What a bright, clear day came to the rabbitpatch this morning. The young leaves on the old trees are a jade green-a color particular to the season. Now, shade falls where sunlight used to. A bed of watery blue irises brighten the entrance to the drive and roses bloom everywhere. . .but it is cold-and windy, again. So cold that a scant frost fell last night, in the corners of the countryside. It as been a fortnight, since I last wrote in the diary . . .and a few things have happened.
Mothers’ Day was a quiet affair. My sister Delores came with my niece, Dana. Connie is a nurse, and she had to work. After a nice meal, we gave Mama a new television. Thankfully, Tres is coming on Tuesday, to make the thing work. Jenny said Lyla wished a mother robin “Happy Mothers’ Day”. The robins are nesting in a bush by Lylas ‘back door.
Until then, I am still cutting vines-this time along the edge of the young woods. I will also cut branches that hang low enough to hinder mowing. Here and there, I smell the wild honeysuckle, as I work. The place is full of privet too, and their fragrances implore me to work happily. I am in good company, they remind me. I have never been lonely in any patch of woodland.
After a big breakfast on Wednesday, Tres and Christian started on a few chores that required muscles. I left for Elizabeth City!! I had completed a full three weeks of quarantine-again, and thus was cleared by Jenny to visit . There were hardly any cars on the highway. Oh, how different the drive looked, since my last trip. Now the yards were green and there were newly plowed fields. This was the longest I had ever gone, without seeing Brynn and Lyla . . .so of course, we had a sweet reunion.
One day, we went to pick strawberries. It was a perfect day to go berry picking. Lyla surprised me, and filled her little bucket! Brynn did not surprise me, for she ate strawberries during the whole ordeal, as I suspected she would. We came home and washed the berries. We gave a quart to Miss Thelma, which “tickled her pink”. Miss Thelma sits on her porch so folks can visit safely. She is ninety six and still looks so pretty sitting in the sunlight. She has long silvery hair and a dazzling smile. At the drop of a hat, she will recite poetry.
With the abundance of strawberries, I made strawberry biscuits for breakfast, one morning. I even made a glaze for them. The idea of strawberry biscuits, had to be a good one, I thought. I prepared the strawberries the night before and rose early to make the dough. While they baked, I made a glaze. The house was filled with an aroma, that made you want to get up . . but the biscuits turned out “just fair”. Well, we all agreed they were good enough to eat, but nobody ate two.
It was picnic weather, for a few days. Jenny, Lyla and Brynn, ate under the beloved willow tree, one day. I was visiting with Miss Thelma, who lives just across the street, and how pleasant it was to watch “the picnic”, we both agreed.
That same afternoon, Jenny put up a birdbath. The sparkling water beckoned to the bird community and soon a robin, then a mockingbird and later a chattering blackbird , all visited to drink and bathe. I felt quite privileged to witness birds splashing in water. It was a cheerful moment and their antics quite amused me. It seemed like a long time since , I have taken such a liberty. For in that moment, I wasn’t obligated to anything. Nothing had happened, nor was expected to, in that brief span of minutes.
I make great effort to lead a “quiet and peaceable” life. The constant ruckus, in this world, in the most ordinary of times – and long before this pandemic , demands that I seek serenity, just to maintain some sort of balance. Sometimes, it is just not enough to take notice, sometimes I must stop everything and abandon all, for things like watching birds take pleasure in water. Great thinkers have always declared this truth, but I found it was difficult to completely clear my mind of any thought, when I attempted to do so. Oddly, on this day, I seemed to fall in to this “place”. “A little bird told me . . .” seems to ring true, now.
Meanwhile, a storm came through and “made itself at home” and lingered for days. Wind blew and rain fell until at last it was cold . . again. Brynn and I took to the porch and watched it rain. The young willow swayed and its’ long tendrils bore the brunt force with ease and grace. (A willow tree never loses its’ poise.) The dullness of the day warranted the streetlights to light and the willow seemed lit up with twinkling lights. Brynn clapped her little hands and laughed in delight at the spectacle of light and wind on a willow tree.
