Sunday, October 9, 2011

Communicating or Just Sayin'

Lately my dad has called our phone on an average of three or four times a day. He has a hearing aid and might be able to hear some of the words if I care to shout them. The phone we have in his room at the nursing home has the amplification turned up to the utmost. It's quite possible that the nurses down at the central station can hear me when I try to tell Dad something. However, Dad always asks Mom if she heard what I said, and then he promptly tells me again that he can't hear a word I am saying so I will just have to tell Mom. This type of so-called conversation has prompted me to turn on the answering machine and the 'do not disturb' feature on our phone. It is impossible to communicate over a telephone when one party cannot hear--or won't listen.

Now Fang finally decided to get a hearing aid for both ears when he kept having to wonder what the grandchildren were saying to him. Mind you, he could manage to ignore whatever I was saying. In forty-three years of marriage, he has probably heard whatever it was once or twice already. But it has been nice to know lately that he can hear me when he has his "ears" on. Being ignored is one thing, but being told that I haven't said anything to him all day is something else again.

Over the years we have come up with a fairly good way of handling decisions around our house. I talk about things and make plans; then Fang decides what HE wants to do and does it. It may be a little one-sided on the decisions, but at least one of us is usually satisfied. This might not sound like a good form of communication, but it has worked wonders for our marriage. If a mistake is made by the decision maker (guess who), the other party can smile and say (or think), "I told you so." As I said, at least one party of the first part gets to be satisfied.

Now communication is supposed to be a two-way situation. At least that is what most folks take for granted. And perhaps it is just as true for my parents as it is for Fang and me. One of us talks away while being ignored--in both situations. Tonight my dad left a message on the answering machine telling us that they are ready to go home. It was so easy to erase the message. Now if it were as easy to get it across to Dad that he IS at home where he currently resides, then maybe we could just talk about the wonderful fall weather and the recent rain. Somehow, ignoring his message happens to be much easier than ignoring the fact that he wants to go home. Children--at least Dad's children--were reared to try to please their parents and do whatever they asked of us. Not being able to do what they want of us is just as hard on us as it is on the parents not to get what they think they want.

It may be that in the future our children will have to tell us to just be still and stay in the car, chair, bed, nursing home, or wherever we need to be. It is NOT easy being the child who has to tell a parent what to do. When children have to 'parent' the parents, it is awkward at the very least and emotionally trying at the best. It would be wonderful to be able to just do for them what they have always done for us without all the complications of personality and stubbornness. And maybe that is possible for some children and parents. Maybe God will bless our children so that Fang and I can be less of a problem and more like old friends who live in someone else's house. But since one of us likes to talk and the other likes to make the decisions, who knows what kind of problems we will make for others. Maybe the kids won't put a phone in our room--just sayin'.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Followers and Readers

Every once in a while I log into this account to read what Robin and Jim have posted on their blogs. Both of them come up with some pretty neat comments and ideas. I still wonder if Jim's Russian tomatoes produced anything in the heat we had this summer. And I am ready for Robin to post a good list of things that we CAN buy that are made in America. One likelihood is just about as good as the other. The heat probably cooked Annie's purple tomatoes, and we would have to weave our own cloth to sew our own clothes if we want some made strictly in America--and that's IF we could find thread still made in America. [My Singer sewing machine was made in England, by the way.]

Not to sound too pessimistic here, I realize that some of the BEST things in life are still made right here in the US of A. Fang believes that most good ideas start here at home in this country--no matter the racial or ethnic background of the idealistic person who comes up with the ideas. The CLIMATE of this country--and no, I am not talking about the temperature or the rainfall--is very conducive to innovation and invention. Oh, now there are those who say that one state is more innovative than others. My brother Sterling says that the toothbrush was invented in Arkansas. If it had been invented in Texas, it would have been the TEETH brush! Shaking my head and smiling at the thought. I have heard that in the typical doctor's waiting room in Arkansas one can find enough teeth for an entire set. That is about enough said to get me in trouble for today.

No place on earth is perfect for every situation or person. My friend Bill Turley and his wife Gloria live in her home country of Colombia. Where they live in Somondoca must be pretty ideal as to climate. Bill does say that Gloria gets a little tired of cleaning up after their big bull mastiff because it rains nearly every night and the big dog tracks in the mud. But they also have wonderful water--free right out of the mountain--and hummingbirds and exotic flowers all around their home. If a person wanted to retire to an area where each dollar counted for the very most, it seems that the Emerald Mountain of Somondoca would be the perfect place. On the other hand, Bill is always happy to talk to me--in ENGLISH. Most of the townspeople he sees speak only Spanish. And while he has no trouble making himself understood, I can just imagine how much trouble I could get into with my two-word Spanish vocabulary.

Our children have mentioned a couple of times that they wished we lived closer to the Metroplex--that is the Ft. Worth to Mansfield [north-south] area. We don't like the traffic or the general attitudes of that area, and we are quite happy to live off in the boonies here in Wichita Falls where we generally know most of the neighbors. Fang and I like to read about or see shows about other areas--particularly those about Scotland and places in Europe like the Normandy area where Fang's ancestors originated. It seems to me that my ancestors thought that the air might be a bit more inviting in America, and for all intents and purposes, it has been the best breathing air we could ask for in our lifetimes. At any rate, we won't be leading any waves of descendants back to Europe to establish roots. We will probably content ourselves with reading about the land and the people while sitting in our own living room. But it is always nice to dream of other places and other folks and how they live THEIR lives. And truly, Texas is big enough for just about any dream.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Death Night

Death Night

I heard my horse scream and could tell she was running full speed around her pen. It took some help from a friend who was visiting for us to be able to catch her and hold her. It was when we finally had her by the head that we realized that the screams were coming from a fire-engulfed two-story house just over from ours on the cross street. We knew the man and his parents well. Death had never frightened me, but that night dying became a terrifying reality.

