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Dakota Hymn

Many and great, O God, are Thy things,
Maker of earth and sky;
Thy hands have set the heavens with stars;
Thy fingers spread the mountains and plains.
Lo, at Thy Word the waters were formed;
Deep seas obey Thy voice.

Grant unto us communion with Thee,
Thou star abiding One;
Come unto us and dwell with us;
With Thee are found the gifts of life,
Bless us with life that has no end,
Eternal life with Thee.

This is one of the songs we sang to Debra as she lay in a coma, liver failing.   It seemed to give her peace; it certainly made us feel better.   The tune is quite wonderful, and this is one of the songs that we used to sing around the piano when we were kids.

So, my brother has now had the month straight from Hell.  First he made emergency travel to Missouri and got here just in time to spend a few days with our father before he died.  Cause:  old age and congestive heart failure.   Twenty days later, it was my turn to make emergency travel to Connecticut just in time to spend a few hours with my sister in law before she died.  Cause:  breast cancer metastasized to the liver.   Ted was right there for her for the last five years as she went through all the stages and chemotherapy.

It has been pretty rough.   Now not only does he have to adjust to being the last of the “Smith” patriarchal line, he has to do it without his partner of 20 years.

It is tough to adjust to being a couple.  I remember what that was like, but once you get used to it it is a great way to be:  half of a whole.   I can’t even imagine what it must be like to try to go back to being a solo act.   I look around this place and even thinking about it makes me throw my hands up in despair.

The photo that starts this post was one Jim took while I was gone.   There was an amazing thunderhead that formed south of town, and he captured it.   Seemed like the right way to start the post, considering how much “rain” has fallen into our family’s life this month, and how many tears have been shed.

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I came back to a situation.   I’ve never had a cat that had this sort of problem before, but Mallory grows claws like nobody’s business.   While all the “stuff” was going on around here, her claws were getting very long (apparently), and then I left for two weeks.   When I got back, she jumped up to friend with me and it was like having a velcro cat, every step she took she stuck to me, to the carpet, to the blanket…   Her claws were so long that they were curled under, the pressure on her toes had made her feet sore.  Additionally, some time while I was gone she was jumping down from somewhere and she must have gotten a claw caught and pulled a muscle, so she also had a very sore leg too.   Anyway, she was NOT a happy kitten.

I immediately trimmed her claws, and now she is much more comfortable.   Her feet are all better and the pulled ankle is not hurting her any more.   I guess we won’t have THAT happening again, I will be keeping an eye on that.   Turns out Impy does much the same thing.   I heard him “clicking” when he was walking around this morning, so he got his nails clipped too.   Got to him before there was a “situation.”

However, I have to say that while I was gone a certain amount of adjustment appears to have been made.

Yes.   There is room for two cats on my bed now.   This is quite a change, considering when I left for Connecticut there wasn’t room for two cats in the same room….

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The garden is looking grand.   The cannas out by the barn are looking quite nice.

In the Petite Prairie, there is globe mallow, among other things.

Dianthus “Raspberry sorbet”

I picked a half gallon of broccoli this morning, there were a few beans on the plants so soon there will be lots to pick.   The peas are pretty much done.   I need to plant another short row of salad greens.   Our zucchini are absolutely gorgeous, we have been feasting on them for the last several days and Jim tried drying them.  They rehydrate very nicely for soup, it turns out.   In fact, after they have been dehydrated, they keep their shape much better when you put them in a soup.   Fresh summer squash tends to melt away, so it is kind of nice to find actual little rounds of squash floating about the broth.

Well, I just wanted to check back in and let you know I made it home safe.   Tomorrow is my birthday, and I have to admit that I really don’t feel all that festive.  The 58th year wasn’t all that great, really.   Maybe 59 will be better.

After all, it is a prime number.

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Things are progressing rapidly here at The Havens.   It is hard to ride the whirlwind.

My father was transplanted to his new apartment from the hospital.  The first couple of days were “okay”, although he was very unhappy that he was not at his home.  He expressed appreciation for all the work we had done to try to make the apartment feel familiar, to surround him with his familiar things, but stated categorically that it was “Not home.”

Of course it wasn’t.   Truly he could not function safely in the home he designed, built, and loved for 30 years.   It has too many stairs, it is at the end of a really bad driveway which is at the end of a really bad road, and far from all services.   Etc etc etc.

