Iced Tea Chat: Fleeting Summer
Hello, hello, hello! I thought I'd take a little time to have an iced tea chat. The front lawn is strewn with yellow stars under the Sweet Gum tree. I love the sight of the yellow stars strewn haphazardly over the green lawn. Reading back through old posts, this is a familiar sign this time of year. It is a reminder of fleeting summer days, as is the slightly later dawn, the later hour of the sun slanting in the western windows and the earlier dusky evenings. As we went down the driveway to church on Sunday, John said, "Ooh!...but then we're getting close to September..." as we came near the Sweet Gum tree. "Yes," I said sighing, "we are...unfortunately."
"Unfortunately?" "Yes, because it means summer is very nearly over. Peaches will be gone by end of the week..." Also over are all the plans made for these glorious days. Too late to bring them all about this year. The season is nearly done. Time to think of autumn and what I'd like to do in these months ahead.
But end of summer is not without charm. Here in August we can start to expect a few cooler days. Not exactly chilly but cooler temperatures. Seasonal changes start to show and add to the anticipation of the coming season, but don't subtract from the last lovely days of the current one. I find this time of year I'll stand in the sun for a bit and soak it in, too aware that come winter I'll long for hot summer sun. I will make a big pot of soup or chili. I shared that idea with Mama today as we puttered about, after talking about how pleasantly temperate the weather was. "Chili...I've been thinking I'd like a pot of chili." And Mama nodded and said "Or a good bowl of beef stew..." Obviously she feels the same way I do about the waning summer days.
I received a note from a dear friend yesterday. Her daughter was in labor. She'd written me earlier in the week, puzzled about how a Grandmother feels when she has her first grand babe in arms. I explained to her how it was for me. While I'd had to come to know my own little babies and realize they were not a stranger of any sort, and I'd had that overwhelming sense of all I didn't know or understand and I was responsible for this tiny thing, when I saw my first grandchild (and all the others I was privileged to greet) I simply felt awash with love. This child, even more than my own, was truly blood of my blood and flesh of my flesh and heart of my heart. The mystery of who they were was a fun one I would watch unfold. The experiences I'd had raising their mama or daddy had filled me with confidence I wasn't privileged to have long ago. I had no grave concerns. I had love and nothing but love.
I had a note from my friend this morning. Her grand baby was born and she was in love. She shared that there were complications during delivery. The baby has pneumonia but is doing well at the moment. She also most likely has Downs Syndrome, an unexpected thing, given the mother's youth and what was to all appearances a normal pregnancy.
I paused in my congratulatory reply. Not because I am shocked or upset on her behalf. The truth is, I paused because I was thinking of her daughter and because I was thinking of our Danny.
Danny was John's youngest son and severely handicapped. He never walked or held his own bottle or cup. He never talked, though he could be quite vocal. I think people were taken aback by Danny at first but his personality was bigger than life and bigger than his handicap. I suspect, given this day and age, had Danny had one of those computers that recognized pupil focus where he could have communicated, we'd have been shocked at his overall intelligence, and I mean that sincerely. As it was, you could only guess at it.
John has told me of the dark days following Danny's diagnosis as a baby, as the reality of what he wasn't going to be set in. He speaks of the mental and spiritual challenges of giving up his dreams of what someday would be like for Danny and how hard it was for him to let go of what he'd thought he might become. He tells me that Danny caused him to become a far better advocate for patient care. That Danny made him be brave in ways he'd never imagined he'd have to be. That he had to become Danny's voice, his warrior, because Danny could only battle so far on his own. Because of John, the special education classes in the county school system where he lived came into compliance with law. Because of Danny, doors opened to other students who'd been left out in the cold so to speak.
For myself, coming into Danny's life when he was 13, it was a challenge. It challenged me because I had a baby and I was in a great deal of physical pain following the drunk driver accident. Physically lifting and carrying Danny or his equipment was hard and awkward. His weekend visits were exhausting because I'd no sooner get the baby taken care of and Danny cared for and the family fed than it was time to start all over again. I didn't have to give up my ideals of what Danny might have been. Danny was what he was.
I discovered over the almost three years of caring for him what Danny was: full of joy, stoic in pain, absolutely a stickler for his routine and schedule and damned determined that you would be as well, happiest when he was with all the other kids watching television or being raced about by them in his wheelchair, a hater of cold of any sort which he seemed to feel more keenly than anyone I've ever known, and that he had a dislike of eggs so great that he could spit out the tiniest portion even if the egg had been mixed with grits. Danny had a sense of humor and would roll his blue eyes at any female who came near him. Like all the other Cheney men he worked at being charming. And he wasn't in the least above practical jokes.
