Sue Martin Glasco

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Sue Glasco was born in the southern part of Illinois in 1933 during the Great Depression in a region called “The Land Between the Rivers.” (Ohio River on the east and Mississippi on the west.) Her sister Rosemary was eight and her brother Jim was five. The family lived in a big two-story rental house at the top of a short street sloping gently down to the elementary school where her father was both principal and eighth grade teacher. Later they rented a house even closer to the school where her first memories surface. By the time Sue started first grade, her parents had bought a house across the street from the school. School lasted for only eight months, and there were no summer salaries for teachers. So Sue’s family leased their home for the summer and moved to her father’s home place in a nearby county. Her parents made that annual move an adventure in country living, and Sue grew up appreciating farm life. An exception was the summer after first grade, when the family moved to Colorado so her father could study at the University of Colorado. He brought her books from the university library. At the farm, books were ordered from the state library system and were delivered by the mail carrier. When she was eight, World War II began. A teacher at a one-room rural school was drafted. Sue’s mother was asked to take his place. In some communities at that time, it was considered unseemly for a married woman to teach. Now it was a patriotic duty to teach. (There were married women and married women with children at her dad’s school, however.) Sue’s mother picked up students with their 1937 Ford car, supervised the student who built the fire in the stove, kept the building clean, and taught all eight grades. Sue loved visiting her mother’s school when her school was closed, but she hated being alone in the house until her mother and siblings returned each afternoon. News of the war and its heart ache filled their lives. The school yard was heaped with enormous hills of collected junk metal and old rubber tires as community scrap drives took place. Students competed in paper drives and brought in tightly-wound balls of tin foil from gum and other wrappers. Kids thought they were helping win the war when they helped with the drives and when they bought savings stamps and participated in savings bond drives. After the war, the rural school consolidated with the town school, and Sue’s mother also taught across the street. Few teachers had their degrees, and her parents were always taking night classes—sometimes locally and sometimes driving with a car load of teachers to what is now Southern Illinois University Carbondale. After she started high school, Sue’s parents stopped moving to the farm, but she still enjoyed going with her dad on Saturday when she could. Her sister went off to Carbondale to school after working locally for a year after high school. Her brother joined the army after high school and returned to SIU on the GI Bill. Most local students went to college at Carbondale, where one could work oneself through school. This was where Sue’s grandfather, parents, aunts and uncles had gone, and she took it for granted that she would follow the same path and did. She worked, majored in journalism and had almost a second major in speech. Right before Christmas when Sue was a senior, Gerald Glasco had finished his stint in the Air Force and came back to campus to finish his degree in agriculture. They had met once, and Gerald had spent time with a mutual friend in Hawaii, so he phoned Sue to share greetings from her. They began dating over the holiday break, and by April, they announced their engagement. Sue kept her plans to participate in an interdenominational project at Judson Student House in Greenwich Village, which required participants to find a job, work during the day, and then join in evening Bible study and listening to lecturers from around the city. Weekend activities explored the church in urban life. Sue secured summer employment as a secretary in an office at the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and saw upper NY daily. She did not get to any ball parks, but she enjoyed the cheap seats in theaters on and off Broadway. After the summer, Sue went to coach debate and to teach an integrated English-speech class to sophomores at a new high school in a Chicago suburb. She returned home for a June wedding. Gerald and she rented a house (no plumbing) in the country for $10 a month They were eager to start a family, and Katherine was born the following April while Gerald finished his senior year at SIU and they lived on his GI Bill. Wanting to farm someday, Gerald accepted a fellowship at the University of Illinois to complete his masters in ag economics. A farm in the Mississippi bottoms opened up for them to rent but with a three-month gap between finishing his degree and its availability. They felt a miracle provided Gerald a teaching job for that fall term at Western Illinois University. Their only son Gerry was born in Macomb before they began their lives as farmers. They went in debt for a tractor, and Gerald raised pigs without a farrowing house. Their tenant house was cold in winter, and they had to work hard, but they enjoyed farm life. Shortly before their three-year lease expired, their daughter Jean Claire (Jeannie) was born. Soon they moved up to Columbiana Ranch in the middle of the state, where Gerald became livestock manager.Then he and his brother Keith had an opportunity to buy a hog farm back in Southern Illinois the next year; they took the plunge into farm ownership. Keith’s family lived at the hog farm, and they moved