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A Lament

Sometimes I think we’ve lost the Song of Lament.  It’s been hushed and squelched and medicated and ignored and given dance moves and disguised as jazz or blues or another country song.

I wish I could write a song tonight.  It would be a lament.  It would be full of tears and wails and questions.  It would lash out at all the things that are wrong with my world.  Yes, I know.  There’s plenty out there, people I don’t know, suffering injustice and sorrow and loss and reversal.  I know.  Someone should sing a song of lament for this old world and all that’s wrong in it.

But there’s enough to wail about in my own world that I really could write enough verses to keep me lamenting for a long, long time.

I weep for the suicide of Sierra.  The long weeks since she chose to leave this life have been lingering grief for me.  So much promise, so much ability, poured out, wasted. This blood shed wantonly, like a careless sacrifice, never enough to atone for anything, haunts me.  “Sierra, if you were here, you could write a song for me . . .”

I weep for my youngest grandson, Frankie.  Two months ago, in a playground incident, he was knocked off the monkey bars, called the “n” word, and suffered a concussion.  I know that race will always be a factor in the lives of our three handsome grandsons, and I can’t fight all their battles for them.  But in my helpless fury, I ache for the ongoing pain, physical as well as emotional, and wish there was a way to stamp out the hatred that gets passed from the adults to the kindergarteners, first and second graders.  I pray that the MRI gives answers, and I pray that it is something that is easily fixed, and I pray for his heart and the fears that hold him back, and I lament a little boy who, along with his brothers, faces such big issues.

I weep for the marriages within my extended family that are troubled and fractured and seemingly beyond repair.  I wish there were some magic answers and I wish for hearts to be turned towards the Father first, then towards each other.  My lament rises highest for the children — the children! – caught in the confusing mess of divided loyalties, contradictory messages, wanting only for their parents to somehow fix what is wrong, and bring back the homes that no longer exist.  How do you mend the broken hearts?  How do you revive the hope that brought two people to a marriage that now lies broken.  And it isn’t just one marriage.  If only it were just one . . .

I weep for the choices of people I love that will surely end in sorrow and regret.  I know that only God can change the hearts of men, and He only does that as people allow Him to, but I can continually pray for softened hearts.  I pray for circumstances and people placed in their way, strategically, and unpredictably that will turn their thoughts and their hearts towards JESUS.  And I choose to believe that GOD has a plan, but I lament the wasted years, the missed opportunities, the Kingdom Work that would have benefited from the gifts of these people I love, and I lament the loss of easy camaraderie that comes when people believe that God is alive and at work in the affairs of men and share the stories of Grace with freedom and excitement and unity.

I lament the unknown future of a little girlie that we know as Babysweete.  I’ve prayed and begged, and wept and hugged myself to try to keep the hurt that tastes like acid in my throat, from spilling like hot sauce into my stomach.  And my loss isn’t as great as that of my son and his bride and their three sons.  It makes me weep some more – to see their steadfast commitment to doing what they feel they have been called to do, even when they are misunderstood, or things are said that are singularly unhelpful, or their own grief and loss wants them to draw back.  I feel the sadness, bitter as gall in the back of my mouth and my head wants to turn away, because I remember.  I try not to look, but the grief, forty years old, shakes itself from its lair and rises, grizzled and slow, and lumbers across the timbers of my heart, breaking them once again.  And I hear the dirge rising almost unbidden at the strangest times and in the strangest places, and I want to give it voice, and I want to give it volume, but I don’t know how . . . I don’t know how . . . except to write it down somewhere, and then it isn’t quite so scary anymore.

There are more verses that could be written into this lament.  I could call one “OGA.” I could call one “drought.” I could call one “Schedule.” I could call one “Stubborn.”  I could call one “Pain.”

But it wouldn’t do any good to go on and on.  My Sweet Mama used to say, “If you smile for a while, You’ll forget that you are blue.”  (She would even sing that to me now and then when the situation warranted it. That wasn’t any fun!)  The funny thing about a lament is that, when you get done, you really do feel better!  And I do.  A whole lot better.  So much better, in fact, that my previous intention of writing this all down and trying to think up some minor key to express it all is far less attractive.

I have been very honest with you all tonight — you’ve seen the rawer side of this Delaware Grammy.  I am not always happy.  I don’t always feel grateful.  Sometimes I feel like an honest, loud lament would be a pretty good expression of my heart.  (Do they still have professional mourners in the Jewish circles?  Maybe I could hire someone!)  Now that this is written down, I think I’ll go to bed.  It’s later than I intended, and my mornings, though not as early as they once were, still come sooner than I like.  We are supposed to have rain tomorrow.  And for this we can petition all this Delmarva Peninsula.  “Lord Jesus, send the rain!”

And honestly, with or without a lament, I’ve learned that giving thanks is still the best antidote for any heavy heart.

