rainy, the day had cleared. They were perfect for this outside baby shower. I finally was ready, but I was, of course, running late. I backed our trusty minivan out of the garage and headed for the chicken house. Oh, boy! The ground was really squishy. I could hear the water rolling off the tires as I drove in the grass up to House #2. I certainly didn’t feel like getting out of the van with my good shoes. So, I blew my horn a couple of times. There was no response. Sigh. I guess that I would need to go to the door and holler. I was NOT going to go all the way into that stinky chicken house when I was on my way to a baby shower. No siree! If he didn’t answer, I would just go on my way. I cautiously opened the door to the mini van and stepped out onto the very soft ground beside the main door to House #2, then up onto the muddy cement pad that goes into the chicken house and opened the door. Pee-yew! This place does not smell like a party! The lights were very dim and the nearly grown chickens were resting quietly. This did not indicate that Certain Man was anywhere inside. I stuck my head in a little way and looked. And hollered. There was no response.
“Huh! I know he said house two, and it’s getting later and later!” I hollered again. But there was no response. “Well,” I decided, “I guess I will check over at House #3 before leaving.” I stepped back, shut the door and turned to step back to my van.
It wasn’t there! IT WASN’T THERE!!!
I thought my heart would stop. I looked around frantically and saw my van, ambling under its own power about a hundred feet away, headed aimlessly towards House #1. I had forgotten to put the simple thing in park!
I do not run. Pretty much because it doesn’t go well for me. I’ve been known to tell my family that if they see me running, they had better run, too, because something terrible is about to happen. I think the last time I exerted any amount of speed was when I was trying to save 2-year-old Liam from getting onto the road back in 2013. You can read that story here: https://maryannyutzy.com/2013/08/27/that-shadows-fall-on-brightest-hours/ (I actually thought about that at this moment! Isn’t it peculiar how things go crashing through a person’s head at times like this). I think I was trying to find an excuse to not do what absolutely needed doing and demanded doing immediately! Oh, where was Certain Man when I needed him? Except, wait a minute! I didn’t want him to know about this – at least not at this juncture.
I started off hurriedly in the same direction that the mini van was headed. I had shut the door when I got out, so I knew that somehow, I had to get to the van, open the door, get inside, and get it stopped before it hit anything. I didn’t seem to be gaining on the vehicle at the present speed, so I tried to turn things up a notch. The ground was very soggy, and my poor shoes squished in protest. I saw that the van was getting slower and as I hurried, I watched it inch its way into the middle of a very large, deep puddle between the two chicken houses, and stop. In retrospect, I realize that it probably was not going any farther, but at the moment, all I could think was, “It’s going to take off any second. I need to get there! As in NOW!!!” I thought dismally of my resolve to keep this pair of shoes clean and dry, and marched bravely into that very large deep puddle. By the time I reached the van, I was in water up to my ankles. I yanked open the door, reached across and put the gearshift into park and pulled my feet, first one and then the other into the van after trying to “dog-shake” the water off before setting them inside. I sat briefly, relieved that there was no damage to the vehicle, then put it back into drive and inched my way out of the very large deep puddle, and hoped not to get stuck on top of everything else.
I sat on the chicken house lane at the end of the chicken houses and looked at the time. I decided that I would try to find Certain Man in House#3 but that I would make it short. I motored around the end of House #2 and drove down to the main door of House #3. I made sure the van was in park and blew the horn, then repeated the whole “Poke my head in and holler” business. I thought I saw him down the house a bit, but didn’t know if he heard me. I decided that I was just going to go on without talking to him, and began to turn the van around when he poked his head out of the door, cheerful as all get out. I decided that I wasn’t going to waste time telling him my story until later. I told him that I really needed to get going if I was going to make the UPS store, and he told me to “Get goin’ then!” So, I did!
I looked at my shoes and thought about going into the house to dry them off, but they actually looked none the worse for their trauma, and there were no water marks on my hosiery, so I decided to not worry about it and go to the UPS Store (I actually made it with about 5 minutes to spare) and then on to baby shower. Which is exactly what I did and had a wonderful time. My feet didn’t even squish in my shoes when I walked, and in time, the shoes seemed to dry out just fine.
And so, I tell you again. I don’t run! And if you see me attempting to run, after you make sure that nothing is chasing me, would you please check to see if I’m chasing something that is needing to be caught? And chase it for me?
I’d be grateful!