We all woke to rain on Friday. The world outside the window was drenched and soggy. We were all pleasantly surprised when by mid morning, the sun was shining. Lyla donned her rain boots and we took off for at long last, a visit with the laughing river. We were so happy to see our long last friends, the little barking dogs on their balcony. We had not seen them in months and I worried something unpleasant had happened-but alas! there they were on this day, scolding us for walking by. How glad we were to know all was well with them, even if they are grouchy.
I left in the late afternoon. heading back to tend to the business of a rabbitpatch. Brant and Sydney are coming on Saturday night and so we will share a meal at Mamas’. I will get to hold little Ryan, for our family could care less if the “state opens up”-we are not taking any chances, so we continue to proceed with great caution, . . . and I suspect when little Ryan is tucked in my arms . . .it will all have been gladly worth my while.
This may be the year that I will never remember clearly. It is May . . and it is cold! I am sitting at my beloved “morning table” bundled up like it is January. The daffodils bloomed in February, school closed in March and with Daddy being sick in April-we sure did not hunt for eggs this year. I admit-and everyone that knows me, will agree, that “time” in general is not a strength for me – but I feel totally disoriented- and this time, it is not due to my own fault.
I was going to paint a table and chairs today-but that cold wind howling outside my window, may make me put that off. Of course, it is early morning, as I write this and so there is still hope for a milder afternoon. It all started with me having time to clean up my act at the rabbitpatch. I have an old porch out back by the old field. It is a small porch, that was once attached to my grandmothers house. I saved that porch, and use it like a gazebo. It has a roof and I have sat there many times, pondering, praying and gazing at the woods and field. I love the view, for there is not a man made thing in sight. I thought to paint the old table and chairs today . . .if possible. My dear friends, of several decades are coming for an open air visit , in the next week or so, hence the table getting painted. I might need to just use a tablecloth!
With all of the traipsing around the rabbitpatch, I feel like I am walking down memory lanes. There was a time when, every stable was filled and chickens roamed the territory. Tame rabbits played in outside pens, in the sunshine. The small pasture had a miniature horse and a small herd of miniature goats. I did buy the chickens, but every other animal had landed here, because mostly, children had “outgrown” them. I got the reputation of having a “rescue farm” and so when a horse trailer pulled up unannounced, I didn’t bat an eye. I really loved that time, but when Lyla was born . . well that changed everything. Nobody wanted to feed horses, goats, chickens, a cat, a dog and twenty two rabbits, while I was away. My dear neighbor, Susan did try, but the goats got out a time or two, after all. . .It was always the goats.
Miniature goats are adorable. They are loving little things, but they do eat roses. I had several , when a farmer called wanting me to take three more. He lived but a few miles away, so one day Christian and I headed in his direction, to bring home the little goats. We went in the barn and there they were in a stall with the biggest goat, that I had ever seen. He started snorting and pawing and bleating so loudly, it was deafening. The farmer, slight in size acted like nothing was going on, in particular, and chatted away as he gathered a rope. He explained cheerfully, that he would hold the giant, mad goat, while Christian and I caught the little ones. I was in a state of fear, about entering that stall. . .so was Christian. That goat had a rack of horns, the size of Atlanta, on top of everything else.
Have you ever chased a goat? They are quick and nimble. They can jump and dart on a dime. That is what we were up against-and a goat we named “the devil”, right off. It was a harrowing ordeal and it didn’t help that the slight farmer was red in the face, gasping and yelling out, periodically, “Hurry up! I can’t hold him much longer!” Somehow, Christian and I caught two of them and made it out shaken, but alive. The farmer was unratteled and joked, that “he thought we were country folks?” I told him he could keep the other little goat.
Kyle came home from work a few hours later and loved our new additions. He was quite disappointed, and could not believe that we had the heart, to leave the last one. Christian and I didn’t say a word, for we did feel guilty about that. The next thing, I knew, Kyle was in the truck and yelled out that he was going to get the goat. Christian started to tell Kyle, about the conditions, but I stopped him.