into a wonderful old house (cold, no plumbing till they remodeled and put it in) on a rented farm, which would provide crop land. Mary Ellen was born the following June. Keith was able to buy a farm back in their home county and moved his family there, and Gerald and Sue moved over to the hog farm, where they lived for the next 36 years until they built their retirement home on a small lake Gerald had built. Despite a serious childhood illness, Katherine became a singer, a teacher and a children’s librarian in Nashville, TN. Eventually she came back home to teach and to be near her nieces and nephews. She married David Cedar shortly after her unexplained bouts of illness had finally led to the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. (Probably the MS had started when she was 14.) She continued to teach music and reading until the stairs became too difficult and she had to retire. Much to their delight right before her 40th birthday, their son Sam was born. Now Sam has one more year of high school before he goes to college. MS has progressed and robbed her of the ability to walk or use her hands. She and Sam live in nearby Marion. Gerry married his high school sweetheart, which was the smartest thing he ever did. Vickie worked full time and held the family together while he developed a successful hunting/outfitting business in Mexico in the winter months and coached travel softball for their three daughters in the summer. Tara grew up to play for SIUC and became a teacher, married Bryan Archibald, and soon had three adorable sons. Erin played for Notre Dame, Texas A&M, USSSA Pride, and then one summer in Europe . She now teaches middle school math and coaches in Texas. Six years ago Gerry closed the business and became assistant softball coach at the University of Georgia. Three years ago he became associate head coach, and Lu Harris-Champer brought Tara in as assistant coach. Tara was able to do this because their family and Gerry and Vickie rented a large house together, and Vickie became a caregiver for the three little boys while Tara coached. Bryan had an office in the house, where he disappeared each morning to the computer, to continue his job at an architecture firm in the Chicago area. Geri Ann finished high school at Oconee, won the 2012 Gatorade High School National Player of the Year in softball, and has just completed two years playing for UGA while studying special education. This summer Gerry is coaching USSSA Pride and has just become associate head coach at Texas A&M. Jeannie grew up with a kitten or sketch pad or both in her hands a large part of the time. She married Rick Eiler, who heads the math department at Freeport High School, and Jeannie now teaches art in a grade school. They raised three talented children. Leslie married Mike Thompson, works for a music publishing company, and continues singing and acting in Nashville, TN. Mike is a personal trainer and has little Leslie doing amazing strength feats, so obviously he is good at what he does. He also plays a fine guitar. Elijah has just finished an internship in a Chicago neighborhood and will be in Indianapolis fall semester and student teaching in Chicago his last semester at Illinois State University. Cecelie, the youngest grandchild, will be a high school sophomore and continues her older siblings’ footsteps in music, speech, and theater. Mary Ellen majored in agriculture communication, and ended up as editor of Tennessee Magazine in Nashville. When she married Brian Taylor, they soon moved to Grinnell, Iowa, where Brian worked for DeKalb Seed. While there, Trent was born and then their daughter Brianna. Several moves after that gave them lots of experience in adjusting to new communities, and last spring they moved to a farm they bought near us. Brian continues to work full time with seeds for Monsanto. He goes up to Saint Louis when needed and works out of a home office otherwise. (Both he and grandson-in-law Bryan say they get more accomplished in a private home office than when co-workers are nearby.) Somehow Brian also farms Gerald and Sue's farm and other rented land. In addition to homemaking and helping Brian, Mary Ellen has just resumed her career as a realtor that she started when they lived in a Saint Louis suburb and which she continued in Springfield, Illinois. Obviously they work too hard. Trent, brilliant family computer and gaming geek, transferred down to John A. Logan College when they moved here. Always at the top of everything she does, beautiful blond Brianna is home working at the local Dairy Queen this summer and will soon be going back for her sophomore year in the honors program at Murray State in Kentucky. Sue’s life has been primarily that of a mother and farm wife. She had what she calls a haphazard education career as a substitute in K-12, part-time teaching at Marion and Johnston City High Schools and in area community colleges. Finally she spent over six years working in family literacy in Franklin County for Rend Lake College, the last two of which were full time. She always wrote some when time allowed. Although she made little money free lancing or part-time teaching, she enjoyed the interaction with students and the stimulation of writing. Sue and Gerald’s original family of two has now grown twenty-four, and that is not counting everyone’s dogs. That is a lot of people to keep track of and an ongoing excuse for Sue not getting all her writing projects done. It also gives her plenty to blog about, and blogging provides her a venue without having to waste stamps and return envelops on manuscripts as she did in her younger days. Back then she wanted to make money, but now she just writes for the pleasure of it.