And so, through the choking of my lament, my heart gives grateful praise.


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Where Have the Words Gone?

Sometimes I think they may come back.

The Words.

The Stories of laughter and grief and tears and joy have always filled my life.

My heart, still filled with grateful praise, has longed for the familiar expression of my days.

But the words were gone.  Lying awake at night, sometimes, fitting them together in my head, I hoped for a chance to put them down, but in the morning, the sequences were gone, and the words just did not come together the way they always have.

They did not walk away by themselves.  They were stolen.

Stolen by the very things that fill the stories of my life: The grief.  The laughter.  The happy days. The people.  The Fatigue.  And even that double edged sword that we call HPPA.

There have been plenty of stories.  And some were started, carefully crafted, and then discarded because, in my sadness or anger or resentment or hurt, the words were not helpful.  If writing it down doesn’t help me, it’s not going to help anyone else, either.


I’ve always loved them.

I hope they come back because I really miss them.

I think there just might be a chance.

Either way, my heart gives grateful praise.

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Of Stomach Bugs and Families and Birthday Parties

The phone rang in the last 15 minutes of Bible Study last week.  Middle Daughter who usually answers the phone on such days, was in the woods, helping her father clear some property.  It’s rare for the phone to ring on Thursday mornings, unless it is an emergency (or a telemarketer).  For some reason, this felt urgent, so I excused myself and went to answer.  It was Youngest Son, Lem, and he sounded concerned.

“Uh, Mom,” he said, “I just got a call from Jessica, and Stella is throwing up dark stuff, and we think we need to take her to the hospital. I’m  on my way home from work, and we are going to decide what we are going to do!    Please pray for us!”

I was immediately concerned.  Stella, our almost five month old granddaughter, had caught a stomach bug from somewhere.  Her parents had her to the pediatrician the day before and were following strict instructions, but it seemed that a brief reprieve had turned into something more serious. Strictly breastfed, a dark vomitus was not a good sign.  After promising that we would pray, and murmuring some words intended to reassure, I went back and finished the minutes we had left. “My girls” ever ready to support and care and pray, promised to do so, and then we were done.

It was then that Stella’s other grandma, Lynn, called, and asked if I knew what was was going on in Washington.  I told her that Lem had called, and she said, “I would just like to get in the car and go over there and see if I could help in any way.”  I’m pretty clueless, and I didn’t really think about going over there at all, but then I picked up my phone and realized that Lem had messaged me a little earlier (before he called) and had said, “Any chance you wanna make an afternoon run to DC?”

This galvanized me into action, I checked my calendar, and it was free.  I called Daniel to see if it was okay with him if I went.  He thought it would be fine.  Then I tried to call Lynn to see how long it would take her to get ready.  She had taken her troubles out to the garden to work out some of her feelings and to pray for her beloved grandbaby.  And she had left her phone inside.  It took a while to connect with her, but when I did, she was more than ready to go to Washington.

“How soon can you be ready?” I asked her.

“I can be ready now,” she said.  “Or at least in ten minutes.  I can be ready when you get here.”

While I was waiting for her to call me back, I had gotten the bright idea of throwing the ingredients for a beef and barley stew into a container, and measuring out the ingredients for a small batch of bread that I could mix up in Jessica’s Kitchen Aid mixer.  I was almost done collecting things, so I told Lynn that I would be there in another half hour.  It was a little longer than that when I finally pulled out of my driveway, and then stopped to pick her up, and we were on our way.

The ride to Washington was pleasant.  We chatted, commiserated, and wondered how “our baby” was doing.  We heard that she was at the Children’s Hospital in Washington, that Youngest Daughter, Rachel, who works quite close to Lem and Jessica’s house, had actually taken Jessica and Stella to the hospital and Lem had joined them there.  The baby was dehydrated, and they were running other tests, starting IV’s and doing labs.  Shortly before we arrived in Washington, we got a text from Rachel, asking us to please disinfect the house when we got there.  “It’s super contagious!”

A kindly neighbor let us into Lem and Jessica’s house, and Lynn grabbed the Lysol while I opened windows.  The day was sunny and bright and very windy, even in downtown Washington.  It wasn’t long until the house was full of breeze and the smell of Lysol.  Then Lynn and I got busy and got the soup started, and the bread going.  The Beef and Barley stew that I make is heavy on the onions, and because I’ve heard tell that onions are a great fighter of germs, it seemed appropriate to make this particular favorite of Lem and Jessica’s.  We gathered up all the laundry that had been puked on and anything that wasn’t pretty much tacked down and started the first of two loads of wash.  All the while, we waited for updates and progress notes from the Washington Yutzys.