Some of you have asked about my “nasty fall.” I told my siblings that I would write the story for them and it has been evolving over the last ten days and is finally DONE!!! I am amending it slightly (but not much) for my blog.
My good husband (who, I hasten to add, has been very kind and understanding and considerate) had something to say the other day when I said that I was still working on “My Story,”
“I’m not sure why this is taking so long. You could say it in three sentences and be done with it!”
I said, “That wouldn’t be any fun!”
“I know,” he said, with a sigh, ” It just isn’t how you do things. You need to go on and on and on . . .”
(Yes he did! He said that!)
So I am going to do this! I’m going to tell it in three sentences and you can stop if you want to and delete the whole thing. But first– How Daniel would tell it (In less than three sentences).
How I would tell it in three sentences?
“I tripped and fell going into the doctor’s office. I thought I had broken my hip. I hadn’t.”
And then, for those of you who want a distraction at this particular time –this is the story of how that all happened: (And if you don’t want to read it all, Please don’t feel obligated. After all, I do “go on and on and on . . .”)
For some time, I’ve been troubled by bouts of bursitis in my right shoulder. Then, in the last intense months of caregiving, I developed the same in my left hip. It hasn’t been any fun. I’ve had shots at previous times that were extremely effective, so I made an appointment to get repeats in both before the reunion and especially before the week when our grandsons were coming. In the midst of all the confusion, I missed the appointment because I hadn’t written it down in the right place. I had in my head that it was a Friday morning, when, in fact it was Thursday. Bummer! I had to wait for Dr. C’s assistant, H.M,, to get back from his vacation and caught up on his patients. So the next available appointment was made for Thursday, July 8, 2021.
Between the time that I made the first appointment and July 8th, there came a day when I sat down HARD on the arm of the loveseat when I intended to sit on the cushion to comfort a teary eyed Charis. She and I both heard something crack – initially followed by nothing too noticeable, but — “I’m pretty sure,” I told a wide eyed Charis, “that it was only the sound that a finger makes when you pop the joint — like cracking your fingers . . .” She was satisfied, but as time wore on, there was rather annoying discomfort in my tailbone.
Then the morning of our July 3rd reunion, Liam and Frankie were helping with the tea, emptying the thawed containers of concentrate into the cooler and rinsing them out. I put a towel down to catch the inevitable drips- and they did a good job! I was actually impressed with how little ended up on the floor. A bit later, however, I came flying out of the kitchen to get something at the laundry sink, and missed the towel by the minutest inch and my left foot went crashing into the toe board under the sink with vociferous force! I was still barefooted, and there was no protection at all for my toes. Ow! That really hurt!!! I hung onto the edge of the laundry sink trying hard to keep from crying. And when I gazed upon my foot, at least three toes looked crooked and were turning purple. I couldn’t get them into my shoe so I stuffed them into my sandals- which I seldom wear these days, and went off to the reunion. I did mention it a time or two, but there were so many people that I loved to distract me, and it seemed inconsequential in the larger scope of things. Besides, my beloved family is known to laugh helplessly about such things and I wasn’t quite ready for that yet!
We got home from the reunion, and things were in a grand upheaval at our house because all of our offspringin’s were home and there was so much (and so many) needing attention. But those toes really hurt! And my left hip really hurt. And my right shoulder really hurt! And my tailbone really hurt! I couldn’t sleep on my right side, couldn’t sleep on my left side, have never slept on my stomach, and the tailbone was making it hard to get comfy on my back. I got to thinking how providential it was that I was scheduled for a visit with P. Orthopedics. I would have them check out the toe and the tail at the same time! When Thursday morning finally rolled around, I was feeling pretty vulnerable.
Before I left to go in I was talking to Christina and said, “Would you please pray for me this morning? I feel like a car wreck, going in there, with all these parts hurting. H.M. and I go way back, and he is always so kind to me. I’m afraid I’ll have to cry if he’s in the least bit sympathetic.. So please pray that I don’t cry.” She, understanding and caring as ever, duly promised, and off I went. Our Minivan was going to the beach later that day with the grandchildren and Jesse, so I was in Daniel’s pickup so as not to make a time crunch. I had forgotten my handicapped permit, so I needed to park some distance away. But I was feeling hopeful and cheerful, so I got parked and headed up to the door. There was a car parked in front of the entrance, where a woman was helping a very slow and incapacitated man into the car. I took a step up onto the sidewalk, and the two of them looked up briefly. We were exchanging pleasantries and I was beginning to feel hopeful and happy (and grateful that I wasn’t in as bad shape as the man in the loading zone) when that terrible feeling of catching my sandal on an obstruction happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to think.