One of his gags was to literally gag. Because Danny was unable to control the volume of what anyone put into his mouth, he was prone to aspiration, not a thing to be taken lightly. Though it was considered a big deal that Danny could drink from a glass of water, I found a syringe worked far better. Less volume, less spills and less chance of strangling him occurred. However, Danny had long sense learned that gagging would scare snot out of his dad. Anytime John fed him, Danny immediately coughed and gagged and coughed and carried on...and then laughed hilariously when he realized how frightened his dad was. He was less prone to pull this stunt with me or JD because we remedied his need to joke by refusing to give him another bite or swallow of anything until next meal. Another 'funny' thing to Danny was to clamp down hard on the spoon you were feeding him with and refuse to let go, his eyes sparkling wildly the whole while.
Towards the end of his life, Danny was in the hospital where John and I both worked. I went into the office early that morning and was soon summoned by the nurse to go to Danny's room. His mother had gone home and wasn't available. They'd been trying for hours to give him a dose of medicine, an oral medication, and every time they did he 'aspirated'. "Oh, no he's not!" I told the nurse. I walked down to his room and heard the oh so familiar sound of Danny gagging about gagging. I stepped through the door just in time to see the nurse jump back with a horrified look on her face. I walked over to the bed and said "Danny! Stop that mess right now! You are scaring this poor nurse." Danny rolled his lovely blue eyes in my direction, grinned from ear to ear and laughed out loud. I told the nurse to go ahead and give him his medication and she did, which he took with out one cough or even slight gag. He made up to her after, as she wiped his chin, smiling at her and fluttering his lovely thick eye lashes.
The nurse turned to me as I left the room. "I had no idea he was just teasing me! I didn't think he could do that!" I assured her that Danny was a great tease and her best bet was to tell him she was about to administer medicine and the sooner it got in his system the sooner he could go home. It worked out very well indeed. Danny was home within a day or so with out further incident.
These are the thoughts that went through my mind this morning, as I hesitated in the middle of my congratulatory note to my friend. I told her that her granddaughter would bring her great happiness, and she will. I told her that advances in medicine and treatment have made a huge difference in the quality of life for all, and they have. I could not bring myself to explain to her what her daughter was likely to face, as she was challenged to give up her dreams and ideals of this little one and learn to accept what limitations her daughter will face. But then I thought, it wasn't really necessary to explain this to my friend, because as parents we're forever bumping up against our own plans and dreams in the face of children who must grow to be their own person despite all our thinking out their lives before hand. Yes, it's true that this young woman's reality may be a little bitter sweet, but it's not likely to be less sweet overall than any other parent's joy, is it?
So it was a tempered joy that started this day.
The day has felt long. I worked hard before I left home, but that was nothing but housework, just the usual stuff and there's always more of that to be done isn't there? I can name five jobs right away that I ought be doing just now, but housework has this lovely tendency to just wait upon you and I am at times like this very willing to let it wait. I'd rather sit and enjoy my tea and share a bit with you and then later perhaps I will tackle another task or three.
I always feel a bit worn down and deflated when I come away from an afternoon spent with Mama. There are many reasons for this. For one thing it is her personality and there's no helping that. For another, there was a moment today when I saw Mama from a distance and I was struck hard by the obvious pain and weariness upon her face and the age, too. It is hard for me to reconcile the older woman I see at these moments with my mother. Perhaps it's because I bump hard against her mortality and when I do I must bump equally hard against my own. Whatever conflicts I've had with my mom over the years, I can not deny that she has seemed at times unstoppable and super woman. She worked hard all my years and I do mean hard. She not only was a full time nurse, but she gardened and preserved her harvests, she prepared all of her own meals, she sewed the majority of my clothes and her own and often a few of my brother's things, she kept a clean house and she seemed never to stop. It's hard to see super woman cut down to just being another old woman. And for those of you who wonder sometimes at my industry, I come by it honestly from both sides of the family. The women who came before me were strong, hard working women. They were women who knew what price life exacted and they paid it without rancor or bitterness, with humor and tenderness for the most part. I realized this about the time I turned 35 and I couldn't wish for a better legacy for my daughters than these. Flesh of their flesh and blood of their blood and spirit of their spirit.
But I felt a tiny bit deflated when I walked in the door this afternoon. A little weary from the day, a little weary from these sudden realizations that life is creeping along and seasons of life are passing a little more swiftly than I care for them to pass. I sat down at computer and was shaken hard by a comment that was nothing shy of snarky. I've said before and I'll say again, perhaps a little more crassly than usual, but if you haven't the brass to put your name on a negative comment on this blog, don't for one minute think I'll just leave it there. I will delete it. For that matter if you don't like the content don't read here. There are millions of blogs to choose from. Go spread your mean spiritedness elsewhere! Scram and shoo and hiss and boo at you. Whatever little thrill you take from your negativity, I get a little thrill too, in deleting the comment.
I have a ministry of sorts here. I won't let anyone discourage me. I can't. This is what God placed on my heart to write and what He's shown me is an encouragement to others. I won't step away just because someone who hadn't the brass to sign their name decided today was the day to be a witch. Now, GO AWAY!