The updates kept trickling in, and about the time that the bread came out of the oven, we heard that Rachel was coming home.  She breezed in and gave good reports, said that it looked like Stella would be released, and that everything had come back clear except for the “mild to moderate dehydration.”  The dark in the barf?  They thought that was probably a small tear somewhere in the esophagus from the projectile vomiting, because blood work was normal, and the x-rays came back fine.  When would they be able to come home?  “Soon” was the response, but, as Stella’s daddy texted somewhat ruefully, “that could be hours by hospital time!”

It was around 7:00 when they finally pulled in.  Stella was sleeping, but looked pretty good.  She was allowed to have something to eat, so Jessica nursed her a little bit and then brought her out for me to hold before I left for home.  And that is when it happened.  Suddenly, with no warning, she projectile vomited all over me, all over the floor, all over herself.  The poor little thing emptied her tummy of everything in it.  So then it was a mad scramble to clean everything up, to give her a bath, and her Daddy went forth to procure a prescription that had been given them.  I wiped myself off, decided that when Lem came home, I was going to make my departure, and get myself on home.  I put away the last of the soup, washed my big pan, and got everything ready to go.  Lem came home, and they got the first dose of medicine in her, and I left.  It was a little after 8:00.  Lynn had packed to stay overnight because she guessed, rightly so, that she might be needed the next day.

It was a busy couple of days at Shady Acres.  Friday was a usual day with some extras thrown in, and then Saturday, it was birthday party time for our oldest granddaughter, Charis.  Everyone was coming here, and I was so glad that I didn’t need to go anywhere.  Rachel and her boyfriend, Rob, were coming for the party, as were some very good friends.  Tacos were on the menu, and I was to make the meat and the drink – southern sweet tea and homemade lemonade.  I felt grumpy all day, for some reason, just a little edgy, and the longer the taco meat cooked, the less I liked it.

I kept thinking that I was just good and sick of smelling tacos when I suddenly felt like I was about to toss my cookies.  I suddenly remembered that “Highly Contagious” business and with a sinking feeling, I knew that something was amiss.  I kept on working at trying to get ready, but I probably wasn’t much help.  Finally, after most of the guests were here, and I felt like it might be a kindness to them if I didn’t stay around, I mouthed to Daniel across the room, “I’m going upstairs!”  He nodded understandingly, and I made my way up to the comfort of our big old bed.  How wonderful it all felt!  I found an old prescription of Penergan in my dresser drawer and swallowed the recommended dose of two teaspoons, and then I slept.  I got awake around ten of nine and discovered that almost everyone had gone, and I was sure I was going to throw up.  I wished for a bucket of some kind, but finally sat on the porcelain convenience and held the trash can.  Eventually, the urge to throw up passed, and I gingerly descended to the lower level where all the guests were fully departed except Rob and Rachel, and they were cleaning my kitchen.  I sat on my chair and watched the transformation.  Deborah had a break from work, came in and tended to BL and OGA, then went to document her Hospice visits.  Rob and Rachel left to go back to Washington.  Eventually, Certain Man said he was going to bed, or did I want him to stay downstairs with me?  No, no.  It was fine, he should just go on, I was going to sleep on my chair and see how I  felt.

I slept good until around 2:00, and then woke suddenly.  I felt a lot better.  Almost no nausea at all.  I did need to go to the restroom, so I hauled myself out of my chair, and cautiously made my way across the dining room and kitchen to the bathroom door.  Huh!  The light was on.  There was a double whammy when a most unpleasant wall of odor hit me when I opened the door.  I looked across to the room shared by OGA and BL.  Huh!  Audrey was not in her bed.  But there were black deposits across the rug, and a cowpie on bed.  About then, Audrey stuck her head around the edge of the dresser and said, “Mare-ann.  I got trouble!”

And she for sure, did!  I sat there, all miserable on the potty, and looked while she tried to explain.  I was cross and irritated.  Then I went around the corner and looked, and there was a bunch more on the floor by the closet!

“Audrey!  How in the world did you get all that poop over there by the closet?”

She looked at me with her owl eyes.  “I ‘on’t know!  She insisted.  “I was just going to get another pull up!”

It would be so easy to be really impatient with this botheration.  I’ve explained and explained to OGA that the pull-ups are supposed to stay up until she gets to where she is going, even if she is in a hurry,  but when she thinks she is going to have an accident, she tries to save time by pulling them down on her way to the bathroom.  With her pullups out of the way, there is a great splaying of fecal matter all over the floor, all over anything in her way.  So I understand about the trail of poop on the floor between the bed and the bathroom – but into the closet?

“I was getting a new pull-up,” she said, as if that explained everything.

Oh, so that is what it was.  She had messed the one that she was wearing, and wanted to go get a clean one from her stash, and apparently was struck by an attack of diarrhea when she bent over to pull one out of the bag.  “From now on, Audrey, when you have an accident and want a new pull-up, don’t try to get one from the closet.  Just grab one of Linda’s from the bag beside the toilet.  It’s the very same size and it won’t matter at all if you use one of hers under those circumstances.  At all.”