SPLAT!!! I went down hard on my right hip and I felt my elbow scrape against the cement. The immediate pain was impossible to ignore. There was greatly concerned noises from the woman. She ran over to where I had landed, then said , “Can you get up? I’ll run get help!” She went back over to the man, came back over to me sprawled helplessly, but struggling to get up, and said, “Yes! I’ll run get someone! He will be fine until I get back!”
“Yeah,” I heard the man say, “I’m not goin’ anywhere!” and she ran off.
I decided that I HAD to get up somehow, (I hate when people try to pick me up!) and I struggled to get to my feet. I finally got to my feet and tried to take a step. Oh, wow! I almost went down again. I grabbed the corner of the building for support and ceased my endeavors. It felt like the ball of my hip joint was going to go up out of the socket, and I couldn’t walk. I stood stupidly on the spot. I was SURE my hip was broken! Two staff people were there shortly, one on either side, trying to assist me a few feet to a convenient wheel chair that was sitting in the entranceway. The pain was overwhelming, and I was so embarrassed and frustrated and aggravated! Somehow I got into the chair, and they were reassuring me that they were going to get me cleaned up. By now I WAS crying, (without any specific sympathetic murmurings) and as we rounded the corner, the waiting room was wall to wall with people that were all looking at me. My right elbow was bleeding but the staff said I needed to sign in, and pushed me up to the window where, somewhere, about eye level, was a clipboard.. I betook my arm with its mutilated, hamburger-looking skin,
and put an illegible “MYutzy” on the line. Then someone had pity on the poor girl and took me back to a room. where they cheerfully cleaned up my elbow and put some cream on it. They decided to “just keep you back here,” to wait for my appointment with H. M.. I was very relieved about that, to say the least. They said that someone would come and get me for X-rays shortly.
I wasn’t really thinking much about my left hip and right shoulder, tailbone and toe at this point — but at the mention of X-rays, I suddenly remembered the real reason for this visit in the first place. I wondered what they were going to do about all that. Of course, since my hip was probably broken, the other items would be of no consequence, but nevertheless, I asked. They went and conversed with H.M. and he said “Not the toe. I don’t have time today. But we are going to X-ray both hips and that will ‘catch the coccyx’ and we can see what’s going on.”
The next thing I knew, I was wheeled into X-Ray, and put into all sorts of uncomfortable positions. I lay there on that table- thinking the worst, sure that I was going to need hospitalization/surgery/hip replacement — Something radical, and it was not a good feeling. I confess that it didn’t feel very fair- lying there, SURE my hip was broken, and wondering why in the world God let it happen to me- like I should somehow be exempt. It took some serious soul work to quiet this rebel heart (and I felt like I NEEDED to sort things out before I actually knew I was going to be alright). I’ve walked many a mile with this Heavenly Father, and I know that He is to be trusted. And so I did some praying on that table, repeated some precious verses, and thought of songs of comfort. Strangely enough, the song that kept ringing through my head was the third verse of “Away in a Manger!”
“Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me, I pray
Bless all the dear children
In thy tender care
And take us to Heaven
To live with thee there.”
My heart was quieted, and I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, reminding me that there were lots and lots of people in far worse situations than I was and that many didn’t have the comfort of knowing they were not alone. The tech got the films they needed, and then instructed me to get off the table and back into the wheelchair. She did not offer any assistance at all. (“H-m-m-m. Maybe that hip isn’t broken after all,”) Then someone pushed me down the hall, back to a room, and I waited some more. I heard patients being brought in and out around me, heard casts being cut off, muted conversations, and then finally, about 45 minutes after the fall, H.M. brought his cheerful face into the room and looked at me with a quizzical expression.
“It’s not broken!” he announced. “Your bones are actually perfect!”
I could hardly believe him! “It’s not???” I asked. “Then what is wrong?“
He explained about bone bruises and arthritis and all sorts of things and then said, “Your tailbone is fine, too. Just arthritis there. However, we are going to do the planned injections to the right shoulder and left hip and I think you should go for physical therapy for this hard fall. Or you can just wait it out. It will get better, though. And the more that you use it, the better!”