After a couple of days of him being at the new apartment, unhappily trying to live in an environment he did not like, he began to lose all the ground he had made at the hospital.   One day he could cook his breakfast.   The next day he really couldn’t do it because he couldn’t find the ingredients in the refrigerator or in the cabinets.   Jim went over a couple of times and once found an empty pan on a burner that was turned on, another time an attempt at a hard boiled egg that had boiled dry as my father sat in the living room. He could not find the food we brought him for meals and put in the refrigerator.   He could not figure out how to operate the microwave.

For a couple of days he was happy to eat if food was provided for him.   The visiting nurse and the physical therapist had him doing exercises but as he was performing the strengthening exercises each day his strength waned.   In the course of about three days he went from being able to walk with his cane to not being able to even walk with the help of a walker.

Yesterday the visiting nurse called Hospice for an emergency initiation.   Last night the Hospice agent came and did paperwork, about an hour later the Hospice RN came with new medications prescribed by the doctor for palliative care.

My father has not been out of bed at all for three days.   My mother is staying with him, and for three nights out of the last four I have have been sleeping on a pallet on the floor to assist her with night time events.   I have learned how to change a protective pad on the bed for an invalid, how to administer sublingual drugs.  I have learned what it is like to try to move a dead weight, what it is like to listen to a strong person as they struggle to bring air into lungs that are filling with fluid.

I have learned what it is like to hold my father’s penis in my hand to guide it to a urinal so he can rid himself of urine without wetting himself.   I have learned what it is like to have him tell me he needs to pee and find that yes indeed, he does need to but has already done so previously, and to deal with his humliation.  I tell him that he changed me and cleaned me enough when I was a baby.  Now it is my turn to do those services, lovingly and respectfully.

His cat Impy hardly leaves his side, except to eat and use the cat box.   He knows something is happening with his person.    Daddy is very comforted by that purr and sleek fur.

In retrospect, I see the decline as similar to what happens when you transplant a wild flower that has grown with it’s roots deep into the rocky subsoil.   At first it might seem to do well as it is sustained by its reserves of strength.  But then the lack of the root system and the huge radical change in environment hits, the plant withers and eventually dies.   My father was transplanted too precipitously, and even though he was told in the hospital he was not ready.   Of course, like that wild flower, he probably would never have been ready, and like the wild flower there was no way to extract him from his environment gently.

My shoulders are so sore — I should have been doing weight training to prepare me for the lifting that is necessary to move him in the bed, to raise him up so he can drink a sip of water.   He no longer has the strength left to suck on a straw, we must hold a cup to his lips, give him ice chips.

My brother is here from Connecticut, my sister from Texas, my niece is here from Columbia.  My little sister is trying to take care of the farm while my mother sits with my father.  My clients are wonderfully supportive as I cancel their appointments.  Jim cooks us all wonderfully sustaining food.

Our strawberry bed is producing succulent berries that for several days have been the only thing my dad cares to eat.

I came home to rest today, took a bath.  Mallory guarded me as I bathed, stationed out in the hall just outside the bathroom.  Then while I took a nap, she watched over me from the end of the bed.

Yesterday, I took Ruby for a walk out at Bennett Spring.  As I was walking the gravel bar, I asked the place for a rock for Daddy.   I meandered along, and suddenly  a rock called my attention.   It was partially buried in the gravel bar, and had a place that had a “cavern” worn into it.   I picked it up, and saw the depths of the miniature cave were filled with gravel.  I tapped it on my palm, the gravel fell out and I found that it was a holed rock, with several tunnels through it.   I felt a huge “Oh!” in my heart, and I looked up to find that at that moment I was surrounded by over a thousand tiny blue butterflies, all flying about me in a beautiful iridescent cloud.

I took the rock to Daddy yesterday, and he was fairly lucid at the time I told him about finding it.   He looked it over very closely, trying hard to focus on it.  Eventually he found the tunnels through the rock to the light.  Since then, through all the turnings and changings, the visit from Hospice, his Ativan fueled sleep, he has not let go of that rock.  Whatever the message it carries to him, I think he received it.

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Meanwhile, the young catalpa in the front yard is blooming.

The leopard frog in the pond has a mate.

There are poppies blooming.

The stroll garden is fantastic with dianthus and hostas and bluebells right now.

My quilt is finished.   This is it hanging on the wall at the quilter’s workshop when I picked it up after she finished the quilting process.

A close up of the quilting work she did — so beautifully.

It is finished now.   I sewed the binding on it the day after I brought it home, and whipped the back of the binding closed while sitting at my father’s bedside.