A Fun Weekend

The fun started when we learned that Geri Ann was flying from Oregon into Saint Louis around midnight Thursday with plans to drive a rental car down to the farm. Erin was to be surprised since she did not know her younger sister could make the upcoming baby shower. Gerald told me with emphasis not to tell. Imagine my horror Thursday night when I texted Geri Ann asking if she were in Saint Louis yet, and almost instantly I received a reply from Erin saying: “No, I am not flying into Saint Louis until Saturday morning.” (I knew this already from her call to Gerald, but she probably thought he had not told me all the details, which included her plan to meet her mother-in-law there, who was flying in from Minneapolis.)

Since my copy of the sent text showed plainly it was to Geri Ann, I was afraid Erin would see that if she looked the text a second time. I did not want to be the guilty one ruining the surprise. Fortunately, I have now learned that the name of the intended recipient does not show, and so Erin did not suspect that I was really talking to Geri Ann!

I have a terrible time with modern technology, and I did not dare text either sister again Thursday night. I went to bed puzzled. It took me until the next morning to figure out that I had put Erin's phone number not only under her own name but also under Geri Ann's. Obviously, I am not too familiar with texting, and I guess I had not texted Geri Ann recently to discover my error. (I dropped and broke my phone and had to put all phone numbers in a new one.) Ah well. It is corrected now. Geri Ann was asleep in the brown room when we got up the next morning.

(The brown room is where people choose to sleep if they need to sleep in. Our house has a walk-out basement and lots of light enters, but three back rooms have no windows—a bedroom and my office and Gerald's office. The bedroom has tan walls and ended up being called the brown room to distinguish it from the bedroom in front with yellow walls.)

After a nice visit, Geri Ann was off to Johnston City to visit her long-time friends Cierra (Cece) and Dustin and little Matt—Geri Ann's god child—now a toddler. We knew our daughter-in-law Vickie and the third sister, Tara, were starting from Texas after attending Tara's three boys' school musical, and they might be arriving sometime after midnight depending how soon they were able to actually get on the road. However, some time during the night, Gerald had a text saying they had decided they better stop at a motel before continuing. I think Geri Ann came back late after visiting Gma Shirley and spent the night again in the brown room. Quite frankly, that was the last I even tried to keep track of those coming and going!

Saturday morning Vickie and Tara came through Anna and picked up the special cake with a pink elephant on top with at large pink bow (all made of icing) and Caroline's name on it. They went onto the event center at West Frankfort where some entrepreneur had revitalized the Old Fire House for celebrations such as this. Geri Ann was directed to go there to wait for whenever she was revealed to Erin!

A huge high ceiling-ed room awaited them there that had once housed fire trucks, and they wanted to make it pink and pretty for little Caroline's first party. So they were busy unloading table cloths for the many circular tables, table flowers with peanuts holding them in their vases, tables for signing and gifts, and bags of animal crackers for favors. They also had to gather various foods and set up to feed us the next day! I am not sure who all showed up to help. Gma Shirley was there to visit and help, and Mary Ellen and Brianna showed up before the day was over. Since the hostesses did not want Erin to have to prepare for her own party, we had the pleasure of a long visit with her during the afternoon before we took her down to spend the night at her Uncle Louie and Aunt Chris's house.