“That’s the second time I’ve fallen on your sidewalk,” I ventured ruefully. “You would think I would know enough to be careful. But because of my toes, I was wearing my sandals, and they just caught somehow . . .”
That caused him to pounce upon my exposed purple toes and waggle them back and forth. “I can tell by just examining them,” he said, “if they are broken, and these are not!” He waggled them back and forth some more. I refrained from hurting him. “There might be a crack in the one,” he said reflectively, “but we can’t tell unless we X-ray, and we wouldn’t do anything about it anyway, so it really doesn’t make sense to X-ray it.”
And suddenly, I felt a whole lot better about my toes and my tailbone. But this hip! What was I ever going to do? After the two promised injections he turned me loose. He was in a bit of a hurry because he had broken a tooth on a frozen chocolate chip (!) and needed to get out of there for a dentist appointment. I stood in the middle of the room, feeling unable to move an inch, much less actually walk. “How am I supposed to walk?” I asked, hating the piteous note in my voice.
He looked at me with a strange look on his face and hesitated a bit.. “I honestly don’t know,” he said. “You’ll have to figure it out!” and he was gone. No cane? No walker? No nothing??? “Oh, Lord Jesus, help me now!”
I started to hobble to the door. Two steps. Stop. Regroup. Deep breath. Three steps. Stop. Grab the counter. Hold on for dear life. Whisper a prayer. Breathe deeply. Hobble some more. I finally made it to the checkout window, made a return appointment, picked up the paperwork for the Physical Therapist and then hobbled by starts and stops through the door, out to the waiting room. It was empty! That was a relief! Then I hobbled some more and held onto stuff and finally got myself through the door and outside where I was going to wait for Christina to come and pick me up. I was just about ready to give in to copious tears when I heard the sliding doors behind me open and a young woman came out from the Physical therapy office that shares the building with my orthopedic group.
“Please, ma’am,” she said concernedly. “Can I help you? You look like you need assistance!”
I turned tearful eyes towards her and said, “Thank you, but I think I will be alright. I’m going to wait out here for my daughter who will be here soon. But thank you!” She looked like she didn’t quite believe me, but after another worried glance went back inside. Pretty soon, I saw Christina and Jesse pulling into the parking lot and I hobbled over to the minivan and got in beside my Beloved Son in Law. Christina took the keys to Daniel’s pickup and headed out to where it was parked. Jesse took me home and gathered up the grandchildren (who were worried sick) and Deborah and headed off to the beach so as to distract everyone, and I tried to find a comfortable place where I could sit and ponder.
I kept thinking about what H.M. had said to me about “the best thing you can do for it is to keep moving. Use it!” And I thought about the fact that it was probably sound medical practice to not give me a cane or a walker, because it forced me to try to find a way to move and walk. (I decided to forgive him for that). Then I thought about the fact that with the grandchildren here, there was more than enough that needed doing, plus Rachel and Rob (Youngest Daughter and Beloved Son in Law #2) were moving on Saturday and I wanted to make food for that as well as help if I could. There was also the issue of needing to take the boys back to Ohio somewhere along the way, and lots of digging out to do. Thrown in on top of everything else was Dave Hertzler’s funeral and I didn’t want to be left out of helping with that.
I decided that if “using it was the best thing I could do for it,” I would use it. And so I did exactly that, using pain medication and trying to rest before things got too out of hand, and we made it through. We even took the boys back to Ohio on Sunday. We had to take Daniel’s pickup because the A.C. and the transmission on our minivan started acting up. Unknown to me, that was a blessing because I actually can sit more comfortably in Daniel’s Colorado than I can in our minivan. So that was providential. There were three boys on the skimpy back seat, but even that was no problem at all. They did extremely well!
then came breezing home to our own bed, our own house and believe me, it was sweet!
So there you have it – the story of the fall and the ensuing week and I’m here to tell you that I’m doing far better than expected. So much so that I’m not going back to Physical Therapy unless this healing curve reverses and I start to feel bad again. I’m still hobbling sometimes, and there is still pain sometimes, but I’m far better than I ever dreamed and for this and so much more, my heart gives grateful praise!
