Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November's Closing

Wow. The end of another month. They just keep slipping by like greased, spinning wheels. I would have to say that the events of the past months of fall have not been the best for me nor my favorites, what with two favorite dogs having died, having a mysteriously caused broken rib, and just recently having my sweet daddy pass away. All this grief and stress has been hard and unrelenting in a bam, bam, bam sort of pummeling that has made mush of my head some days, and others have been better.
I did do a lot of writing the other day and kind of worked out some of the things that I wanted to remember about the events and feelings surrounding my dad’s recent funeral. It was nice to get it out and have it down, if for no one else ever to read, but me some day, when the memories get fuzzy. There were things that needed to be jotted down, so they could be let go of, purged, and released. It felt good, and I fairly instantly, was probably the most relieved and relaxed I have felt in months. I went to bed after dinner that night and fell into a deep coma.
The next morning, which was yesterday, I woke up way too early, in my seriously snoozing self’s opinion, when the alarm chirped on the cell phone, calling Mark and me (as assistant in charge of toting this and that), to a photo shoot he was to do for a retail business. Once up, a problem immediately revealed that our chilly morning wake up and turn the heater on routine wasn’t happening. My usual warm and toasty closet vent was blowing very cold air. Not good.
Outside was in the low thirty degrees and inside was not much better, so a call to our friendly neighbor guy who does hvac work was in order when we returned.  The dogs fed, Jack stuck with his still twice a day insulin shot, dogs out, us bundled up to face the day, then off to town we went. The shoot finished, it was back to the farm for Mark to drop me off to the still very chilly house. I placed a call to the heater man and headed to the barn to feed, still only to feed, with no riding until rib issue is gone.
As to this continuing saga of this stupid broken rib thing of mine, the past month or so of dealing with it and doctors has once again confirmed my lack of faith in the abilities of modern medicine and its quacks in general. Timeline, to review, October 10th I got off the sofa at night and screamed and thought pulled muscle. A week later, after having ridden horses for four painful days, I call my gp doc’s offfice and was told my doc was on vacation, (no surprise there) and they told me to go to emergency room or a clinic. I went to a Doc in the Box place and had xrays done. A clean break was right there to see. I was told to return in a few weeks to re-examine. Once again, weeks later, I called my gp doc for advice, and again I was told to hit the clinic place. My confidence level was a bit low there so I made appointment with a real ortho doc and waited over two hours to be re-xrayed and then was told that I had no such silly fracture and just to take some steroids. No break? Say what? I had seen the plates, the sucker I had seen was cracked clear through. There was no arguing with this very arrogant fellow, so I went away still puzzled.
After talking with a friend who is a radiologist about my mystery broken, and my now newly diagnosed “unbroken” rib and asked him what he thought. He said to go get a cd of the original pictures and bring them to him. Of course the Doc in the Box did not get the exact picture of the view that I had seen of the big rib break, but had sent another view out of the eight or so that had been taken that day. This one, thought, showed the bottom floater rib point fairly well crunched. “There, is a fracture”, he said. I told him about the other plate and since I did not have that evidence, all he could say is that yes indeed, I did have one definitely cracked up one, and most likely another. That was just great, but the bigger question looms, so why does is take an entire cadre of men in white to not get the same diagnosis? It is no wonder why our medical world is in such bad turmoil, and I am not encouraged that it will improve. I wait, and hope that my rib will.
Needing some activity to ward off the day and the coming night’s chilly temps, I spent a large part of the remains of yesterday multitasking and making lasagna, which is to me pure comfort food. Both Jack and Heidi gave me great help with the clean up of all the various pots and pans required to produce such a wonder. Once done, I poured a nice cup of chocolate almond milk, set it on the counter to close the fridge, and proceeded to knock it off the counter top, right onto Jack’s little fuzzy head below it. This of course scared him, as everything does, and he started to scamper away before he smelled the chocolate and he dove into the mess, tongue just licking away. Since dogs aren’t supposed to tolerate the brown stuff very well, I shooed him away and began trying to wipe up the mess with the single most useless, and very cheap, paper towels possible. Meanwhile Jack is circling like a shark, and I notice that he is leaving little Jack chocolate paw prints all over the kitchen floor, having stepped right into the spill.
Finally, the floor clean, and mopped, and Jack’s foot de-chocolated, my hvac man knocked on the door. Diagnosis on this problem was easy and simple and did not require a committee of over educated and unfocused incomp doctors. He said it was a rusted hole in the heat exchanger. Fortunately this little repair is still just barely under the ten year warranty, which was a really good thing, and is not likely to break the piggy, but we will have limited heat tonight and until it can be fixed. So it was a bundled up night inside the house, with warm food for the soul, a nice toasty fire to sit by, and that was just fine with me. As I have learned, it could always be worse.  