Sometime in here, Elijah had arrived from Chicago, and he and Trent were briefly at our house before they went shopping for baby gifts, I think. Before the evening was over, Geri Ann and Brianna had joined them for whatever mischief they had planned. Having Geri Ann with them was a special treat, though they missed Cecelie and Sam, who could not make it. By then we had learned that their cousin Leslie and husband Mike would not be coming up from Nashville until Sunday, so there would be a bed instead of a couch available for Lige. Tara and Vickie arrived at the farm after a late night supper in town. I knew they must be tired after their previous 36 hours of travel and party efforts. We quickly agreed to leave the door open for whoever showed up later and went to bed as soon as possible.

The next morning Gerald went over and picked up Erin as we both wondered why we had not thought to just let her borrow the truck the evening before. (But we had enjoyed taking her and, thus, visiting a little longer.) Because of our colds and also because I had been needed at Katherine's house, Gerald and I had missed church for a couple of weeks. So we headed out while Vickie and her three daughters were able to visit a bit at the kitchen table. Rather than eat in town as we usually do on Sunday, Gerald and I came back for a quick light meal before we headed to the Old Fire House to join everyone there.

Gerald was pleasantly enthusiastic about going to his first baby shower. While some of our men thought they just were not meant to attend such a party, a lot of them showed up. There were Glasco, Martin, Johnson, and Borum family representatives there as well as Crab Orchard high school friends of Vickie and, of course, her daughters' school friends from Johnston City. I was relieved we did not play some of the games that have been invented in recent years, and instead we just enjoyed visiting and table hopping and lots of eating. I loved seeing people I had not seen in way too long although I am no longer nimble enough to do much of the table hopping. 

I did appreciate Gerry's cousin DuWayne keeping me up on the scores of Gerry's game going on down at College Station.  A highlight for me was seeing little ones there that I especially wanted to see in person rather than just on Facebook--one of whom was DuWayne and Vickie's pretty little granddaughter Camie. And now we have photos of them that Gerald took. Erin looked so pretty and healthy, and she proved she was ready for motherhood when she raced to the big heavy outside door and rescued her cousin's son Bentley, who had managed to open it—even though he is not yet two!

The big event,however, was seeing Erin open so many gifts and seeing the sweet tiny clothes that are so abundant for today's babies. I remember making six flannel night gowns for our babies—and they all four wore those gowns before I gave them away to another mother to use. I also had cute diaper sets given to me—little plastic-lined ruffled pants with tiny cool tops which were a new item in those days. Little girl babies traditionally wore soft light-weight pastel dresses made in the Philippines. I was blessed with an abundance of those because my sister-in-law Ginger had received a carefully hoarded supply from her family in Missouri when her daughter Vicki Sue was born. Ginger passed them onto me, and I think I remember ironing fifteen of them in the living room of our little rented house and laying them on the back of the couch to enjoy before I hung them up. I did enjoy that work although no one needs to iron baby clothes now. I am sure I passed those on also although I would enjoy fondling one of those little dresses again.

Now babies are dressed in soft footed sleepers as well as exquisite clothes for going out and about. Yet young mothers are still passing clothes on since babies grow so rapidly that newborn clothes are too quickly outgrown to ever wear out. Erin loved going through the large shopping bag of her cousin Sarah's beautiful clothes all carefully laundered and ready for Caroline now that Lily Mae no longer needs them. I saw Erin go through that bag twice enjoying those clothes showing them off, and I am sure back in Texas now, she is handling and dreaming over the pretty new things she was gifted with Sunday. Gerald's overalls (size 6-months)and a couple of other farm outfits for Caroline were especially appreciated by all—or at least giggled over. I want to see up close all the books Caroline received if we someday get to visit her Texas home.

I was at Katherine's house after the party, but family members gathered to eat party leftovers that Vickie fed everyone at our dining room table. I am sure they were all tired but happy,  I arrived home in time so enjoy this too. Soon the younger ones were off to eat Mexican in town and continue to wind down.On Monday morning, although it quickly melted, there was snow on the ground. Vickie and Tara were already long gone before I woke up at 8. Erin came over from Chris and Louie's, and we had a good visit before we had a final early lunch in town with Erin and her mother-in-law Roxanne before they drove back to Saint Louis to catch their respective flights back to Minneapolis and Dallas. I know Erin was very eager to get back home. Her husband Josh had been on a training event in California for a month; and as service people's lives would have it, he returned to their home just two hours after Erin had to go to Dallas to catch her flight here. So he was being “dog daddy” for their little bull dog while Erin was up here. He had to return to base the next day after she returned home, but she was hoping he would have some time off later this week while she is on spring break from her school. And if so, I am sure she is showing him Caroline's clothes.