She gave me her stock answer.  “Okay!  I will!”  But she probably won’t.  She is fiercely territorial when it comes to these sorts of things.

But what was with that big cow pie on the bed???  OGA has two protective pads on her bed.  One is disposable, one is washable, and somehow (don’t ask me or OGA, because “I ‘on’t know!”)  they both had been pushed back just enough for this large deposit on the bed.  Through the sheet, and staining the thick, comfy (but thankfully, waterproof) mattress pad.  There was not a single bit of anything on either pad.

“I really got a mess!” announced OGA from somewhere beyond the reaches of my bewildered brain.  I wanted nothing more than to just retreat to my chair.  I looked at her “real mess” and groaned inwardly.  “Audrey, I’m sick,” I said quietly, almost under my breath.  I ached all over, and it was an effort to even lift my arms.  She looked at me like, “Well, what  am I gonna do???”  It did no good to try to explain.   I thought, briefly of Certain Man, asleep upstairs, and of Middle Daughter,  also sleeping, but on call for her hospice job, and decided that I needed to get busy.

“Did you get yourself all cleaned up?” I asked her.  I saw that she hadn’t changed her night gown.

“I tried to,” she said, matter of factly.  “I fink I did!”

“Come here,” I said.  She came, and I saw that she really hadn’t gotten herself cleaned up, at all.  And there was stuff on her nightgown.  I first of all cleaned her, and instructed her to get a new nightie and pull-up and to sit over on the pottie until I got things cleaned up.  She meekly did as she was told.  I got the carpet stain remover, and the scrub brush on a long handle and set to work.  I sprayed all the spots and then, while it sat a bit, I took care of the bed, wiping off all the loose matter, and then covering it all up with the disposable pad, face down, and added a clean washable pad,  “We’ll strip your bed in the morning,” I told OGA.  “This is covered well for the night, and it will be fine.”  I scrubbed and scrubbed the spots on the carpet and she watched from the bathroom.  When I had them fairly well scrubbed into oblivion, I got clean towels to put over the spots for the rest of the night.  “Are you done?” I asked Audrey.

“Yeah, I fink so, ” she answered.

“Then let’s get you into bed,” I said.  “I think it’s all ready.”  She ambled over to her bed and looked at it critically.

“It needs ‘at other pad,” she said, petulant and critical.

I looked at the bed.  “What other pad, Audrey?”  I asked wearily.  She was impatient.  I should know!

“‘At other one,” she insisted.  “‘at goes on the top.”  Oh.  Her disposable pad.  A couple of months ago, she had gotten struck with a great jealousy over the fact that BL has a disposable pad on top of her washable pads, and wanted some for herself.  I had explained that they were expensive, and that she didn’t really need them, but she was adamant.  She did need them.  She wanted them, and when some good quality ones became available free of cost, she was the happiest gal around.  I thought about the fact that it had appeared that she had pushed it back before making a mess on the bed, and I wanted to tell her that she wasn’t getting any more tonight, but I was tired, and  it  was easier to just get the extra pad.  So  I fished it out and spread it out.  I did not waste the opportunity, though to instruct her as to how the pad was to be put on the bed, so that it hung down a little over the edge of the mattress to catch any accidents.  She again, said, “Okay!” with her resigned, martyred air, and she climbed into her bed.

All this time, BL had been whimpering in her bed.  I Kept reassuring her that as soon as I was done with OGA, I would take her pottie.  I surmised, and rightly so, that she just might need to go to the bathroom, too.  Then I put her back to bed and covered her up and my job in the room was done.  I checked to see whether both ladies were comfy, and then came out to the kitchen.  A terrible smell followed me from the other room, and I decided to light some candles, and at  least try to get the smell out before morning.  I lit a Bath and Bodyworks one in the bathroom and two new in the kitchen.

Then I went back to my chair and slept until morning.  I’m so grateful that cleaning up that mess didn’t affect the delicate balance of my stomach.  I really didn’t have anyone to come to my rescue, and I was able to get it all done without throwing up.  I snuggled under the warm blanket of my chair, and gave grateful praise.  I really was feeling better!  I had a day to rest ahead of me, and hopefully by the time Monday morning rolled around, I would be good as new.

And that is the news from Shady Acres, where Certain Man has been keeping a respectful distance, the children are mostly absent these days, and this Delaware Grammy has gotten a much needed break!

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Easter Grace, Gravy and Gifts

Sunday mornings are crazy at this house, anyhow, but on this particular morning, I was making sausage gravy for the church breakfast, finishing up some French Silk Chocolate pies for lunch, getting my ladies up, showered, dressed, fed, medicated, and I had a new person filling in for my regular Sunday morning gal, who was off somewhere for Easter – AND we needed to be at church a whole hour earlier than usual.  (We did not want to be late because we had friends with four young sons visiting Laws Chapel for the first time.)