Monday, November 28, 2011


The cursor blinks at me, waiting again for my fingers to tell it what to say. I have written so many words in the past two weeks, yet nothing has felt cohesive. There have been many events in my life which have been knocked me pretty hard, but losing my father is the hardest I have had to deal with so far. Most folks who know me, or knew my dad, already know that my dad passed away recently, after his failing health declined to its ultimate ending, and in its end, he was released.

Today marks two weeks since my daddy’s funeral. The passing of the time since then has had absolutely no relevance and no frame work but for numbers passing on the calendar. It is as though time has both stood still, and it has also rushed by in the blink of an eye. This past Thursday was Thanksgiving Day, and the first occasion for our family to celebrate this day, without our patriarch and pillar.

I am not the first to join this fraternity nor will I be the last, as all of us who are born to a mother and father, in due and natural course, will lose these rudders and be set adrift without them. The initiation to this passage can come in many ways, some harder to bear than others, but the result is the same. There is a deep surreality that I have never felt before, unlike any sensation that I have experienced before.

“How are you doing?” This is the question that I have been asked over and over in these past days since my father died. My answer is “fine, thanks” and am, on Level One. There are layers and layers of dealing with grief, and on this Level One, the rational takes over the heart and makes details happen, the act of keeping busy, distracted, keeps oneself pointed away from the abyss of the next level that eventually will find you and leave you, to deal with the emotion that has not been dealt with yet.

I wrote the blog entry “Atlas” over a year ago, and include the link for those who missed it or who know nothing of my father and his life. I also include a link to one of the many articles that were in the newspapers and on line, which give pretty good coverage to the external and public figure that he was. Perhaps they will fill in some gaps.

Thursday, the 10th, was the last time I saw my dad alive. He was sitting in his big overstuffed lounge chair, dressed in khaki pants and a pale green polo shirt. He was insisting, and had been all day, that someone, by golly, had better take him to the bank to cash a check. He said he needed some cash to cover some expenses and was not going to take no for any sort of answer. Any one who knew my father well would understand that he would hound you until you saw it his way. It was easier that way, and so as with most of his requests, it was granted. Someone drove him to the bank, and with mission accomplished, he was content for the day.

Friday morning his caregiver said he arose in a good mood and after breakfast wanted to get in his car and ride the streets of his beloved city that he shepherded as mayor for twenty two years, with a driver of course. Somewhere in the time line I heard that he got to smoke one of his beloved cigars or two, and even got to have a sip of vodka. Again, after lunch he demanded another ride around the town. (This is from a man who had been confined to bed for the previous weeks, and so this new energy was seen as a positive step in his improvement.) Improvement, it was not to be, at all, but a swan song with the last verse. He knew what it was, and he was glad the day had come. He had finished his detail. We learned later the reason for his demanding need to cash that check the previous day. It was to cover the wake that was to come.

Before heading to bed in the evening he stopped at my mother’s office and waved a goodbye to her, said that he loved her and hoped she would not be long behind him. He told mom’s caregiver to take care of his wife. Then he said he was going to bed to die. He had someone mark the day on the  wall calendar as he made his way to his room. Once there, quite loudly the caregiver recounted, he said “Lord, take me.” She left the room after helping him lay down and returned in a few to check on him, and he was gone.