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Springtime in Winter

Bright yellow daffodils and the white blossoms on pear trees continue to decorate this late winter landscape.   Gerald and I have both had our first cold that we have had in a year or two, but we cannot blame it on the weather. This has been an unusually warm winter here in Southern Illinois, and I have kept expecting it to change.Yesterday's rainy weather while I was out and about doing errands after I had a semi-annual check up with the heart doctor made me think of April--not winter.  Last night's wind storm did some slight damages here, but nothing like the tornadoes a few days ago over at Elkville and elsewhere.

Other areas have not escaped winter. After Gerald's sister Ernestine and husband Don stayed around for some final family visits here before they left our warm weather and headed back to Wyoming, they were dreading the snow and ice-covered roads between here and there. They made it back safely, and we were grateful. Last Sunday, I noticed our son was wearing a coat at the softball game down at Texas A&M while we were still able to opt out of jackets.

I just hope we do not have one of our March blizzards this weekend when family is coming up from Texas and Tennessee for granddaughter Erin and Josh's baby shower. Preparing for the new baby girl coming into our family's lives has been such a joy during our season of sorrow. First the dining room table and then the bed in the guest bedroom has been covered with sweet frilly clothes and girly gift bags, and now I have to get that room back in operation before company starts arriving for this weekend's party.

The last baby girl in our immediate family when out granddaughter Cecelie was born—and she is a senior in high school this year! We have delighted in our three great grandsons since then, but we are definitely ready to welcome a little girl into the mix.

Erin's sister Tara has suggested instead of using a card with our gift that we inscribe a children's book—one we already have and cherish or one we choose just for Caroline Marie. That has been a fun idea. (I have been concerned when I realized how much cards cost these days. I loved the gorgeous cards given us for our anniversary party, but was shocked when I realized how expensive they were. They have been re-read more than once and are carefully stowed away for future enjoyment.) With cards costing more than some books, Tara's idea is an excellent one. I can just imagine how much pleasure Josh and Erin will have reading to their little girl.

Regardless of whether spring weather stays or not, our hearts are warmed that we have a new birth coming up to celebrate.

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Keith DuWayne Glasco, Sr. (Aug. 8, 1937 to Feb.16, 2017)

On a beautiful rural hillside caressed by balmy warm weather, we said goodbye to the body of Gerald's youngest brother after his long fight with heart problems. We knew Keith was in a better place and no longer in that beautiful wood coffin as we listened to the final words of his pastor. Barbara's parents and others of Keith's family were already buried in this rural cemetery not far from Keith and Barbara's home where the long funeral procession had stopped briefly for Keith's dog Hash to join us for this final farewell.

Our great niece Jennifer Jade Escue from Kansas City hurried to our car and joined Gerald helping me tranverse the upward climb on the soft thawed groud to the tent waiting over the grave site. Before we left, all were invited to go on to the church fellowship hall a hill or so away. Amid the visiting, some were taking a rose from flower arrangements to remember Keith with. Keith had been honored in every way his many friends and family could accomplish.

From Thursday morning when Gerald along with others of Keith's family saw Keith peacefully breathe his last breaths shortly after his pastor had visited and offered what turned out to be a final prayer with him, everyone wanted to remember all the good things Keith and Barbara had done for others.

Our granddaughter Leslie was already up in northern Illinois for the high school state speech contest on Saturday that her sister Cecelie was in, so Les had planned to stop at the farm on way home to Nashville. Now our daughter Jeannie and husband Rick also came down to grieve with us. It was good to be able to worship with them on Sunday morning. Although a previous appointment made it impossible for Leslie to stay over for the funeral, she did delay her drive back to Tennnessee until after the visitation for Keith.  There she was not only able to see our daughter Mary Ellen and husband Brian but her cousins Trent and Brianna as well as more distant cousins--some of whom she had never met.