You know, sometimes things just do not go the way we would like! Certain Man has been wanting to tear down half of the older chicken house (commonly referred to as Chicken House #1) for quite some time. He has been planning this specifically for over a year, and last fall, he contracted with Warfel Contstruction to replace the roof on the half that he wanted to keep. When that was completed, he went in and removed a strip from the building that would separate the two structures so that he and his friend, Steve Parsons, could close in the end wall of the part that he was going to keep. He left the tin of the roof intact because he didn’t want it raining in until he got the end wall weather proofed. He considered tearing the old part down with a couple of church frolics and some rented dumpsters and maybe a borrowed backhoe, but he kept weighing the reality of the intensity of the work and wondering what it would cost to hire a local demolition company that he had used before. He finally called for an estimate earlier this month, and the price was considerably less than he had expected. However, his last flock of chickens was giving him grief and he was very uncertain about whether he could afford to hire the demolition crew. So when the settlement was in and there was enough to cover, he called Macklin’s to schedule. Macklin’s put it on the schedule for February 24-26th.
Well, as you know, we’ve had some bad weather and the roof was very icy. The chicken house was ready except for removing the one strip of tin that covered the split between the two ends. “Couple of screws,” he told me, “like six or so, and it won’t take much.” No, he didn’t need any help. “Piece of cake” once the ice was off. I noticed that he was keeping an eye on that roof and would sometimes talk about how he could get up there and get it done. He wasn’t too concerned, though, because Macklin’s was still a week out, and things were supposed to warm up. He would get up there first chance he got and take care of it.
Then Friday, someone from Macklin’s stopped by in the afternoon and asked if they could start Monday- (the 21st). Daniel said he thought that would work, he just needed to get up there and get those few screws out! And he also needed to call Dave Burkholder to get the last of his things out of the end that was being torn down. Dave was on the trigger and got everything out. Saturday evening he sent Daniel a text. “I got everything out that I want. Tell Macklin to tear it down.” So the only thing left to do was to get those few screws out and it would be ready to roll. But Saturday, whenever CM checked it, there was still enough ice on the roof to concern him. He kept thinking that he could put an extension ladder on the loader of his bucket and anchor it really good and crawl out over and do those screws, but he decided to wait and see what the morning would bring.
Sunday morning dawned so sunny and clear and by the time we got home from church, most of the ice was melted. After lunch he announced he was going to go out there and take those screws out. I was a little concerned and said as gently as I could, “Sweetheart, it IS Sunday, and we really shouldn’t think we need to work on Sunday–”
I was obviously not weighing all and considerations, and he was sure that he needed to do those screws because “Macklin’s might want to start first thing in the morning!” So out he went. I asked if there was anything that I could do, but he said that there was not, so I was happily ensconced on my favorite chair reading the Sunday school papers.
About a half an hour later, I heard him come in and thought “That didn’t take very long!” I looked across the family room and kitchen to the utility and saw that he was removing his work parka. He placed it carefully over the hamper in the laundry room, then walked soundlessly across the kitchen to the living room, and I noticed that he was limping. He came over to the middle of the living room, and stood there quietly.
“Could you get me some dry clothes?” He asked. Surprised, I looked more closely. He was soaking wet, muddy, and looking rather pitiful, his face pulled tight with pain.
“Daniel! Whatever happened???”
“I need some dry clothes,” he said, a bit querulously.”
“Did you fall???” I asked, more than a little alarmed, and struggling to unload the papers on my lap..
“Yes, I fell.” He said, obviously disliking the admission.
“Off the chicken house roof???!!!” I almost wailed.
He looked at me like I had taken leave of my senses. “Of course off the chicken house roof. I need some dry clothes!“
Yes, yes! Of course! And I scrambled upstairs to find him something warm and dry. I came back downstairs to help him change, and tried to determine if he was bleeding, bruised or injured in any way, but he just kept saying, “I’m fine! I landed hard on my tail bone and that really hurts, but I’m fine!”
“But what happened?” I asked, trying to figure out how this man who is exceptionally careful in places that are slick, fell off the chicken house roof! It just didn’t make sense.
As he explained it to me, the side of the roof towards the morning sun was clear, but alas! The other side was not. After he had crossed the peak to the other side, he noticed that there was quite a bit of ice still on that side. “This isn’t going to do,” he said. I’m going to need to go get the tractor and loader and a ladder and come up from the bottom.” As he was turning back to go back over the peak to the other side, his foot hit something really slick – a patch of ice or just an extra slippery wet spot and down he went, sitting on that tin roof and sliding down with no way to catch himself! He must have had some momentum by the time he reached the bottom because he overshot the ice and cement at the bottom and landed in a mud puddle about six feet out. People have since asked him, “What did you think on the way down?” His answer? “There wasn’t time to think. One minute I was standing on the roof, and the next thing I knew, I was flat on my back in the mud!”