It has not been on the bed yet.   Jim says he doesn’t want it on the bed until we can spend the night under it together.

Maybe tonight.    It is someone else’s turn to spend the night on the pallet in the apartment.

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The tradition continues

We have a new military member in our family.   Jesse’s wife Lynette recently completed her basic training.

We are extremely proud of her!

I may be prejudiced, but I think this may be one of the cutest, prettiest and nicest soldiers I have ever seen.   Well, except for the pretty, Jesse is right up there too.

I really want to see a shot of the the two of them together for comparison’s sake!

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Goodnight, Irene…

Ah.   Finally a new earworm.

For some reason, that song popped into my head as I was contemplating the sad and sudden news that Jim’s older brother Don died in his sleep the other night.

We received the call yesterday while I was doing my sole massage for the day.   It made for a surreal, somber evening, I can tell you.

Jim’s summing up after he told me the news was, “Talk about growing up.”   I digested this sentence, and realized he was referring to the next level of experience of loss, the time when your first sibling dies.   The first level, of course, is your first parent’s death.

“At least I can say, ‘My big brother died.'” he continued.   “What about the rest of my brothers?   The thought has to be there:  ‘My kid brother died this week.’  The thoughts have to be there:  ‘Who’s next?   You?  Me?'”

After dinner we held a wake, and Jim recalled some good times he and Don and Arlene shared in the early seventies, running off to Tahoe when Jim was down from Whidbey Island, Washington on leave.   And I recalled going out to Cheyenne to see Frontier Days, we went to the rodeo and Jim remembered it was the coldest we had ever been during the end of July.   It was Don, through the auspices of his collection of various distillations, who ushered in the moment of my life when I finally learned that it wasn’t Scotch I didn’t like; it was blended Scotch I didn’t care for.   Single malt scotch was another horse entirely, and the end of the era of me being a cheap date ended.

Good times.

Getting to see the Blackbird SR-71 at an air show held at Beale AFB has to be a peak memory for us as well.  It was still pretty tippy top secret at that time, but we were able to experience that because Don was stationed there.   Not everybody got to go beyond that barrier on the air base.   Totally cool airplane.  I have a picture of Jim on my desk that was taken at that air show.   I’ll never forget that afternoon, well fueled by beer and sunshine, the smell of jet fuel, the sight of my lover barely dressed in The White Shorts enjoying the bosom of his family, Don, Arlene, the Pink Cowboy Hat. . .

Sorry to see you leave so soon, Don.   Enjoy your journey, wherever you may roam.

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Friday night I had a date in Kansas City with my niece and some jazz.  I spent the drive up there and back brushing up on my Spanish skills.   I feel like if I’m going to be running back and forth to Costa Rica every little whipstitch, I’d better be able to say more than just “Please” and “Thank you.”  It is amazing how much of that language I have stored in the back cupboards of my skull.

Kansas City is quite a place, I certainly enjoy visiting it.   We really had a wonderful time, and I can testify from personal experience that the food at The Phoenix is as good as the music.  Plus they have really good beer on tap.

After we thoroughly enjoyed the performances by Lonnie McFadden and his two beautiful daughters, which were ably accompanied by the piano guy (Mark?) and an amazing drummer, we walked down the street from our hotel to indulge in some ice cream.    It has been a while since I had such a very nice evening.  Next morning we went down to the Kansas City Market and visited the prairie plant sale being held by the Missouri Prairie Foundation.  That is where I received my birthday and winter season present for the coming year:   a selection of plants (my choice) total value one hundred dollars.

This picture does not do the selection justice at all.   It has been raining today (good for the little plants in their pots) and not windy, so I didn’t get a very good photo of my new babies.   They are destined to be planted out behind the sauna in that garden bed, along with the seeds I started last fall that have been residing in pots in the vegetable garden.   It’s about time to get them out of their pots and into the ground.

I have been getting that bed ready for its new function all spring.   Everything can live there quite nicely while I get the front ready for the new prairie installation.    I hope they all grow wonderfully and reseed themselves and propagate themselves so next fall when I am ready to plant that front yard I will have a good portion of the several thousand plants I will need to make the front look grand.  Fortunately I have several successful little nurseries going on all over the place.   The stroll garden is just one big native plant nursery right now.   There are several hazelnuts started out there, as well as numerous grasses.