I kinda’ stumbled down soon after six thirty and started the Sausage gravy in a big heavy pan, then got on with the chocolate pie.  Our Girl Audrey came out, then, and wanted some breakfast, so I got her some cream of wheat. and yogurt and a banana, green tea and water and her morning meds  the usual) — and kept an eye on my sausage that was browning nicely in my big heavy pot.

When it was all thoroughly browned, I dumped in the flour, and stirred that until it was all absorbed into the pan drippings and stuck to the sausage, and then poured in the milk and stirred it some more.  I had a very heavy bottomed pot, and I decided that it could cook on low while I did other morning things, so I turned it all the way down, put the lid on it and went about my morning.  Several “stirs” later, I noticed that time was getting away, and decided to inch it up a notch on the heat, and purposed to stir it more frequently.  I kept after the other kitchen things of the morning, and stirred it several times before going to get Linda up.  All was well.  So I got Linda up and on the potty and ready for the shower, then went to check something on my computer in the study.  (I don’t know what was so important right then, but somehow, I thought it was!)  It was while I was in there that I suddenly got a whiff that vaguely smelled like something was getting a bit too hot

To show how incredibly distracted I was, I must confess that, initially, at least, I was puzzled.  I came out of the study, into the kitchen and was greeted by the lid on my big pot sputtering away and the gravy bubbling up and frothy around the edges. I flew over to the stove, cut off the gas burner, grabbed my trusty wooden spoon and began to stir.  Oh, no!  It was really sticking.  I gave the pot a good sniff.  I could smell “burned” if I tried hard enough.  Oh, dear, oh, dear!  This gravy was surely ruined!  I grabbed another heavy bottomed pot from my cupboard and hurriedly dumped the gallon+ of gravy over into the other pot.  The bottom of the first pot sizzled and refused to give up a thick layer of gravy that was obviously “stuck.”  I gingerly ran my spoon over the layer, getting off what came easily, while my head raced a hundred miles an hour.  There was no time to make new, even if I had the sausage needed.  Which I didn’t.  If the gravy already tasted burned, it would only be made worse by scraping the bottom layer into it.  How many people would be at church for breakfast?  Was this going to be enough?  I looked at the thick layer on the bottom and tried to see if there was any black showing through.  There was.  Oh, dear, oh, dear!!!

I plunked the lid onto the second kettle and set it on an unlit burner.  I carried the first kettle over to my big kitchen sink and ran some water in it.  Running the wooden spoon across the bottom only added to my dismay.  It wasn’t coming off any time soon.  The blackest of black showed where the spoon scraped along the bottom and I pondered what in the world I should do on this busy Sunday morning.  I hoped that my house didn’t smell like burned sausage gravy, but I was pretty sure that if I lit into that pan and started to clean it, there would be no doubt.  I didn’t have time, anyhow!  When there was about an inch and a half of water in the bottom of that pan, I plunked that lid right on it and carried it out to my back deck and set it down close to the side of the house and closed the door so that Certain Man wouldn’t see it when he came in from morning chores.  Back in the kitchen, I stirred the gravy I had left, smelled it repeatedly, and prayed!  “Oh, Lord Jesus, PLEASE–!!!

And then, because there was nothing else I could do, I finished up my Linda girl, gave instructions to my Sunday helper, sent the gravy to church with Middle Daughter so it would be sure to be there on time and got Love Bug (who had spent the night) combed and myself dressed and we were ready to go.  In between, I asked Certain Man and Middle Daughter and Sunday Helper and even Love Bug if they smelled burnt sausage gravy, and they obligingly sniffed the air and said they didn’t really think so.  It comforted me enough that I decided that I wouldn’t mention it unless coerced into it by someone saying something like, “This sausage gravy tastes kinda’ scorched, don’cha think???”

So we went to breakfast at church and everything went smoothly.  Our hospitality committee did a splendid job of planning and the tables were decorated very nicely and food was plentiful and fellowship was warm and comforting.  When all was said and done, and the Gathering Place was back in order and the leftovers were being claimed, I went to get the pot that still had some sausage gravy in it.  My good cousin, Donna, champion of the Hospitality Committee, busy with washing dishes and putting things away, stopped in the middle of what she was doing to say, “Honestly, Mary Ann!  That was some of the best sausage gravy I have ever had!”

I stopped, my heart quiet in the middle of all the hubbub and Easter bustle, and heard a snatch of melody from somewhere in my brain, that was singing “Grace, grace, Wonderful Grace!”  And I said to Donna, “I’m so relieved!  I was afraid it was ruined!  It stuck really bad this morning, and I put it into another pot and hoped for the best – but I didn’t know . . .”  She laughed and reassured me that it was fine, and I began to wonder if (just maybe!) it hadn’t stuck as badly as I thought it had.