An hour or so later, Kyle came back, white as a sheet, holding the little goat. He had faced “the devil” and won. On top of the awful circumstances, he endured, the moment he got his hands on the little goat, the thing stiffened and toppled over, like a wooden toy! Kyle said he thought he had killed it, but the thing sprang back to life and took off again! The poor farmer was in pain it seemed and had resorted to cursing, but Kyle heard him say “It is a fainting goat!!” “Fainting goats” do not crumple, they do not wilt, they simply fall over, like a doll would. They remain rigid and even their face looks frozen in expression.
Visitors always fell in love with the herd of little goats and would say things like “oh, I bet they keep your ditch banks clean.” “No,” I said, “they just eat the roses.”
The goats were always liable to create a rucus. Once, during a Sunday dinner, I heard the sound of calamity, at the front of the house. Christian ran to the front door, to see what was happening. Several of the little goats, were being chased by a dog and bolted past him, galloping through the house, I do not know why, I realised what was happening, but I ran to the back door, opened it and they never lost their stride, bounding the steps and right back to their stable. Mama and Daddy were dazed, when I asked them, if they needed anything, while I was up. It was always the goats.
The goat stables are empty now, and the blue roses, that I painted, on them, have faded some, but believe or not, I remember the goats, fondly. . . .but not enough, to do it all again.
A fair morning, when the birds are singing and little blossoms are making promises . . .and a soft breeze sweeps the territory . . .beckons to me -to linger, there in it. The yard is a bit uncivilized now, for it has not been mowed in weeks. I love the wildness . I may be the only one, that does, but some how the wildflowers that that spring up, seem grateful and glad, that I dare to let them bloom. The only things, I really quarrel with are poison ivy and thorned vines.
In the evenings, I have been spotting the first of the rabbit community, appearing. They are a skittish lot and likely to startle me, darting from under a garden bench. The boxer is on high alert and bravely defends me . He has never harmed a one of them, but chases them playfully, back to the young woods, that the rabbits call “home”. There are fireflies too.
June has always been the time of fireflies. Country folks take notice of such things. These last few years , things seem to bloom and grow “out of season”. . .and it seems the peach tree is easily fooled. I can not blame the lovely peach tree, nor the fireflies, for I think, that time flies whether you are having fun or not.
Now I do not measure time, by keeping up with minutes. I like to do things til, I am finished or do things “for a while”. A sundial would be the best clock for me. I know, by shadows when early morning, isn’t “early” anymore. ..and they also tell me when to start supper. Of course I spent my childhood outside and so such things are quite natural to me. I keep track of the calendar, for the bill collectors are reliable folks. And now . . .all of a sudden, “they say -” it is May!
May is called “the sweetest month”. I am fickle, but for now I declare it is so. The iris blooms and the cape jasmine will soon follow. The birds sing merrily in the morning and the fragrance of the wild privet fills the air. Clover is starting to bloom . I love the sweet, green scent of clover. May is a wonderful time to bring a baby home, too. My own Tres was born in May, on a mild, bright Sunday morning. I could not wait for the sun to shine on him and so we stood for a while, in the sunlight of May, before we went in the house. I always remember that in May.
The rabbitpatch territory is almost tidy! Every day, I do a chore or two. The tasks range from trimming the roses in the “Quiet Garden”. to stacking tin and yes, cutting vines, AGAIN. I have stepped in fire ants (several times), and have scratches from thorns, everywhere. Still, the rabbitpatch looks “tended” and I declare it may have been the geraniums, that sparked my heart, to even begin!
I was shocked, when my sister, Delores, mentioned that “Mothers’ Day”, was this Sunday. I should have known, for I had noticed my “Mothers’ Day” rose is loaded with blossoms, ready to unfurl, at any moment. I have had this “wild ” rose for almost a decade. Peggy, a friend and neighbor, of Mama, saw it growing on a ditch bank, on her farm and sent it to me. Every year, the bush, I named “Miss Peggy” blooms profusely . . on Mothers’ Day. How lovely, it looks on the old plcket fence, with its’ tendrils spilling on to the grass, splashing pink blossoms, like a joyful fountain.
