Monthly Archives: October 2013

Certain Man’s Wife does a fire drill

Certain Man’s Wife has a home visit every month with her case manager from the State Department of Disabilities.  The assigned casemanager picks up spending records, medication reports, documentation of doctor visits, and social reports from each of the ladies in the home at Shady Acres.  Once every quarter, CMW needs to do a fire drill and document that for someone somewhere in the hierarchy of the state.  So often, CMW thinks that whoever is reading these things must find it the most boring thing in the world.  And it is great fun to write a report that has surprises or details in it that will cause someone to take a little notice.

Mandatory fire drills are things that make little sense to CMW.  Both of the ladies who reside with CM and CMW will never get themselves out in the event of a fire.  Someone will need to physically get Cecilia on her feet and guide her out.  Someone needs to explain to Nettie why she needs to get out — and supervision is very much needed.  This may explain why Certain Man’s house has six smoke detectors and they are careful to keep them in order.  The family at Shady Acres knows it will take time to get people out in the event of a fire.  However, the state still wants each foster care home to run a fire drill every three months, and to fill out their detailed form.

When CMW went to awaken Cecilia one this particular morning, she suddenly remembered that she hadn’t done a fire drill within the allotted time.  With everything that has been going on at Shady Acres, it was one of many things that went right over her head.  And this was the morning for the monthly visit from the case manager.  So in a sudden burst of inspiration, CMW decided that this would be a good morning to do a drill, and decided that maybe it would be good to have it start while both ladies were still in bed.  “After all,” reasoned CMW, “how often do we plan a convenient time for our house to catch on fire and we will need to evacuate?”

CMW hit the button on the smoke detector in their bedroom several times and neither lady budged an inch.  So she made note of the time on her wrist watch and went over and Nettie a nudge on her ample rear that was sticking up under the mound of covers.

“Nettie!  Hey Nettie!  Wake up!”

“Ummmpfff!”  She said in a complainy sort of way.

“Hey, Nettie, wake up!  We are having a fire drill.  You need to get up and get out to the garage!”

“Huh??? “  She said sleepily, “Wha’d’ya say???”

“I said,” Repeated CMW clearly, “We are having a fire drill.  You need to get up and get out to the garage.”

“Oh.  Um.  Okay.”  She grunted, and began to swing her legs over the side ponderously.

CMW went over to Cecilia’s bed.  Cecilia was awake.  “C’mon, Cecilia-girl.  We need to have this fire drill.  Come on, let’s go.”  Cecilia wasn’t impressed, but she got up out of bed and shuffled along with CMW  towards the door.  As CMW looked back over her shoulder, she saw that Nettie wasn’t really moving much.

“Nettie, come on.  We are pretending the fire is in the kitchen.  Come on.  You don’t have time to get dressed.  Just come!”  CMW guided Cecilia through the bathroom where she had to forcibly take her past the toilet where she usually sits down immediately after getting out of bed.

“Sorry, Cecilia-girl.  I’ll bring you back in just a little bit.”  Cecilia was not at all happy with this development.  She was in her jammies, barefoot and it was cold.  CMW thought about the cold cement at the bottom of the ramp and decided to have some mercy on her.  They moved through the laundry room, through the entry way and to the top of the ramp.  Right about now, Cecilia had just about had enough.  STAMP!!!  STAMP!!!  Went her stubborn little foot at the top of the ramp.  “Huff!!! Puff!!! Snort!!!”

CMW looked over her shoulder.  There was no sign of Nettie.

“Here, Cee-Cee,” she said, using a pet name, “You stand right here with your hand on the railing until I come back.”  She curled the fingers around the railing and made sure that Cecilia was safely holding on and then flew back to the bedroom to check on Nettie.

Nettie was busy making her bed.

“Nettie, Come!” she said more than a little forcefully.  “We are having a fire drill.  You need to get out.”

“Wha’?” asked Nettie in her usual slow way.  “Wha’d’ya sayin’?”

“I said,” said CMW with just a bit of exasperation, “that we are having a fire drill.  Your case manager comes this morning and I have to have a fire drill to report.  Come on.  You just need to go to the top of the ramp.”