I've just today finished On Rue Tatin by Susan Herrman Loomis. I'd stumbled upon Loomis' blog earlier this year. I don't have it in my regular reading cycle but it's one of those I check now and then. I'd heard of the book title several times on different blogs and found it online for something like $.01 last month. It's a lovely read, though I will say that the beginning, middle and end seem to be a little bit disconnected. Perhaps because the end seems to be more like stand alone essays and the beginning and middle are personal past history and character sketches of towns and people she's met. Each chapter ends with a few simple recipes, perhaps two or three in total and truly possible for any home cook to make in their own kitchen, whether they live in France on in southwest rural Georgia. I liked the last part of the book immensely, I liked all the book, but I especially connected with her writing at the third end of the book.
I'm always torn when I find these books on sale for such a low price and I mean that. On the one hand, it's like finding a real treasure at a thrift shop. On the other hand, my mind does tend to wonder how the author gets a cut of $.01. Writing is, after all, her livelihood. I have decided that these $.01 deals don't come across my path too often and I've supported many an author in my lifetime with the pittance they receive from sales (or their estates if they are much loved re-publications) and I'll take the blessings as I find them. I've also soothed my conscience in another way...I've decided that I shall support others through their Amazon widgets, which pays them a small commission of sorts if I shop, or by clicking through their ad sense widget which rewards the author of a blog for allowing Google to sponsor advertisers. It is the little things we can do at times that make up for the bigger things we can't always manage, agreed?
Speaking of small blessings, I've decided to think more along these lines. What small blessings can I give others? I've been asking myself this question frequently. I love blessings. I love being gifted unexpectedly with a word of encouragement or a gift that someone thought I might like, no matter how small a thing it might seem to them. It is such a joy to me to know that someone was thinking of me. I'd like to be that sort of an encourager to others. Mama has been a huge blessing to me many times in very tangible ways. I've always felt, to my detriment, that because I couldn't gift others in the same financial way that she did, that I had nothing to give. But here in the last few weeks it has become clear to me that small blessings count. A brief note, a sincere bit of advice, a small gift do count far more than the "I wish I could..." thoughts I've had in the past. I wish I could do big gifts and grand ones, but I can't. I can, however, go with my motto for the year: Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
It's amazing the way God has used that motto this year to speak to me, to open my mind and heart to possibilities where before I saw only impossibilities. And do you know, it's opened me as well, to a realm of deeper joy than I've had before. To think, "I do have something to offer. I can give to another!", truly does multiply the happiness I feel with my life overall.
And isn't it funny?...God had to teach me to joyfully receive before he could make me understand how to joyfully give. For so many years I felt shame that I was in a position that others felt I needed to be given things, even a sincere compliment. And then something happened one day that changed my perspective.
Someone had done us a favor and we wanted to show our appreciation. We carefully chose something we knew they would like. We knew it. It wasn't big or fancy but it was affordable and we'd planned it all out carefully. Well the person shunned our gift. I mean not only not thanking us but telling us out right it wasn't wanted and refusing to so much as take it form our hand. He made us feel horrid about it and I mean that. It was as though we'd insulted him by even thinking we could give him anything. It hurt. As we talked it over later, John put it in a way that I'd never thought about before: "He robbed us of our blessing!" And so he had. Our joy in giving had been turned to so much sawdust.
It wasn't our first lesson in how you could UN-bless someone, unfortunately. There were several more to come. But I watched and learned over the years. I realized what an injustice I'd done others even when outwardly thanking them for their kindness when I shrank back with shame inside. I made up my mind that a sincere thank you would always go out of me and I'd joyfully receive what was given and thank God for the blessing and the one giving the blessing.
Then God began to show me the ways we can be a blessing. We can encourage. We can do what we say we will do (keep our word). We can pray for another. Now he's shown me how I can give from where I am at present; that blessings don't have to be grand scale. They can be small and helpful and sincerely meant and it's nothing to do with what another needs exactly. There are plenty with more than we have who don't need what I have to give but they do need the encouragement that comes knowing I was thinking of them, that I was taking time to think only of them at that moment, that I had them on my heart and I was listening to what God was telling me about them. And of course, it's so easy to write it all out but there's got to be action put to this. If I don't, then I've done nothing but bloviate. Good intentions mean nothing at all do they? I loathe it when someone tells me "I started to call you..." " I stated to get you 'x' "...and then they tell me why they didn't. Often times it wasn't 'x' I needed. It was the knowledge that I was on their heart and mind that would have meant a great deal and if 'x' demonstrated it then why not give it and let it stand? That's what I mean. I want to do the thing instead of just thinking "I wish I could..." "I started to..." I want to get 'x' and 'y' and give it and say "I was thinking of you."
Oh! Just look at the way the day has gone! It's evening already. And loathe as I am to leave you, it is time to have a bit of supper and tend to the last things of the day...Good evening dear souls. Talk to you again soon!