Only years after the fact did I think about what she might have told her dad about how she came to be pregnant. All I knew for sure was that no marriage took place and the baby boy had been adopted by her aunt. Gossip in small towns is similar to what happens when a rancher keeps the breeding bull one season too many—everyone is related to someone on one side or the other of the herd. So many people knew something but hardly everything, but what was unknown was great fuel for the gossip fire.

I met her for the first time that summer. She came down to stay with her grandmother and brought her horse with her. We rode some together and then she stopped riding up to our place, so when I saw her up the street talking to a neighbor and one of the kids who was a bit younger than me, I asked her when she would be available to go riding again.

“Oh, I guess I won’t be riding for several months now. I am going to have B’s baby.”

I asked her if she were kidding, and she told me what she planned to name the baby and that she would soon be Mrs. Looking over at the man who was supposed to be the other half of this conversation, I saw a man who wanted to run or duck or something. He just backed against the wall where he was standing and slowly shook his head. I reminded her that he already had a son by that name; he was, in fact, the father of two sons already. Why would he want another baby?

The younger man who was leaning against the rail of the carport laughed and said, “Well, not every baby is planned or every marriage either. I will be married soon, and the baby is already on the way.”

Shock was still within my abilities, and I asked that young man who was the mother and intended and learned that incubation was taking place merely another block away in the other direction. Yes, the heifers were running wild that year and the fences were down in every pasture in the county.

It takes time for babies to come into the world, and it takes time for families to accept the idea that their precious children can very quickly become a source of either pride or embarrassment. In those years, a child born out of wedlock was definitely an embarrassment; and sometimes a quick or quiet marriage was plenty of reason for gossip—whether or not a child precipitated the event.

She left town soon after, or at least her horse was not in the corral by her grandmother’s place. Of course, her dad could have taken the horse back to her hometown. I never knew for sure and didn’t ask her grandmother. Sometimes it is just better not to ask questions if the answers might embarrass old friends. And her grandmother was, in fact, an old friend of mine. Years later, with tears in her eyes, the old woman told me that her son could not come to see her there in our town. That was the day I realized that the two men who suddenly left town after the fire were friends of her son. And it was later still that I wondered what the young woman had told her dad.

The adoptive mother is gone now; the grandmother long in her grave, but a certain sound in the wind, or a glance up the street when I go back for a visit are reminders of that night. The younger man died on a curve when his brakes gave way. It could have been just a simple accident, but his child never knew him as a father. And the girl left town with her family—probably before the gossips could talk about her. But the other death—that one was premeditated and horrific. And that man/child would know by now that it was murder. Whether his adoptive mother told him the ‘who and why’ can only be guessed. And whether his birth mother told her dad that she was raped or seduced doesn’t really matter now. It is not only men who are oversexed and under-principled.

Oh Pioneers!

First published in SlightlyCreaky:

Oh Pioneers!

No cowboy and Indian wars loom over the horizon. The cavalry has gone off to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ‘frontiersmen’ in the Space Station have a Daniel Boone ‘elbow’ to manage all by themselves—with a little help from Houston; but we have become so accustomed to their adventures that we simply watch and grin. So where are the pioneers? Oh, they are just over in the next county—or down the street. But don’t look for men with rifles and women with long skirts. Instead, look for those brave souls who are seeking a way to fight stagflation, recession, depression, and general lack of confidence in a ‘standard’ way of life. But that does not mean that they lack for enemies other than attitude. Hand held to eyes to shade the glare from all the ‘super stars,’ prize athletes, politicians, and ‘trumped’ up billion or millionaires…

No bank robbers with masked faces staked out accounts this past year, but the one-armed bandit down at the gas station still did a pretty good job of depleting the budget. And no one wore a mask at the checkout counters scanning the groceries. And, of course, one of the biggest threats to fiscal well being continues to be the insidious reduction of whatever interest savings should be accumulating in a place called “Wall Street.” So the new pioneers have their battle lines drawn; but what weapons will prevail against doubt, dismay, and double digit inflation?

The Great Depression of the 30s found the pioneers of the economic battlefront making do or doing without. But most of them had never heard of credit—much less a credit card. Today’s pioneer goes to battle carrying the burden of past excesses. Now the jobless who carry credit card debt have no choices left—housing, transportation, food—just the essentials of life—these are no longer choices.

Years ago and several generations back, the backwoods cabin in Jack County had a rock cistern for water and a rock trail hewn down the side of the mountain to level ground. A mule, a rifle, a fireplace, and a bit of luck with the wildlife provided sustenance. Somehow those pioneers survived to invest in the county co-op. The investment receipts have beautiful scrolled writing in the dates and names. But who could possibly calculate their worth now?

In New York City, Dallas, or in Wichita Falls, a mule, a rifle, and a fireplace might not help anyone survive today. But, like those early pioneers, we still need to feel it is worth our while to invest in our community—investing by building homes, buying local products, or raising our families here. Most are willing to work for that investment—when work is available. Even a pioneer needs a plow, a hammer, a way to connect with community. All over our country we need those tools; they are called jobs.