Nettie looked down over her nightgown and back with distaste at CMW.  At this point, CMW got a firm grip on her hand and assisted her across the room and through the bathroom, through the utility room, through the entry way and to the landing at the top of the ramp.  It was more than a little crowded there with CMW, Cecilia and Nettie.  CMW looked at the motley crew, all three barefooted in the morning chill, she and Nettie were in their nighties and Cecilia was in her P.J.’s.  Cecilia was mad at the interruption in her morning routine, Nettie blinking owlishly and looking like she couldn’t believe the indignities heaped upon her, and CMW couldn’t help but cover a grin as she checked the time on her wrist watch.  She had managed a fire drill!!!  One minute and forty five seconds.  Not too bad.  Hopefully, whoever read it wouldn’t have to be bored at the details, and even though she felt sorry for her two ladies, sometimes their irritation at CMW is a cause for mirth.  CMW doesn’t blame them a bit for being provoked.  But when she accomplishes something that she really needs to do, and they are both looking so out of sorts – Well, to CMW’s biased eye, they are just plain cute.  And somehow, more normal in their aggravation than they are at almost any other time.

And that is the news from Shady Acres where the fire drill got reported, all the reports got filed, and CMW’s day was off to a grand start!

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Colossian 4 makes its inroads in my comfort

5 Be wise in the way you act with people who are not believers, making the most of every opportunity. 6 When you talk, you should always be kind and pleasant so you will be able to answer everyone in the way you should.

Being kind has always been so important to me.  My Daddy often said, “It’s always right to be kind,” and he proved it over and over again by the way he lived and the way he dealt with people.

Yesterday morning in my quiet time, this verse popped out at me, impressing itself enough upon me that I stopped and wrote it off and stuck it up to my cupboard door.  My intentions were good.

We had our annual bonfire and hayride last night.  I have been looking forward to it for so long, and I really wanted everyone to have a great time.  But a family showed up an hour and fifteen minutes early with an extra four kids in tow in addition to their own four and you know what?  I kinda blew my good intentions.

It could be said that the children broke every trike on the place except one.  It could be said that the mother had been asked to not bring extra children, but had said that if she did, she would watch them  — and didn’t.  It could be said that they went through the line first, took an inordinate amount of food as well as a lions share of the best desserts and this after bringing nothing to the potluck.  It could be said that the mother, instead of watching the kids was in the house trying to convince me to buy her a new phone and put minutes on it.  And it could be said that when it came time for the hay ride, both parents went and hid in the car and sent seven of the eight children on the hay ride unsupervised.  At least by them.

But it could also be said that my heart was very wrong.  I did not even think of my Bible verses for the day.  I was able to respond with kindness to the four extra children.  They were sweet, respectful and grateful.  But I chafed.  Oh, how I chafed at being so inconvenienced by the early arrival and the intensity of the whole evening.

You could say that the lights went out in my heart.  And I am not at all sure that my words were kind.  The thing is, God said that I should make the most of every opportunity.  Why?  So that I, as a believer, will be able to speak hope to the people who are without hope.

“It’s always right to be kind.”  

Last night, I got it wrong.

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Thoughts on this October day

I turned 60 today.

I don’t quite know how I got this old this quickly.  I don’t understand how this person who feels like myself is trapped in this body that the calendar says is 60.  I’ve never minded the passing of years, to be honest with you.  But maybe I just never took time to think about the sand in the hourglass and how it would, some day, run out.  I look at the years that lie behind me and realize, with the proverbial jolt, that the years ahead are far, far less than all those happy years that I’ve already lived.

Today has been such a happy day.  Each one of my siblings wished me a happy birthday.  My far away Oldest Brother and Middle Brother called, as did Youngest Brother.  I saw Youngest Sister at Sweet Mama’s this morning and talked to Middle Sister on the phone this afternoon.  And all the offspringin’s and the ones they love have called or texted or visited.  I have a little grandson in Ohio who shares my birthday, and I even talked to him on the phone tonight.  It has been a glorious day.

I’ve done some thinking this week about many things.  It’s been a season of missing my Daddy rather intensely.  I cannot always say why things sit heavy on our hearts at particular times, but it seems to me, after what is now the eighth summer without him, that the one thing that triggers it for me is putting the garden to rest for the season.  Certain Man has been taking down “them thar tomato thingies” and mowing off the spent vegetable plants.  I gathered the peppers and green tomatoes last week and made hot dog relish.  The few ripe tomatoes got put into a few last quarts of juice.