Hence, Delores’ announcement, we have plans to celebrate our Mama, on Sunday. I do hope, we will “brighten her day” for the last few weeks, have been like none before them, for her. She puts forth a gallant effort, but she has lost “the love of her life” – a love affair, that lasted sixty four years altogether. In addition, Mama has had to face all the” business” , that comes with someone, dying . . in the “foreign”ways to her, of this modern world – and the corona virus even complicates that. Can you imagine, marrying the boy, that you crushed on, when you were fourteen? You move from your parents’ home, to marry him, a few short years later-and think how the world has changed since 1958. You are married for 62 years-and for the first time ever, you live alone. . .well. that story, belongs to Mama,
I think all us feel like a part of us has “gone missing”. You feel “lacking” in some indescribable way. I told Jenny, that it seems like our family, has been “fractured”. Still, though . . .I have a peace -“that does pass understanding”.
A lot of people are having a difficult time with isolation. Let me be clear-that I miss my grandchildren . I have enough chores here to keep me busy. I love the grocery pick up, for I can still cook. I love to read and I am doing on line puzzles, which require a deep concentration for someone as inept as I am with puzzles. The boxer and I spend more time together than ever and clothes are not put in the dryer. Supper is never rushed -and there is always something blooming on the territory. I like solitude, in general. . . and, I do not feel alone in the midst of trees, nor a flock of sparrows. The old field is good company and I greet the clouds as they pass over, and wonder where they have been. These habits were natural to me, as a child and have remained with me . . .I do have a rose bush named “Peggy”, after all.
It is a good thing, that I am odd, in this way, for a rural setting does not come with sidewalks full of dog walkers and strolling couples. If by chance, there is a siren, then folks stop what they are doing, for we are not used to commotion.
Of course, country dwellers do have large landscapes and big skies. I can not imagine how I would fare cooped up in a third story apartment. . .nor owning a small business, in such times. . . nor having no one to miss seeing. So, I can not complain. . .most especially in the company of sparrows . . .and “Peggy” blooming her heart out.
It seems now, that a new line of demarcation has been drawn in my life. The new season is “since Daddy died”. There are as many lines now in my life as there are on my weathered hands.
I can not write falsehoods and so there have been many gloomy days. How could it not be so? I do try to carry on . I have been cleaning up the footpath to the garden. l have moved some wild daffodils and apple mint, but sometimes, I just leave the spade in the yard and walk away. I thought to build a small fire, one day. I had gathered a good many of the fallen branches and so I lit and re- lit the collection til at last a cheerful flame blazed. I do not know why I “tuned up” and cried as I watched it burn. Since Daddy died, I do such things.
I write these things in the diary, not because I want sympathy, but because I want to record authentically, the many variables of the contents of a life. There is no gain, for anyone, if I “keep this to myself”. It would be quite unfair for anyone to think, that all of my life is spent growing flowers, doting on my grandchildren and communing with nature. After all “being on easy street” is always temporary, though I love that street. Oh, how much pleasure, it is for me to write about the beauty of an ordinary life. . .but life is far from from ordinary, at times for all of us. We all get wounded, at some point and I can not deny that. Recovery, is one valuable skill to have in this life. It is one of the most valuable skills, really for I can say, with full confidence, you will need it, . . and more than once.
April has been much cooler, these last few weeks. The wind, at long last has subsided to lively breezes. I have spent some of my time, on the “winter clean up”. It takes a while and the only thing that I enjoy less is cleaning the oven. It takes blood, sweat and tears to accomplish all there is to it. If vines and thorns were money . .well the rabbitpatch would be worth a “kings’ ransom”. Some times, I wonder, why I bought the place . . and some times I wonder, how I will ever leave it. I really think that I will always love this patch of the earth – and yet be thankful to sell it. I do know one thing, I am the better for having known the place, but living here takes a lot of gumption.