After a worshipful Easter service, we came home, and the afternoon was very full with company and an Easter egg hunt on the lawn for the children of my Bible study gals, and finally, when everyone was gone, Middle Daughter and I cleaned up the kitchen and put things back in order.  When we were almost done, I remembered my kettle on the back deck and went to fetch it.  I brought it in and pulled out a scraper to see if I could scrape it clean.

There was absolutely no reason for that gravy to not taste terrible!  The pan was burned so black that I couldn’t just scrape things off.  Oh, the first layer came off okay.  Thick, gunky strips of browned gravy, soggy with water, and smelling “burnt” peeled off beneath my trusty plastic Pampered Chef dish scraper, but what was underneath took a Stanley Stainless Steel Pot Scrubber, and Middle Daughter’s elbow grease and finishing efforts before the pan was shiny again.

The leftover gravy that we brought home was eaten by the household of Certain Man without any notice of anything amiss.  And through it all, I’ve heard that Melody of Grace Given.  Ah, what an incredible, unexpected (and truthfully, undeserved!) Easter Gift of a desperately needed “common thing,” given to a distracted Delaware Grammy whose heart gives Grateful Praise.



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“What Did You Really Say?”

It’s been crazy at Shady Acres.  Ever since Christmas, there’s been coughing and sneezing and fevers and bronchitis and most recently, strep and The Flu!  And this Delaware Grammy has pretty much had it all.  Within the last two weeks, BL, OGA and I have had strep and flu with the lingering cough that just doesn’t want to go away.

To make matters worse, last Wednesday morning, Valentines Day and all, right when I was feeling my worst, I picked up OGA’s breakfast medications and gave them to BL.  I spooned them into her mouth with her usual mashed banana and never noticed a thing.  After she had left for center, OGA, who was sick as a dog, came out, looked over the carefully prepared breakfast sitting at her usual spot and said in her most accusing voice, “Mare-Ann!  You gotta’ get my pills!”

I was sick.  I was tired.  I was fuzzy in my head.  And I was cross.  “I already have them out for you,” I said shortly, and went to get them from the medication area.  They weren’t there.  I looked over and saw that her morning pill box was sitting on the table, empty.  I could not remember setting them over for her, but I said, “Didn’t you already take yours?”

OGA was sick, too, and she wasn’t wanting to listen.  She just wanted her pills!  Wearily, I turned back to the cupboard.  I picked up the latched box that held Linda’s breakfast pill, and realized with terror what had happened.

Well!  That huge mistake set into motion a big old investigation, and reports and documentations, and so many things that I hardly felt I had time for and knew I didn’t have the energy for.  There are some interesting dynamics in this situation, but they are too complicated for me to go into them here.  Suffice it to say that this Delaware Grammy has had to miss out on a lot of things between being sick as all get out and sitting at at my desk, or in my chair, sorting through lots of records, and making reports and getting all the medications organized so that we can go to a pharmacy generated multiple dosing system within the next week.  It has been a mess, a big job, but there are “glory stories” written all over this past week, and I DO NOT WANT TO LOSES SIGHT OF THE GOOD STUFF!!!

So I’ve tried to keep my ears turned towards the eternal – listening for ways that I could help my husband, and to see what he needed ahead of time.  Most of the time things were going okay in, and it seemed like, if I watched really closely, I could anticipate what he might need, or if not, I could ask him.  Most of the time, he would let me get something if he knew I was in the area anyhow, but often he would protest that he was fine, and he didn’t want me to worry about him.  So the last ten days have passed without too much angst between us.

Today has been especially busy on the medications front.  I worked on emails and logs and  forms and copying medication cards all day.  Around 6:30 tonight, I realized that I wasn’t going to make it into the pharmacy with my carefully organized medications, and that I was also not going to be able to go to calling hours for Dr. Crabb.  I stood at the kitchen sink and felt like crying.  I knew I could go to the funeral tomorrow (probably!) but I wanted to go tonight and talk to the family and just be with them for a bit for old time’s sake.  But I still had ladies to feed, my cough had gotten more ticklish as the day wore on, and I didn’t have my reports completed.

Certain Man came in from doing chores and decided to rustle up a salad for his supper.  I offered to fix him something, but  he waved me off.  “You take care of the ladies,” he said.  “I got this.”  So, I made OGA and BL their supper, got BL into her jammies and back on her chair, then went back to my desk to work on some more reports.  About ten minutes into my work of entering the extra prescriptions that I’ve had this month for OGA, I thought I heard him rustling around in the kitchen.  I knew he had finished his salad, and I couldn’t figure out what he needed now.

“Sweetheart, ” I called from the study, “is there something I can get for you?”  (Sometimes after he has eaten his meal, he decides he wants something else, but it isn’t as predictable  as to what that might be since he has been trying to 1’cut back.”)

“Nope,” he answered cheerfully.  “I’m just gonna’ make some sweet tea.”  Oh, that’s right!  The pitcher was empty after supper.