Sunday evening we gathered at the funeral home on the Jonesboro Square, where in the past we have said goodbye to so many family members and friends.The line of grievers soon reached the bank next door, and the people kept coming until time to go home. While some had arrived from a distance, most were neighbors and local friends. Barbara and her sons and their spouses and the grandchildren and great grandchildren were hugged over and over as they listened to the expressed grief and affection. Sometimes tears came down the cheeks of those already missing their friend, and sometimes laughs and smiles were shared.

The next morning we gathered there again for a funeral service that was joyful and reassuring as we bid farewell to the dear one peacefully lying there with his hands holding one of his late brother Kenny's pocket knives and also a little metal angel a great grandson wanted Grampy to have. The pall bearers had been asked to wear jeans with black shirts, and the word had gotten around so those garments were seen throughout the congregation as well. I was silently thanking God that our son Gerry had arrived safely at 4:30 that morning after driving all night. His cousin DuWayne had tried to dissuade him from making that hurried trip, so I did not bother. I did try to not take away any of the very brief rest time he had at our house, but I was glad to visit with him a bit at that bountiful feast the church provided in the large fellowship hall packed with people. Soon Gerry would start the trip back to Texas to be at batting practice the next day, and we took Jeannie and Rick to their car to start their long trip upstate.


 

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Laughter and Stories Keep Us From Crying

Winter has brought many good memories and wonderful stories while we gather together and and listen to one another talk of life and happy times.

What can be better than being at table with friends enjoying chili together on a cold winter day? A pretty table with bread made by the host is icing on the cake, but the true cake is enjoying each other while we make new friends and hear life stories. (The lemon cake served for dessert was very good, but still not as good as the stories, Laughter and stories cannot be surpassed. ) How will we ever forget that the long-married couple across from us first met when they were just eleven and nine?

He was visiting her church and playing the piano. He looked around and saw her and thought she was the cutest thing possible even though he had come with another girl who was considered his “girl friend.” Sealing the deal, the little girl he thought so cute winked at him!! She seems quite proper today; but even in the church house, she knew the proper response to his admiration at that early age! They married a few years later, and have led a productive life rearing two fine sons and sharing their many talents wherever they have lived. Since their childhood homes were miles apart , I do not know how they continued that love at first sight. If we are fortunate, maybe we will someday learn how that was achieved. There was another great story about his car break down when he tried to visit her as a young teen. Obviously, this successful couple both knew who they wanted, and the world is a better world because they did!

Last week besides his own doctor appointments, Gerald made several trips to Cape Girardeau to visit his brother Keith. His heart disease had become seriously worse. Then at the end of last week, sadly Keith was sent home with Hospice help.

Actually he amd Barbara have wonderful help already there on their rural hilltop. (They have wonderful help because Keith and Barb have always been quick to provide help to everyone they know.) Both his daughter-in-law Glenda and his granddaughter Lauren are outstanding experienced RNs and live almost within shouting distance of Keith and Barbara's, and they are very attentive and devoted. Their granddaughter Amanda also lives at the foot of the hill with her parents DuWayne and Vickie, so they also have a trained beautitian for manicures and pedicures along with many other services that the nurses and granddaughter Andrea are happy to provide for the grandparents they love. Their granddaughter Tracy has years of experience in the dental field and was able to give Gerald some advice while she was down from Saint Louis to see Keith and Barb. Sons Tim and DuWayne, grandson-in-law Eric, and grandson Greg are all close enough to visit and help and be involved taking care of cattle, dogs, poultry, or anything else Keith would want done. Grandson Mark, though not living adjacently is within a few miles of Keith and Barbara's farm as is our brother Garry. Add on to that Keith's cousins nearby and all the friends he and Barb have collected and you have a community of help available.

Tim and DuWayne encouraged Gerald to come down when he can because they feel like the brothers--only Gerald and Garry now since we lost brother Kenny to leukemia-- make Keith laugh more. (Our kids always loved to have the brothers together to hear all the laughter that was produced as they talked of childhood exploits and neighborhood characters.)