But the pole limas are still standing.  Yesterday, I picked what I am pretty certain is my last big picking from the twenty three plants that made it through this summer.  They have done exceptionally well this year.  When I finished the last bags for the freezer last night, I realized that I have seventy 3-cup bags in the freezer from this summer.  I’ve done them along, four bags here, six bags there, and a time or two there has been ten.  Wonderfully tender, vibrant green, and so, so good.  I am so grateful for the way the bags have added up this summer.

It is the eighth summer without our Dad.  When Daddy died in December of 2005, there were so many things that were the essence of him that we knew we could never replicate, never replace.  The man he was, and his influence on our lives.  His prayers.  His vibrant interest in each of us, and his steady encouragement.  We really can do nothing to fill in these spaces that were left when God called him home to Heaven.

But there were other things that we could do.  I could grow lima beans.  At least I thought I could.  I honestly didn’t know very much about it, seriously had no idea how much WORK was involved, but decided that it would be one way that I could maybe feel close to this man who was so HUGE in my life and was suddenly so gone.  Maybe I was somehow trying to capture a tangible part of Mark Yoder, Sr., and make it my own.  Certain Man was more than willing for me to try, and in the summer of 2006, at my request, he built the pole, wire and twine lattices for two rows of beans.  He asked for advice and got healthy plants from the experts.  He did the planting and the weeding and slowly the plants grew and blossomed and began growing beans.

I was impatient for beans.  The first ones I picked made barely a cup in the smallest pan I had.  They were so good, and Certain Man and I shared them, delighted with the first fruits of our labor.  Then I checked and rechecked and finally decided that I could actually do a real picking.  I think I got a basket.  They were little and piddly and wonderful flavor, but clearly not ready.  I’ve thought so much about that summer as I’ve picked big, full pods of limas off of my plants this year.  The truth was, when I barely got anything in those first pickings, I grew more and more discouraged.  My grief was so deep and terrible, and when I was in the bean patch, I missed Daddy with an ache that often had me wiping tears on my sleeves as I searched for the beans.  I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I had to feel each bean to see if it was ready, and the task seemed interminable.  I found myself more and more just staying out of the patch, not thinking about the passing of the days.

And then we had a hard, killing frost.  The leaves on the bean vines shriveled and died and the pods that I had never picked hung brown on the vines.  It looked like thousands of pods; good, good lima beans that had gone to waste.  I hated the sight so much.  Certain Man finally took them down, put the garden to rest, and I didn’t have to look at them anymore.  I didn’t know if I could even try to raise limas again.

Certain Man is not a man who allows me to wallow.  He understands grief.  He’s certainly had his share, and honest emotions are treated with gentle kindness.  But he dislikes moping almost as much as he likes lima beans.  And he had built those really good supports and I’m not sure he even asked me the next year if I wanted to have pole limas or not.  Had he asked, though, I probably would have said “yes.”  Spring always does that to me, and there is a hope and a deep belief that this year things will go better than they ever have, that the garden will stay weed-free, that there will be not produce left go to waste, and that no one will resent anything that might grow there.  Anyhow, Certain Man planted limas again in the summer of 2007 and things went a whole lot better.

Each year I think I’ve gotten more comfortable with our patch of beans.  I often think of Daddy while I’m out there picking, but I seldom need my sleeve for more than wiping sweat off my face.  The memories are warm and good and they often make me smile when I remember the man who probably picked thousands of bushels of lima beans in his time.  I remember his eyes and the laugh lines around them.  I remember the way he would sit on his chair and shell beans with drive and attention.  I think about how he liked to get a pan for the grandchildren and rope them into helping.  I remember his delight in a pot of lima beans, made by Sweet Mama, exactly the way he liked them, and the way he could put them away at a meal.

There are life lessons here, I know, and over the summer, there have been many life applications for this old gal that came from the bean patch.  But on this night, of the milestone birthday and realizing that Dad only had 16 years left when he was my age, and thinking about being faithful in small things and leaving memories behind us, and how, no matter how much people may want us to stay and think they need us, we don’t really have a choice as to when God calls us home– all these things somehow feel like they really have to do with the lessons I’ve learned in two rows of pole limas in a small garden patch on a Delaware Poultry farm.

Common, ordinary days that are touched with Heaven.


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