“I can make that for you,” I say, as I get up from my desk chair and come back out to the kitchen.  “I’ll be glad to make that for you!”

“Nah,” he said, pulling the Tupperware container down from the cupboard where we keep our family sized tea bags.  “I can make it.  I gotta’ learn how sometime.  You aren’t gonna’ live for– -gonna’ always be around to make the tea, and I need to know how.” He avoided looking at me as he dug the three teabags out and searched for the 4-cup pyrex measuring container that we use to make a gallon of sweet tea.

“Huh,” I said to him, “It’s true that I’m not going to live forever.  I think there’s pretty much evidence to indicate that none of us live forever.  But my question is, ‘What makes you think I’m going anywhere first???'” And I scrunched up my face at him.

And he didn’t even answer that question, at least not that I can remember, but he had the sense to laugh.  I washed the pitcher, measured in the sugar, he brought the hot, steeping teabags and dumped them in the pitcher and I stirred while he poured in the ice.  It turned out perfect in every way.  He could have done it by himself, it’s true.  He honestly does know how.  That little observation about the reason he should be “learning to make sweet tea” was completely uncalled for.

And now, I’m going to go put ladies to bed and then try to finish some more charting while he watches his beloved Ohio State play basketball.  It’s a quiet night at Shady Acres.

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Race and Kisses and Grandsons

He was our first foster baby.  He was officially placed with us when he was eight and a half months old, but he had been “ours” for several weeks before.  He was a chubby little guy, obviously of African American heritage, and we loved him with a ferocity that scared me sometimes.  Back then, foster care agencies were known to move children if they thought the foster parents were getting “too attached.”  A caseworker, Mimi Sommers, of Franklin County Children Services, had gone to bat for us, and had literally bucked the powers that be for him to be allowed to be placed with us.

“You can’t do this,” said her supervisor.

“Oh, yes, I can,” I am told she said.  “And I’m going to!”  And she did.

His placement was legal enough that we were allowed to bring him home for Christmas in 1975.  We pulled into Daddy and Mama’s driveway very late that night, but Daddy, Mama, Sarah and Alma were waiting up for us.  There was a fire burning in the fireplace, and we brought our swaddled, snow-suited little guy in, put him down on the rug in front of the fireplace, and unwrapped him.  He sat blinking in the firelight, looking at all the strange faces around the circle, and then a smile split his little face wide open and in doing so, opened the hearts of our Delaware family.

He was with us for 20 months.  We were first time parents, and we had much to learn.  He would escape from his crib at night, and explore the territory.  We found him sitting in the stereo one time, on the turntable, the spindle up between his legs against his well diapered sleeper.  It worried us.  We had no way of securing the front door from the inside of our shed-type house on West Avenue in Plain City, Ohio.  So we devised a plan for a “lid” for his crib.  Made of cardboard and held on by shoelaces, we made sure we could easily get him out in case of an emergency.  He loved it, and would ask to have it secured if we forgot.  He was very attached to Daniel, following him around, riding piggy back all around the living room floor, and sleeping in his strong arms whenever the chance arose.  Daniel called him, “Daddy’s little brown boy,” but never in a deprecating way.  It was affectionate and defining and respectful of the delightful color that graced the skin of our beloved son.

There were several factors that went into the agency’s decision to not allow us to adopt him, and while they would never be considered viable reasons now, they were then, and in August of 1977, our little guy was adopted into a family that did not want to have any ongoing contact with us.  The adoption went smoothly enough, but in the days following, this Mama felt paralyzed.  And sick.  And empty beyond belief.  We grieved deeply, but mostly privately.  It wasn’t that people didn’t care, but it’s a difficult thing for people to understand.

It was a few years later that Joseph’s adoptive mother called me.  She caught me up on this little guy that had so suddenly disappeared from our lives.  And then she told me this story.

She said that one day, Joseph had come to her and said, “Mama, you are white.”

“That’s right, Joey,” she said, wondering where this was going.

“And I’m brown,” he said, matter of factly.

“Right again,” she said.

“Do you know why I’m brown?” He asked her.

She said to me, “I thought, ‘Oh, dear!  Not this already!'” but she said to him, “Why is that, Joey?”

“Well,” he announced with a great deal of confidence and delight, “The Mommy and Daddy I had before I came here kissed me all over and made me brown!”

I cannot tell you how that comforted me.  I don’t begin to know how to tell people to navigate through this current race thing.  So many of the things we did and said back then are taboo now in the circles I operate in.  There are nuances and familiar words upended and so many connotations that I cannot figure it all out.  Sometimes I’m silent because I do not want to say the wrong thing.  Sometimes I’m silent because I disagree so deeply with what is happening, and I’m too angry to see straight.  And  sometimes I’m silent because it feels like everything I say further inflames emotions that will come back and hurt the people I love so very much!