The day was appropriate in many ways. It was the first time someone had decided to honor Veterans on a Friday, and so it was fitting that this brave old soldier would die on the day commemorating all USA veterans. The date was also numerically a novel one that will only repeat itself in another hundred years, as the date was 11-11-11. The rising moon that evening was bright and it was full, and it was closely joined by an equally bright Jupiter with its circling moons. It was a good and memorable day to die, and so it was that this big man, chose this day. My youngest daughter had said some time back that she had thought that her Papa was a strong enough man to will himself to pass when he was ready, and so my daddy proved her right. He was.

I had not known these last things he had said and done that day until later, and was surprised when we got the call early on Friday evening after my spirited Thursday visit with him. We went quickly to my parents’ house and once there I went into his room. He lay quiet and still in his bed, with the look of being in a peaceful slumber, and I half expected a snore. I kissed his head and held his hand and trembled with the realization that this was really the big It. There was no going back from this point on, my daddy, my father, my bigger than life super hero, the person who got me here and took care of me to his end, was now gone, forever. My father had always told me to hold me head up high, but now my head was bowed.

Those of the family who were in town gathered and said our sad and last goodbyes in turn, then held hands around the bed and someone started a prayer. About halfway into the prayer, someone’s cell phone that had been laid on his now death bed, rang. The prayer continued, the call unanswered and the caller remains unknown. In light of several events that have happened in the next passing days, I am not so sure my daddy didn’t have a little something to do with it, looking back now.

We had anticipated his passing for nearly two years as his health had roller coaster ridden into a decline and so were basically prepared for the funeral and had covered many of those type details ahead of time. His life had covered many bases over his long span, and he had influenced great number of people. So we knew that the funeral would be attended by many, so our planning ahead was a good idea, but there still remained thousands more details to cover to pull off both an intimate family farewell and a fitting special event of a memorial service, and so we all got busy riding on that Level One I mentioned earlier, postponing that grief thing and moving forward.

We had planned to have first, a private service for family to include full Honor Guard services from the city, with a twenty one gun solute to honor the veteran that he was, and a kilted bag piper was lined up to play his favorite tune of “Amazing Grace”. The service done was short and very sweet as he would have wanted, after it was finished, the Honor Guard pulled the red, white, and blue flag from the gun metal gray casket and carefully folded until it was a crisp and perfect, and the Captain of the guard knelt to give to my mother. He whispered softly to her of his admiration and of his thanks to my father, whom he had served under on the police force for many years. Then he stood, and very slowly, raised a pristine white glove to a solid solute, his eyes never blinking, staring straight into hers. He turned with a snap and slowly marched to join the line of the others of the Honor Guard who stood in perfect attention on the opposite side of my father’s casket. One of the Guards, who had also served while under dad’s time in office, gave no flinch, but slow tears eased down his cheeks as they all stood there, ramrod straight, eyes straight ahead, “on guard” now for their fallen leader before them.

With a police motorcycle escort flying down the road ahead of us to block the intersections, in a coordinated precision that my father would have much approved of, our family proceeded to the church for the next phase which was to be a Memorial Service which was open to the public and to his many, many admirers and friends. Along the way we noted that every single car we passed was pulled to the side of the road, and pedestrians stopped in their tracks and gave quiet respect to his family passing by. It was humbling to see the city stopped while we moved along, each person honoring this great man.

My father was a brilliant man, his faith in his religion was immense, and his knowledge of the scriptures rivaled many scholars on the subject. We sat again on the front row of this church of his, just as we had done thirty six years ago when my other brother, David had been killed, in the church I had been raised in, but this time without my dad sitting with us. The service again was as he would have wanted, old time hymns, a few scriptures of comfort, a letter was read aloud that had been sent by a long time friend who could not attend, and then an amazingly eloquent eulogy was given by the past governor of our state and who was the last employer of my dad. It was a fitting and touching salutation of a service.

That day has gone by now, and since then, on a different note, a few things have happened which have been quite interesting and somewhat inexplicable like the mystery phone call at the most inopportune time. There was a period of time many years back now, that right after my brother’s death, things would be in a place and then, somehow, get moved with no explanation. Doors got locked and unlocked with equal mystery, etc. and there was a strong feeling that David, my brother was not quite gone just yet. So it is now with my dad's passing on.