We got him cleaned up and into some warm clothes, and I began to think. “What if there is a fracture of some kind?? What if he should jar it somehow and sever his spinal cord?” My worries became anxious words, and I began to urge him to seek medical attention. That was NOT a happening thing. No, siree!!! So I decided to invite his two oldest offspringin’s into the muddle. He was on his chair, obviously uncomfortable, but able to hear, so I texted them. Christina and Jesse were on their way home from Ohio, and Christina didn’t get the text. However, Deborah was right on it.
“WHY was he on the chicken house roof?!?!?”
I explained what was happening and she was over to check on him in short order. He answered her questions, but he was mostly worried about finishing up taking the screws out of the rest of the tin. It turned out there were a lot more than just six screws holding things down and with the possibility of Macklin’s coming the next day, he really wanted to go out and finish them. He was pretty sure he could do it if he had some help. Deborah, always better at talking him into something than I am, talked him into letting her go out with him to finish the screws, then she came back in the house to try to talk him into getting it checked out. He was having none of it! “I’m not going into that ER to sit for hours and hours! There’s nothing wrong, and even if I broke my tailbone, there’s nothing they can do!”
About then, Christina got her text message and was on the phone, joining the fray, It almost looked like it was a loosing battle, but neither daughter was giving up. After this had gone on for a while, I told Christina (in CM’s hearing) “The best way to get Daniel Yutzy to do something is to tell he can’t!” Whereupon she yelled (on speaker phone,) “Daddy, don’t you DARE go get that checked out!” That made him laugh, and between that and Deborah’s professional opinion, they convinced him to go. Jessr had checked on the ER and discovered that there was zero wait time at the ER, so we headed for Bayhealth, Sussex campus around 5 o’clock. I couldn’t go in, of course, but I waited in the parking lot, hoping he would be out soon. Of course, even though he was back to the treatment area almost immediately, he was back there for a long time. He texted me regularly, telling me what they were doing, and then said that they were waiting for the doctor.
After almost two hours he texted, “Waiting on someone to read the X-ray of the spine. Nothing wrong with the pelvis and they also checked my head for a concussion, and nothing was wrong.”
“Oh, boy!” I thought. “He’s been here two hours and is telling me that there is nothing wrong???” I began to get worried. He raised such a fuss about going in the first place and now kept saying that he was “waiting on the doctor.” I figured that he was back there getting more and more impatient and that there was probably nothing wrong and that he was going to be insufferable when he came out etc., etc., etc.. So I sent him this text, hoping to amuse him – “Could they scan your ‘stubborn streak while they are there? And maybe send you home with some medication that will make you bearable if you were right and we were wrong???”
That did not amuse him.
Finally at almost nine o’clock, he said he was on his way out. I drove the minivan around to the entrance and he came out and gingerly climbed in. He was very subdued, had a sheath of papers and a prescription to pick up. He talked about all of these things before I finally said, “But what was the diagnosis???”
The man has two fractured vertebrae!!! (Lumbar #1 and Thoracic #12) They aren’t bad enough for surgery or even a brace, but they do want him to consult with an orthopedist. The doctor said he should take it a little easy, but that it’s not serious enough to even say “no heavy lifting.” The fact that it’s more comfortable for him to walk than to sit, is supposedly a good sign. CM did ask about his chores and such and the doctor said he could keep on with his usual schedule. However if he notices worsening symptoms to get in there NOW! (Yesterday, reading over the instructions from the ER, I noticed that the instructions DID include “no heavy lifting,” but CM says that they told him otherwise).
There are many things for which to be grateful. CM was able to get up on his own accord and motor into the house. Any of a number of things could have happened to make this turn out so differently. We are not minimizing the seriousness of this. It’s impact will likely give him some pain for some time. Hopefully the intensity of it will subside in a few days or weeks, but there is the possibility for it to be an ongoing issue. But he can walk. He is able to do some of his work. He has good help, and he has the prayers of people who love him.
For this and so much more, my heart gives grateful praise.
It’s been an interesting week at Shady Acres.