Ever since Joey’s story, the color of brown has been the color of love in my book.  If every child could consider the color of their skin to be the special product of somebody’s love for them, wouldn’t that solve a lot of problems?

No, it probably wouldn’t.  Because that is too simple, and our world is too complex.  There will always be bullies, and this world will produce out of the vast store of hatred and prejudice the people who seek to destroy those who, through no choice of their own, threaten them by virtue of being different.

I just wish it wouldn’t be children who bear the brunt of it.  And more specifically, I wish it weren’t our three grandsons targeted because of their color in a modern school setting in  the quiet town of Sugarcreek, Ohio.

No amount of “kissing all over” can protect a child from this kind of attack.

Read our daughter in law, Regina’s post from this week, HERE:

And weep for us all.


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Adventures @ the DMV

This was the year that Delaware Grammy had to renew her driver’s license.  I knew that I was supposed to get down there and get it done, but there were extenuating circumstances, and I kept thinking, “Next week, for sure, I’m going to get down there!”  But the weeks kept passing by, and finally I was down to the last week.  Then the last day.  Friday, October 13th, came up with various interruptions and when Certain Man assured me that I could go in on Monday, the day after my birthday since my birthday fell on a Sunday, I decided that Monday was a far better day, and opted to wait.

Monday had its own constraints, but eventually I found myself on the way down to the DMV, hoping that it wouldn’t take too long to get this license renewal behind me.  On the way down, I wondered if I would be allowed to take a new picture.  Sometimes, depending on the state of the photographic equipment, the State has opted to not take a new picture.  This resulted in Youngest Son, Lemuel, having a picture from his 14 year old I.D. on his Driver’s license.  It’s not so bad (usually) when it’s one of us oldsters keeping a younger picture, but in Lem’s case, the fresh-faced boy on his license was an insult to him as he entered his later teens.  And for this Delaware Grammy, it so happened that I really, really, really wanted a new picture.

The old picture, taken five years ago, was notoriously bad.  So bad, in fact, that shortly after receiving it, when I handed it to a clerk as identification, she handed it back and said that it wasn’t me.  She asked me something about why I was using my father’s identification.  I handed it back and protested that it was, in fact me.  She read it over, realized that it was in fact me, and said, “That’s a terrible picture!  You should demand a new picture.  They should HAVE to redo it!”  As I told my family, it did not inspire any confidence.  It did NOT!  I really wanted a new one.

Besides the photo business, rolling around in my head were the usual things about the DMV.  (The terrible wait, the terrible wait, the terrible wait.)  Also on my mind was the fact that I needed to get a replacement for a title that I had misplaced.  That always takes an act of congress.  I resigned myself to spending an hour or two within the confines of the walls of our Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

I came through the double doors at Delaware’s Sussex County DMV to discover that there was no line, and two people, a policeman and a nice lady, welcoming new arrivals and handing out numbers.  I told the policeman that I needed to renew my license and also get a copy of a title.  He said that I should take a number to get my license renewed, then come back for another number to get the title.

He handed me my number and said, “Your number is —- and they are calling it now at station 26!”

Huh!  They were!

I headed over to the station, was taken right in.  When I handed in my old license, the clerk said, “There is going to be a ten dollar late fee because your birthday was yesterday.”

“Really?” I asked.  “Yesterday was Sunday.  I’m not allowed one day’s grace?”

“I’m sorry,” she said.  “But we give you six months ahead of your birthday to get in and get it renewed.  We do not allow any days of grace.”

Bummer!  I should have gotten in while the getting was good!!!  Oh, well.  But the gal was helpful, kind, efficient,  There was no question about whether I was to have a new picture, and in a strange new twist, she even said, “You may smile if you wish,” and I wished.  Before I knew it, the paperwork was all completed and in less than ten minutes from start to finish, I had my new license in hand. The photo wasn’t going to win me any contests for being stunning, but no one will mistake me for my father.

Now for the title.

I went back to retrieve a number, and again was handed a number that was called while I stretched out my hand.  I walked over to another counter, had another incredibly friendly and efficient person to help me, and was finished there before I could believe it.

I walked out on air.  It was unbelievable!  I had literally been in that building less than 20 minutes.  I thought about my dark thoughts on my way down, my pessimistic expectations, and about how wrong I was about everything.  So often I think I need to “hope for the best, prepare for the worst,” but I’m not so sure that is working for me.  Maybe in this as well as a whole lot of other situations.  That “hoping for the best” business gets overshadowed as I “prepare for the worst.”

And I had wasted precious time fretting about what I was going to say if they didn’t want to let me take a new picture.  I had armed myself with my new Readers’ Digest in case I had to wait a long time and couldn’t find anyone to talk to.  It almost felt like I had been gypped some how.  All the angst preparation had been entirely unnecessary.  I had been treated with respect and pleasantries and efficiency and speed.

There was nothing left for me to do but to be very grateful.

And I truly, truly was!

And this old heart

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