The first of such happenings occurred the night after the funeral. Late at night, mom was asleep, and the caregivers on call heard what sounded like a golf ball being bounced down the brick floored hall past the kitchen. They went to see what was going on and found no ball, anywhere, but both definitely had heard it. The lamp in mom’s room flickered for no reason as it had never done, until mom said to turn “Emory” off. The grandfather clock doors were both opened, which requires a key to do so, also with no explanation. Our turn for the unexplainable was at our house.

Mark and I sat the other evening on the sofa, watching a show on the tv, and heard a loud plop behind us in the kitchen. Dogs nearby continued their sleeping and no doors were open to have let in a strong breeze, but there on the floor, well away from any possible place it could have fallen from, was a gift box of single malt scotches, dad’s favorites. We sat there in amazement and tried to make a rational explanation of what we had just witnessed, and there was no way we could. We laughed, and Mark said to the ghost of my father, “Oh, so it’s gonna be like that eh!” Again we laughed, and the comic relief of this gift helped ease the night along.

Last night “Dad” returned again, to my brother, who had been up very late from being awoken to go to my parents’ house to see about an alarm that had been set off, for no apparent reason. Upon finally getting to bed, and about to snooze, my brother said he felt an intense, but benevolent, chill and with eyes closed, saw dad’s face and my brother was given instructions to take care of our mom. Then he disappeared. About this same time period of night, I was sleepless and tossing, with a loop track of “Amazing Grace” going round my head for hours, and then it too stopped.

My father’s body lies deep under red dirt now with a stone to mark his place, but there is still some intangible connection that remains for now, real, imagined, or totally coincidental, but does remain, as a reminder of his intense energy, enormous sense of humor, and of his gentle and caring soul. I will hang on to these and many more memories for as long as I can. He was bigger than life, and, he will always be my daddy.

RIP dad

Thursday, November 10, 2011


The cold front that blew in last night is ripping the remaining leaves from their tree limbs today. The mostly yellow, some red, and brown leaves float past my view from the back porch window, first one direction, and then they change and go the other with the shifting unseen currents that move them. It is chilly today and my ears felt this first sting of the lowered temperature and cool breeze. It is driving me nuts to not be able to climb on a horse or at least take Sunset out with the carriage. My spirit says “yes” and my not quite healed up rib, with every breath I take, says a strongly emphatic “NO”. Reluctantly I wait for my cartilage and bone to repair itself.

The past few days have been adrift in raw emotion. The events of the weekend seem like they happened a few years ago, and yet they are only hours past. What began as an exciting weekend full of anticipation for watching an epic match up in a college football game, got all jarbled up with the concurrent, and totally unexpected decline and finally, euthanasia, of our little terrier, Marley. It began on Thursday afternoon when at feeding time, the black kitty that shares the young horses’ feed was rolling around in the dust as usual and let her guard down about a rare, but possible dog chase. She happened to be very close to the fence and when I threw the hay to the horses Marley went with me and saw the cat right in front of her and could not resist a chase, so off she went. I did not see an encounter as a horse obscured my view, heard no squeal, and the cat ran off to the shrubs to the right and Marley trotted my direction, with a new limp.

On Friday morning I called the vet to see what she might have done and to give her some relief from her discomfort. He quickly assessed she had pulled a knee ligament and gave me some pills to give her and said to keep her quiet. By afternoon she was much better. Then Saturday morning she was worse and I assumed the pain med was not enough, based on her actions. I called the vet again and arranged to pick up a different pain killer and did. She slept most of the afternoon on my chest with the effect of this new drug as we waited the last few hours for the start of the game on tv.

The game began as many had guessed it would, as a royal slug fest, and we were torn between hooting and hollering in reaction, and trying to keep a sleepy Marley quiet as she lay on the sofa with us. We had noticed that Marley was having some strange coordination problems, walking in circles, and twitching which I first assumed was the effect of the stronger sedative now wearing off and pain returning.

It then went down hill rapidly from there and the game’s interest got put on hold. I spent a sleepless night with her on the sofa, hugging her and trying give some comfort in her confusion and pain, feeling the inevitable would come in the morning if not sooner.