As soon as Ernestine and Don heard how seriously ill Keith was, they started here from Wyoming. Ernestine was the only girl in that family. They were able to bring along their daughter Leah and granddaughter Emmerson called Emmie since Leah is home schooling Emmie this year. Despite living so far away, Emmie has made close ties with the Illinois relatives because she loves the farms and especially all the horses and dogs and kittens and chickens and ducks that she finds on the Union County farms. The Gamble clan arrived late Sunday night to Garry's place exhausted but eager to visit Keith and Barbara. Gerald was eager to see them, of course, but decided to stay away on Monday, so Ernestine could visit that day without competition while Keith was most strong. Those two were the youngest siblings.

Yesterday, however, we could stay away no longer. After a quick visit with Katherine, we took her hugs down to Keith and Barb. I was able to repeat to Keith the loving memories that Katherine had of him. “He always hugged me and whispered in my ear, and I had no doubt he loved me,” she said.

Tim had stayed with him again the previous night since DuWayne is scheduled for future nights. Family were pleased that Keith had slept better than usual the night before. The established routine for Keith was to get up and dress and have breakfast before going to his recliner. The TV screen is adjusted for his chair where he continues his habit of watching his favorite cowboy movies which Barb said he probably has memorized by now. Visitors come sit near him and tell him what they need to tell him, and he responds with typical love and laughter. When he tires, he lapses into sleep and that is good. Lauren, who was on duty yesterday, was quick to anticipate his every need. After lunch he goes into his bedroom to sleep if he wants to, and people visit him there. Once I glanced in to see Lauren lying on the adjoining bed laughing with him and the visitor.

Before Ernestine and Don, Leah and Emmie arrived, Barbara had told us how much fun seven-year- old Emmie had with our warm weather allowing her to play in the yard the day before. (Snow was deep when they left Wyoming.) She took good care of all the kittens, and with permission and encouragement from Barb had created what she called a “kitty buffet” with piles of food for each cat. The zenith of her visit though was to see a chicken fly up into a pan of straw there in the yard and then leave it cackling gleefully! Emmie was amazed to find a warm egg left there, and so was Barbara as she said they were not laying right now. Barb asked her if she would like her to cook that egg for her, and Emmie was delighted to eat the egg she had gathered.

When their family arrived, Leah reported Emmie woke up talking about that egg and said if she found one today,  it was going to be for her Uncle Keith. Soon Emmie was carrying out cat food for the kitties again and snuggling with each one by one. Next Vickie Sue arrived from their home up near Carbondale on Rocky Comfort Road, and she had a Valentine gift for Emmie and colorful decorated cupcakes for all.

Just as Gerald had explained of his previous visits, their adjoining dining room had a table full of food that loved ones had carried in. (DuWayne was not above sending Gerry way down in Texas the mouth-watering photos of his Aunt Opal's famous egg custard pies that she and Bryce took down to them.) All the people coming and going were fed freely if they were hungry, and people usually were when they looked at the food. Garry had brought in buns and pork from Jonesboro's famous Dixie Barbecue along with pies. We had just finished eating, and here came our cousin-in-law Morris with this huge huge pan covered with foil explaining he wanted to get it there while it was still hot from the oven. People started exclaiming that not only did it smell good, but this home-made tea ring was a work of art. Lauren was quick to hand out servings to everyone, but I had to go look to see how beautiful that tea ring was. Barbara explained that Morris and cousin Judy are known as these generous cooks who regularly show up with tea rings and home-made pies for the sick and their families. Morris always donates a similar large tea ring to the local fall festival, which raises money for the school, and people will bid it up to fifty dollars or more.

After lunch, Emmie was quick to go back outside in the warm weather. One by one, each kitten was carried in and visited with us. Since there were three dogs n the room (Keith's beloved Hash, Lauren and Eric's little Murphy,and Don and Ernestine's Finley), there were a few snappy interactions if the kitten escaped Emmie's arms. That provided a bit of excitement, but the best part was the kittens inspired Barb to start telling Emmie about all her pet animals down through the years. Barb pulled her wheel chair toward Emmie, who was soon enthralled.