Some of you are aware that when the virus started back in March, our adult children were very directive with us about staying home, and their intentions if we didn’t at least do our parts to be safe. And yes, we did have one of those offspringin’s threaten to “come over there and steal all the batteries and slash all the tires if Dad can’t figure out how to stay home!” Daniel and I talked it over and we decided that we were going to listen to our adult children, and that we would do our best to be careful, not just because they said so, but also because of Blind Cecilia, who is quite compromised at any given moment even without a virulent strain of the Coronavirus. I made the decision in early March to keep her out of her day program, and we’ve been given much grace in the months since then.
On Christmas Eve, Daniel started feeling like he was getting a head cold. His nose was stuffy and he was tired. He kept falling asleep during our Family’s Christmas Eve Zoom gathering, and I was concerned. His daughters wanted him to go get checked, but the next day was Christmas, and then it was the weekend, and he thought he was feeling a lot better. However, when Deborah needed to be tested on Monday morning for her job at Hospice, we prevailed upon him to go and get tested as well. 28 hours later we received the results and Daniel was positive for COVID-10.
“It’s a false positive,” he intoned over and over again. “I just don’t feel sick enough. Haven’t lost my sense of taste or smell, I’m not short of breath, don’t have a temperature, no sore throat, no cough, no nothing! I just think it’s a false positive!”
Well, of course I needed to report his positive test to the state of Delaware because of Blind Cecilia, and they said I had to take her and myself and go be tested the next day (Wednesday, the 30th). Now I was feeling a little “off” but I kept thinking that the imagination is a very strange thing, and I am highly susceptible to the power of suggestion. You know, it’s like, “Does my throat maybe hurt a little bit?” (Swallow, swallow). “I think maybe my throat does hurt a little bit!” (Swallow, swallow.) “Yep, pretty sure that my throat is getting right sore, and it feels like I have a tickle starting in my chest!” (Cough, cough!) “I believe I just might have COVID, in fact I’m sure I do!” So since I know that I’m prone to that sort of negativity and imagination, I decided that I would nor imagine anything for Cecilia or myself until we had the test results. Since they were done on Wednesday, I expected them back on Thursday.
And so we went about our business, and I moved to the spare room so that Daniel would have the master bed all to himself and I wouldn’t have to worry about catching anything from him (if I hadn’t already) and maybe we could both get some sleep. Deborah brought over a pulse-ox monitor, and some alcohol wipes and a temporal thermometer for me to use with Cecilia The state asked me to keep track of levels at least twice a day (I knew that I’d be checking a lot more often than that) and to go into the hard quarantine mode immediately. The first day Cecilia’s oxygen levels hovered around the low 90’s, but they have consistently been above 95 since, and she has never had a temp that registered about 100. And since her temp is often fluctuating, I didn’t know if that was a symptom or not. She was extremely grumpy, though, so much so that I said that she maybe didn’t have COVID-19, but I was pretty sure that she had “GRUMPYCOMPLAINT-2020!!!
When the days kept passing by with no results, I became even more confident that we were going to be fine. The results are usually back in a max of 48 hours. We did have a holiday, but in speaking to someone at headquarters, I was told that they were not stopping for a holiday or anything, but rather working on through. I also thought that, due to the seriousness of the pandemic, they would hustle the positive results out faster. However, we kept on staying home, keeping to ourselves and Daniel kept mumbling something about “false positives,” and was as busy as ever with his farm and his yard and his chickens.
Around 5:00 this evening, there were two quick messages on my cell phone and our results were in. I checked them both, feeling a strange mixture of anxiety and relief, There it was, plain as day, Both of us tested positive for the virus. Yes! Both Cecilia and I have COVID-19. Now what? Well, for the most part we are going to do what we’ve been told to do, get lots of rest, drink lots of water, keep track of the oxygen levels and the temperatures. I’m going to see to it that Cecilia doesn’t just sit, (It’s important to keep moving) and I plan to keep on being active in my usual household things — and I plan to pray and ask others to pray as well. There’s a great cloud of witnesses who care and will help us bear this burden, and we’ve already had phenomenal expressions of care and tangible gifts of food, texts, and even a state of the art air filter. God’s hands and feet in the form of people who love us is overwhelming.
At this point, it looks like it could be a fairly light case for all three of us, but I’ve been warned that things can change in a very short time. I do not feel panicky or frantic, but I have a deep respect for the scientific research behind this pandemic, and it is nothing to ignore or take lightly. There are a lot of heartbreaking stories that we are hearing every day, and the stories are far from over. As God’s people, may we be known as prayer warriors and encouragers. I promise, there are never too many of either.
I love you all – please pray for us!
~Mary Ann for the Shady Acres Crew