After A. and I went to the native plant sale, we visited Williams Sonoma and selected a set of measuring cups for Jim.  Actually, we got there before the store opened, so we walked over to Starbucks and indulged in coffee.  After drooling our way through WS,  we visited a little boutique, where I tried on a cute couple of little dresses that were floaty and comfortable except for the fact that they were designed for that darned Twiggy again — no room for any bustline whatsoever.   It was fun going through the racks of clothes, though.   Then I came home and looked into my closet and realized that I really don’t need any more clothes, not really.   I already have a huge selection of very nice stuff that I don’t dare to put on because sure as fate if I did I’d see a weed that needed pulling and that would lead to other tasks and then it would be all over for that nice lace blouse or elegant afternoon tea dress.

That bad girl took me into the Apple store and tempted me with a iPad, which I could see Jim liking a lot.  After the way the cell phone chose to die on me on the way up to KC, I am leery of taking custody of any other electronic devices, so I didn’t even pretend to bite at the salesman’s pitch.  In fact, I asked him how long it was hardened against people with my sort of energy body.  We really had a fun chat, actually.  He has an aunt that kills watches the same way I do, but he doesn’t know if she has the same problem with remotes and other electronics that I do.

All that shopping made us hungry, so we went back over to the market area and had a fantastic lunch at a middle eastern restaurant there (whose name escapes me); the food was wonderful.   The dolmas and the baba ghanoush were amazing.    The hummus was pretty darned good too.  Then I had to tear myself away from the blandishments of the Big City and head home,  but not before I was gifted with a lavish amount of chocolate chip cookies and a piece of flourless chocolate cake enrobed in a chocolate sauce (for Jim — he let me have a taste and it was quite good).

When I got home we went to the local Chinese restaurant that we favor:  The Great Wall.   Usually we order off the menu as the food is better, but we were not really wanting to wait to eat, so we partook of the buffet, and it was pretty good.  They actually had some spicy food out for once.   Then we got our fortune cookies.  Jim opened his up and said, “I don’t believe it!  How do they know?!”  He was reading his fortune out loud to me as I opened my cookie.

I’m sorry, but this is just trippy.

It’s especially trippy considering what has been going on in our lives lately, what with the science project, the son getting married, and our niece coming here to live.  She is scheduled to arrive sometime today.

Today, it has been raining, so I did a certain amount of house work.   I stopped short of cleaning the stove, but we did feel moved to clear some of the accumulation of centuries out of the closet that our niece from Iowa is destined to use.   You would not believe how much crap two people can accumulate in a few short years.  There were several dead remotes from sundry electronic apparati, and I don’t know how many cords.  In addition to all that, there was all sorts of stuff (now in the recycling and trash), plus there was a lifetime supply of raw incense resins and woods from the Middle East that Jim acquired back in the 80s when he was stationed on the USS LaSalle in the Indian Ocean.  There is oud, frankincense, myrrh, dragon’s blood, sandalwood and several essential oils as well.  That got moved into our closets, along with a whole lot of other stuff which I shall not enumerate here.

Needless to say, that wound up involving clearing out the top shelves of both of our closets which was another instructive exercise  accumulation as well.   I have learned that I am an accomplished squirrler-away-of fabrics of all sorts, especially wools, cottons and silks.

One of the things that fascinated me as I straightened up the book cases in the back bedroom is that there is room on those shelves.   I was able to put almost every book on those shelves on the shelf vertically.   I am still trying to figure out why I had so many books stacked on their sides in front of other books.   Anyway, those book cases are now ready to receive other stuff on them, and have been dusted.

I also cleaned the bathroom.  I have spent many moments of my life trying to figure out why bathrooms get so dirty so fast.   I still don’t know.

I spent some quality time with Ruby this afternoon, throwing the ball, and weeding, and planting some seeds.   I got wild flowers and nasturtiums planted, but decided that the requisite warmth during the nights has not started happening, so I am waiting to plant the zinnia seeds.

It turns out that I was the beneficiary of TWO Easter Bunny visits this year.   The kids across the street hid a dozen decorated eggs for me to look for, and thoroughly enjoyed the fact that I played the game.  It turns out that the basket of chocolates was the largesse of my niece A., and so I feel doubly blessed!

Who knows what the morrow shall bring.

I do know that the robin nest on the air conditioner on the sauna dressing room has been the scene of a blessed event.

And the nine bark is blooming too.

Tomorrow I will try to get some decent shots of the front garden, which is sporting poppies and irises right now, with a lovely understory background of wood hyacinths.

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