I remembered sitting in their living room long ago and suddenly seeing a terrapin come crawling slowly out from under the couch. I assumed that like most farmer's wives, Barb had baby pigs and calves inside to warm up. But I had forgotten about the pet ground hog. Barb said Keith had found a tiny pink animal no bigger than your hand out in the yard and brought it in. They had no idea what kind of an animal it was, but Barb got out the baby bottles and the formula she used for baby pigs and started caring for the tiny thing. It turned out to be a ground hog and remained a loving pet for a long time until it was full size. It finally bit her after she had been asked to take it to school for the kids to see, and perhaps that excitement over stimulated it. There was also a story about a raccoon although it must have been a short story because I cannot remember how that one showed up, but the photograph of it high up the wall sitting atop their horse collar lamp was adorable.

But the best story was of the pet skunk Barbara had briefly as a little girl. The family saw it on the highway, and Barb's dad stopped and retrieved it and handed it to Barbara. She loved it, of course, and the only time it ever sprayed was once when a dog threatened it and once when it hurt its foot on a loose wire. She kept it until her mother found Barb had it inside her bedroom and decided it was time for the skunk to go elsewhere. Perhaps the sweetest part of Barb's stories was getting to watch wide-eyed Emmie hearing them. A tiny little thing, Emmie has huge blue eyes in a little elfin face and almost a perpetual smile. Her enthusiasm for life is contagious.

It was getting late in the afternoon; and though we were reluctant to go, we needed to. But then Keith and Gerald's cousin Irma and husband Jim arrived from Jonesboro, and we wanted to visit with them when they were not in the bedroom visiting with Keith. At Gerald's suggestion, I had put on my coat and gone into the yard where he and Irma were visiting, when Gerald realized his cousin Joyce, who was driving over from Cape Girardeau, was almost there. So while Irma and Barbara directed her on the country roads to find the farm, we were back inside for yet another family visit.

I loved being in that familiar living room again. Let me tell you about it. While they were adding this room to the house the Holly Sitter family had left behind, a swallow had found one of the overhead beams they were using on the ceiling. They enjoyed watching her build her nest of mud attached to the beam and raise her babies there. Barb would not allow them to clean the beam after the bird family left. The nest has remained these many years with a tiny cloth bird sticking its nose out of the top. The outside wall is all rock with a fireplace in the middle, and three mounted deer heads from long-ago hunts. The room-length mantle is filled with framed photographs of children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, horses, and other beloved animals. A pleasing collection of baskets hangs down from the mantle.

Beside the carpeted room with lots of seating is a long tiled walk from the front door to the kitchen and dining room, and that wall is filled with more photographs and memory-filled art work made by the grandchildren. Perfectly clean now, I know that tile walkway has had much traffic from muddy farm boots and the muddy barefoot feet of a host of happy children.

Oh, I must mention the two large gray hornet's nests—one on each side of the beam separating the living room and dining room. I have never seen a hornet's nest in anyone else's living room, but I love the looks of them in this room. Oh, now I do remember part of the raccoon story. Her nephew Kerry had giving Barb one of the hornet's nests, and that raccoon climbed up there and started to destroy it. He quickly became persona non grata, and that was the reason for his departure.

Today brother Garry phoned that Keith was much weaker this morning, so Gerald and Mary Ellen went down after lunch. Vicki Sue was there and had posted on Facebook she was sad, so I am dreading today's report when they return. I hope Garry and Gerald were able to make Keith laugh again today. Regardless, their hearts will be warmed this cold day by the love in that house on the hill, but at the same time their hearts will also be broken as they watch their brother's health deteriorate.

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Stephen Evans Spark Plugs and Synonyms
10 December 2017
The book of John was certainly the most poetic of the gospels. :-)
Rosy Cole Spark Plugs and Synonyms
10 December 2017
Steve, in your inimitable way :-) you have come an unconventional route to the all-time, universal T...
Stephen Evans Spark Plugs and Synonyms
09 December 2017
I have just started reading Umberto Eco's Kant and the Platypus (great title ) and this basic proble...
Rosy Cole Spark Plugs and Synonyms
08 December 2017
John Betjeman likened poetry to journalism more than to poetic prose. It's a helpful comparison to b...
Stephen Evans Spark Plugs and Synonyms
07 December 2017
Neology is an under-rated science.

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