As soon as I could contact my vet, we drove her is a stunned silence to the clinic, Mark holding Marley wrapped in a towel in his arms, with tears flowing freely. Ruling many things out to be the cause left that she had had a brain lesion or tumor and was not going to get better and she was relieved of this life with a quick and easy shot.

It happened so fast I am still reeling with the questions of how, why, what did I miss, and was there a correlation with the knee or did the new symptoms of a neurological problem have anything to with it at all, or was a preexisting condition there and we triggered it somehow? Or was a simple coincidence? I will never know. Unresolved guilt and grief do not make for a healthy way to live and I will have to deal with it, and know that the choices made, and the actions and reactions and all the guessing I could do for a life time, will not bring that precious little dog back. Marley lived a very long and very happy life on this farm, never a sick day in her life, ruling as the queen she was until the very, sad, ending.

We buried her next to the also recently departed Lab, Memphis, on the trail on the dam of the little pond. It is almost exactly the same spot where Mark caught the biggest fish to come out of our waters a few weeks ago. I got the scene on video and in it one can see Marley doing what she loved to do most of all in life, trying to lick the fish. Mark had to push her away from this fish because its mouth was so huge it could have taken her in and swam away with her. She was very excited at that moment and very happy and I will remember her there, and in all the vast places that she filled in our farm world.

The pack is down to two dogs now, from our previous four, leaving Jack the might terrorist, and Heidi the Nazi shepherd. With Memphis’ death, there was a big hole in the energy left behind, but now with Marley gone, it is quiet, lonely, and it is like some one turned out a very large and brilliant light leaving an unimaginable and un-fillable void. Marley was without doubt, the coolest, most engaging, definitely the cutest, biggest spirited, pint sized little mop of fur with an attitude that I have ever known and will remain at the top of my list as the Best Dog ever for a long time.

At some point down the distant future I will get another dog, a puppy most likely, to replace some of the pack, but I am not ready yet. For now my other geriatric dogs, will have to try to fill in all the roles left behind from the passing of Memphis and now Marley. They are old too, and their times will be coming in the future, which I hope will be a good distance off, especially in long enough time for poor Mark’s back to heal from the strains of having had to dig now, two graves in the incredibly hard packed dry as concrete clay that makes up the little pond‘s dam. It is heating pad time with advil for him for now.

This all made for quite an emotional weekend, that, and our team lost their game. Personally I am ready for whatever planetary misalignment there is out there, to get back in place and let some easier times be had by all.

RIP Marley

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


That streaking flash that just went by I think was the month of October. I remember at some point in late September looking at my cell phone calendar and noticing that nearly every single day had a dot on it, indicating that there was something planned for that date. Since then, those dates have run together and meshed into a blur, some of those planned events happened, some did not happen, and then there were some that weren’t planned that did happen. In the immortal words of John Lennon “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” For the past month, this is so true.

October, traditionally for me, has been the month of relief. The long hard grasp of summer has usually slackened and has gone making way for the fun stuff I like to do outside and on the farm, like riding my horses without the stress of the heat and humidity, clearing and planting a winter garden, and tidying the flower beds.

It is also the usual month for my hosting a four day clinic with my dressage guru, Jeff Moore, which entails my being host to many horses and their riders, and Jeff, and trying to make sure that everyone has a safe and good experience during their four day emersion into learning more about how to train their horses. There are several preceding weeks of tidying the farm and setting up arenas, relocating my own horses to accommodate visitors, and various brain numbing things that I do to make the thing happen that no one ever sees or notices, but would, if I didn’t do them. It is very hard work and stressful to pull off, but worth the effort to get the opportunity to ride with such an insightful teacher as Jeff.

This October had a mind of its own however. Somewhere about the second week, as I was readying for the clinic, and doing a myriad of other things to check off my “ to do” list, I spontaneously broke a rib. Well, that was not known at the time, I simply thought I has slipped a rib out of place, pulled a muscle...something, but any had no idea that I had indeed cracked one. Pain is something I can be quite stoic about. Having been a rider for most of my life, and have been in various sports along the way, I have been subject to no small amount of injury and wear and tear. So a new pain was new, but nothing new. So onward I pressed, running through the course of my charted out days, gobbling up Advil when I passed by the kitchen. I managed to ride the four days of the clinic, nearly vomiting at the sharp pain getting on and off the horse, but dealing with it.