Since Daddy died, I have been thinking and reflecting a lot. Now, I am fully aware of the theory, that we tend to make the departed, in to heroes and saints, when they die. I have done neither. I have started writing “Daddys’ story in the journal that I keep for everyone in the family, that has passed on. Aunt Agnes has a chapter, as does Aunt Josie, Uncle Randy and my beloved grandmother. I write simply, “what I remember”, which is the title, of the journal, also.
As I write, I see no value in creating frills and flash. The truth is enough . That is how I feel now, more than ever, in my own circumstances. Getting older can be very liberating-and I weed out what doesn’t matter, as vigorously, as I do the weeds along the garden patch. At last, I believe, “that I was wonderfully made.” The desires of my youth, do not apply now. Presentation meant so very much,in those days. I chased after “fools’ gold” and collected fine clothes and even bought “spanking new” cars, really, for other folks to “take notice”. Thankfully, that era did not take long, for what a waste of vitality! Now, I look at the silver streaks in my hair, and the memories etched on my face, and do not draw back in horror. I embrace my life, faults and all, more than ever before.
I do not blame myself, for mistakes made in youth, either. I suspect, in fact, that the many encounters with “fools’ gold” only enhanced my ability to know and understand the properties of the authentic, precious and genuine thing.
Sometimes, I think “if Daddy died, than anybody can”! Ought I not to live, knowing this is so? It is amusing to think such a thought, and I did laugh about it, later, but just hours before Daddy passed, I could not imagine him actually dying. Even now, I can not imagine, how to live without a “father”. . . but every day, I do . . . and the oddest thing has happened. Somehow, I feel as close to him as ever. I have not “seen” him, nor heard his voice-not even dreamed of him, but I feel him, deeply. . .as if even death does not fully separate us.
While, I have been “up to my ears” in the work of maintaining the territory and sorting out all sorts of notions, the grandchildren keep growing up. Little Ryan has two teeth and is crawling-and pulls up on whatever is in reach. Lyla plays with her doll house/hotel, for hours now. at a time. She recently hosted a birthday party for one of her dolls-complete with decorations and cake. The darling Brynn, is babbling and climbing on everything-no matter the steadfastness of it.
I know one more thing too . . .being a “long distance “Honeybee” . . .does not suit me!
Mostly, everything in my life has changed. Of course, the pandemic changed every ones’ life. The way we do things, at least. Daddy left us a week ago. I just can not get the way of time, for some times it feels like just yesterday and some times it feels like a year. I am never quite sure what day it is. How long has it been since I walked by the “laughing river”? Is it still spring? I think about all of this in the first moments, after I wake. I am always shocked, for while I was living a beautiful ordinary life . . . the way of it, changed in a twinkling.
Grief is a force to be reckoned with. It is complicated, understandable -weighs on you deeply and abandons you randomly, well there is just no “rhyme or reason” to the ways of grief. It is bewildering, for as I hang clothes on the line and admiring the beauty around me, I am as likely to cry as to drop a clothes pin! No one ever gets to be an expert on grief. , , and “practice does not make perfect,” where it is concerned, . . .for grief is no stranger to me. Sometimes, when I am missing Daddy, I will think of my husband, my grandmothers, Aunt Josie and Aunt Agnes, Uncle Randy and my dog, Gage! The thing washes over me til, I can not sort it all out.
Yesterday, my sisters and I met at Mamas’ to write thank you notes – and poor Connie worked more on “business”. Mama is doing as well as anyone could be expected. I told Connie, that I sure hoped we gathered “just for lunch soon”, not because of the tasks, but just to share something besides sorrow, even if briefly.
Now, when I quit thinking about myself, I realise that much the world is grieving, the same as me. Woe is widespread and beyond my “wildest imagination”. There is fear and now, anger. What a concoction of emotions have been stirred up. Now, my heart breaks, for the many whose livelihood has been threatened and for the ones whose jobs demands that they just “carry on” despite the circumstances. People like cashiers, truck drivers, medical staff and many, many others. They are all warriors, in a sense. I confess, that I have not studied much of any thing in the last few weeks, but I have seen where folks are protesting these current mandates. I will not cheer them on, though they have the right to do so.
In my small world, I know that some folks do not practice social distancing, for they do not see the need or they are rebelling, for the sake of it. The worse thing, is that I see a lack of respect for the ones (like me) that are practicing “at full hilt”. I do not pretend, to understand this virus. . .but as I told my cousin, Sheila . .”if someone tells me, there may be a bear in the woods -and I hear growling . . .I am not going in the woods.” and I do not need to be told to stay out. Besides, what if our lack of compliance, made someone else sick? Shouldn’t we consider that? This is not the time to “throw caution to the wind.”
Some time, in the midst of everything, I had a birthday. I kept forgetting it, and every time someone mentioned it, some task would present itself and distract me, from any further thought of it. One night, we sat around making a list of things to include on my next grocery order. Mama needed tin foil and we had borrowed something from a neighbor, that needed to be replaced. I am loving “picking up groceries” I announced, and joked that I had tried to order geraniums, but the store did not honor my request.
Much to my surprise, Delores brought me a half dozen pink geraniums, when we met at Mamas’ to write those “thank you” notes. What a lovely surprise . . .what a sweet moment. Today, I planted them and the rabbtpatch looked happy .
The geraniums seemed to inspire me and so one thing led to another. I worked in the “Quiet Garden” for a while and then picked up branches that have come unfastened in the April wind. At long last, we burned the garden. Burning the garden, is a big event at the rabbitpatch. Besides all that has transpired recently, April has been windy and so we burned “late” this year.
Though there is much more to be done, progress was made and in the end, the rabbitpatch looked less shabby, than it has in months. When the first stars were out, I took a walk around the territory.
I thought the beauty of the place, no matter how neglected, was still as charming as any place, I have ever seen. I also knew all over again, that the sprawling lawn, was just too much for an old lady. . .especially one with grand children. The old farm house had outgrown me, a few years back too.
Not so very long ago, it seemed the place was as good as sold. I was shocked when the deal fell apart, just days before finalization. I was beyond mere disappointment. I never got angry, for I had prayed for many seasons and I knew better than to argue with God, for I have never won a battle with Him. Now, as I walked under the silver, shining heavens, in the beloved silence of the countryside, I was grateful for this past year at the rabbitpatch. I was not stranded, after all, but placed lovingly in the right place at the right time. I felt very protected -really from my own self. My plan would have deprived me of the “holy” season that loomed ahead.
Now, I still plan to “sell the farm”. . .but I will bear in mind, that human “plans” are often shallow and pale in comparison, to what God knows we need. In my case, maybe I was hasty . . .certainly, I was void of understanding. I realised, my own dream was not harmless, as I had thought. . . and had I dared try to rush God? AGAIN? Oh, what lessons I was learning under the stars!
Really, life is mysterious and full of complexity. There are few dependable things. By now, you would think the whole world would know this . I know very little, but I do know that somehow, pain and beauty can exist in the same moments. “Change” is usually another opportunity -and I ought not to dread it, as I am in the habit of doing. God always answers prayers -He just doesn’t always say “yes”. . .and “leaning on you own understanding” is an awful practice.
The death of a good father may be one of the hardest things, a human has to endure. I do not know now, how the sorrow will ever be tolerable, but I suppose it will. I suppose, one day, I will not cry . I have never buried a parent. All I know, for now is that this a different kind of grief.
The service was on Thursday. Only a limited number of people could attend, due to the pandemic. A handful of friends gathered, but were asked to stay in their car. It was already a sorrowful time, but to have to work within the current mandates, was taxing. Not even our immediate family could gather to comfort one another. Good neighbors and beloved friends dropped dishes on the porch, and could not be invited in, but instead thanked “through the door.”
I have never cared about flowers, as I would rather someone spend that money on food for the hungry . . .and with the florists, all closed, in our small town, we couldn’t have bought flowers our selves. When we arrived, for the service, there was a single spray of flowers, from our cousin, Chuck, who had used an out of town florist. A it turns out, flowers do matter to me. Those flowers were like the nights, when there is a single star in the sky.