It was after the clinic that a friend made me promise I would go get it examined. I did and sure enough the ol’ T10 on the right hung there cracked and dangling in my shadows of my xray, pressing perilously close to my lung. I was fairly stunned at the vision of what I had been running around, riding, moving hay, lunging young enthusiastic horses, and how close I had come to putting that pointed chard into my breathing bag. Now the pain got its deserved attention, and my plans for an enjoyable remaining October get derailed. I was sidelined, still am, and will be until the pain goes away and another picture of the thing says it’s healed. Drat and double drat. I do not like down time and side lines.

My older horses think vacation time is great and have had no problem with not working. The younger ones miss my attention and give me question when I feed them as to why no play time with them. It is very hard to see these days of glorious weather go by after months of hell, and not get to taking advantage of them riding. I have been through this before, though, and I do know that this too, shall pass. I find little comfort in this thought and struggle to find things to occupy my energy, that won’t do further damage, sitting here wrapped up snug with a horse leg wrap.

Halloween marked the end of October and fell on a Monday night this year, but most folks seemed to make a weekend long event out of it. By hideous circumstance I happened to need to go to Walmart on Sunday and was once again marveling at how that anytime I have graced the doors of the giant box of stuff, I always feel that I am the best dressed, and probably the most intelligent, person that I see there. This Sunday though was special. It took me quite a while to realize that what I was marveling over in this melting pot place of social dregs, were folks actually in costume for Halloween, and then it made me giggle that I had so much trouble telling that they were. The young girl who I thought might be handicapped was really doing the zombie thing, totally in character, oozing through the store, eyes glazed, arms out stretched, and feet dragging. It was just another surreal experience in that store and a further reminder of why I try to avoid it.

A very lovely baby shower also closed out the month, for my daughter, who will very soon be delivering our first grand child, a girl whose early nickname was Ninja because of her bouncing around her watery playpen in the sonograms. My daughter grows exponentially now and at lunch yesterday we sat in similar positions with me protecting a rib, and her trying to find a place, anywhere, to eat, breathe, and be comfortable with a still very active little girl kicking and pressing, with no success. I have really not processed this idea of a new person hitting this world soon, that I am connected to as a “grand parent” but I am told that it will hit like a brick when it does. Part of my time spent being on the side line is now making curtains for this future child’s nursery. It is a contemplative activity as I do so, and I remember my time spent before my daughter was born, also sewing and making things to fluff the nest. The cycle repeats, again.

Halloween did provide a first occasion for us, however. We have lived in this house on these acres, far from town and neighborhoods, for about fifteen years and until this Monday night, have never had one single trick or treater. Just as we were about to get our plates for dinner the other night, some lights pulled down the driveway and up to the back door. Mark went to the door and quite surprised, realized some kids were really doing the Halloween thing, asking for candy. Fortunately, I had some small candy bars left over from some I had bought for the recent clinic and was able to oblige them. It also, thankfully, removed the temptation for me to eat these chocolate goodies late at night when my resolve to eat healthy is at its weakest.

With November’s beginning, the firewood pile has been replenished, a few leaves have turned yellow and have fallen, (99% make their way into the pool of course), and I face my closet and wonder how to dress for this season, again. Another of a reoccurring thing is the return of a cat, who has been seen on this farm for many years now, only showing up in the late October, early November time, to share the horse feed that I put out for the young ones. She is a dark calico, always covered in the sandy dust she loves to roll in, as she coyly waits for the horses to allow her close enough to share their grain. For some reason the dogs rarely chase her, and she will stay until spring, hiding in the barn, sitting on my parked carriage, and leaving paw prints in the sand beside the little pond.

Another cup of herbal tea and I am off to finish the curtain project. November looms ahead with little in the way of a real directional path. There are things which will happen, and some that are planned which probably won’t, and most of which I will have little control over, such as the outcome of the biggest football games to happen in memory.

This Saturday, Alabama vs. LSU. All I can say is…..ROOOOOOLLLL TIDE, ROLL.