Since Daddy was a veteran, he had asked for a military service not because he wanted the recognition . . he wanted Mama to have a flag. When she was presented a flag, I couldn’t help but think, that this was his final gift to Mama.
The day after the funeral, was as sad as any other one before it. There was so much work to be done, however, that we were just too busy to dwell for any length of time, on our grief. Connie took care of the business that comes with death, an awful task, I think. Delores and I packaged food, which meant cleaning out cabinets and refrigerators and freezers. I remain grateful and humbled by the way of good people. for the one thing that we did not have to fret over, was food. We hung clothes on the line together, like we did as children. That was a sweet moment.
We all took another visit to the grave together and carried flowers from the yard. I thought to sprinkle some soil from home. It was what we could do.
We all returned to our homes afterwards -at Mamas’ insistence. Mama is exhausted, heartbroken and heartsick -all at once. She had a crush on daddy at the tender age of fourteen . . .and so she married him, just a few short years later. She still lives on the a parcel of the farm, that she grew up on. They would have been married 62 years in June, yet in Daddys’ last days, she laid beside him, her head on his shoulder, and looked like a young girl in love. I knew I was looking at a love story-an incredible story that had weathered hardships, survived calamities and stood together in victory, at last. They won their race.
Now, that the “dust has settled”, I am back at the rabbitpatch, where the roses are in full bloom -and every floor needs scrubbing. I thought as I pulled grass along the garden path and more when I hung out the clothes on the line. I just missed every day, before this one. I missed the “Sunday dinners” and the day I played the piano,for Daddy, while an entire entourage gathered in my kitchen for a surprise birthday party, I missed Christian and I playing Hank Williams songs because Daddy loved Hank Williams. The soil swallowed my tears and the wind blew my sadness, til there was less of it. I even half heartedly, thanked the roses before I came in.
Grief is as natural as joy and I reminded myself of that as I went along with my chores. Grief may be as good a lesson as any I know of, though it may also be the hardest to bear, for I thought of the beautiful legacy Daddy left, and that legacy was created by the substance of his life. If there is ever a time for me to reflect on the contents of my time, on this earth . . it is now. I must consider, my priorites and make sure they are practiced. What will my children see as my legacy, I wondered. Is my “truth” beautiful? I started a mental list of things to improve upon-and so grief is a lesson, after all.
Now, my dad left this planet, but his story will remain, for I will tell it to his great grand children. They deserve to know their heritage was forged by a great -great grandmother who raised children, that grew into noble adults. Daddys’ brother, Uncle Randy was a gentle soul. He was so kind to me. . .well, I have never met a Warren” that I didn’t love right off. . .and since Uncle Randy has also passed, Daddy is in especially good company.
So far, not a one of the Warrens, “have taken a single thing” with them. We always say that, but I fear, we do not always really act like we understand it. My dear and kindred friend , Scott of Pazlo, really says it best, when he refers to our earthly castles as mere “sand castles”.
We are going to work all of our life, at something. We will accomplish what we work for and we ought to be aware of that. . . another thing to remember.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord, is the death of His saints”
I came to my parents’ house on Wednesday -that was the day my self imposed “quarantine” ended. Daddy had been having one bad day after another, and I knew Mama was in need of support. I just wanted to be as safe as I could, so I wanted to observe my self imposed quarantine, before going to my parents’ home. I do not think I came a minute too soon.
Daddy has mostly been in bed since I arrived. To say he is doing poorly, is an understatement. I am so thankful, he is peaceful and rarely shows any sign of distress. When he does wake, we are with him. we can hardly understand anything he says recently . . .but the first day, he told me a story. It was new to me, but Mama confirmed it.
I was telling daddy about Tres, who we all think is so much like my dad-in looks and actions. Of course, regular readers know, that I was bragging about how well Tres was doing in school, how impressed the professors were, how he was helping one of them, with the new remote process of classes-oh, I went on and on. Daddy listened and then said “I was the smartest.” I smiled and said “you are so smart, and always have been.” He said again “I was the smartest.” Mama chimed in and said “He was the “valedictorian”. The story was that Daddy had been sent a letter declaring him this honor. He remembered sitting at the kitchen table with Grandmama reading it-and how happy they both were. When he walked in the school for graduation, and to receive his award, he was approached by- in his words – “a mean old lady that worked at the school”, who promptly informed him, he had missed too many days to be valedictorian, and it would go to another student.
Daddy said he had missed a good thirty days of school, because he had to help with farming. Grandaddy was quite unreliable, while my own dad was growing up and so my Uncle Randy and my dad as young boys had to work tirelessly to “save that farm”. The odds were stacked against daddy ever being a graduate, and especially a valedictorian. I was proud and heartbroken all at once. I was quite angry, too, I still am. In fact . . if I knew that “mean old ladys’ name, I would tell you and the rest of the world, too. I am just that shallow, at times.
Some of the days have been very quiet. Neighbors and friends call, all offering to help in any way they can. Folks have dropped off all sorts of foods, on the porch. Only the immediate family comes in and even then, we take precautions. When daddy awakens, we all take turns visiting with him. I told someone this was one beautiful, holy and sorrowful time.
I have spent a good deal of time, quietly. I relive my childhood memories, trying to tuck every detail of Daddy, deeply, in my heart.
I look across the fields of winter wheat at the woods, where we gathered leaves for the annual leaf collection projects at school. I wondered if children still do that. I look at the big sky . . .and remember those kites. There is a curve, just before my parents’ home, and I could still see him rounding that bend, coming home from work and all of us running wildly to Mama, proclaiming his arrival. It was a wonderful time, in those days when ” a daddy came home.” Groups of playing children would become smaller and smaller, as children ran home at the sight of their daddy coming home.
We used to look at constellations and in those days, you could see the “Milky Way” on clear nights. As a child I imagined running across the sky on that starry path. I never see the milky way over the rabbitpatch, without remembering Daddy calling us out to see that streak of silver across the night sky.
And then there are the birds . . .Country children were well versed in bird and birdsong identification, when I was a child. It was considered as essential to learn as your “ABC’s”. The lessons were not formal and so we cheerfully learned the songs of the woodland birds quite naturally . . .in the evenings, after supper.
The days run on like a soft, melancholy tune. Both of my sisters and a brother in law came and so sometimes “there are shining moments”. How much dimmer the days would be without them.
On Saturday, Brant and Tres came. When they left, the house and yard were clean, and both of them got in a visit with their grand daddy. When they left, daddy fell in to a deep sleep .
That was the last day, that daddy tended to earthly business. The next two days were long and grim. We tucked “miniature prayer shawls” in his hands and waited . . .for God. God was not in a hurry and so the somber hours dragged by.
Easter day was mild and full of shine. Daddy slept, while the dogwoods bloomed. That is about all I have to say about Easter this year.
On Easter Monday, we knew the time was almost nigh. I asked God to show daddy something so beautiful, that daddy would want to leave. I told Daddy, that he didn’t have a thing to worry about, for he had given us all that we needed for our own journeys. I mentioned how grand it was to be left such an inheritance of things that “moth and rust will not corrupt”, as birds, and trees and stars do not fade with time, nor diminish in value but instead remain pure and easily passed on to my own children . . and all those children, yet to come. . . Still, daddy lingered. The evening was a melancholy time. I sat on the porch and remembered that Tres had been listening to Daddys favorite music. Jenny had asked earlier if Daddy had music as he slept. I thought to go sing to daddy. I went to his bedside, to find Delores sitting and singing so quietly to daddy. I asked her to sing with me. Connie came in a few minutes later, and she joined us. Mama came next. None of us planned it, but somehow , we all ended up gathering at his bedside, singing the old hymns. Within about twenty minutes, Daddy true, to his nature, left peacefully. We sang him “all the way home”. It was beautiful, holy and sorrowful.