Sunday, May 07, 2017

PETIE

Shortly before 3:30 AM on the morning of March 25th, I heard my cell phone ring in a room on the other side of the house.  I didn't make it to answer, but the immediate ringing on the house phone brought the realization that I was about  to get news. The minute I heard my sister's voice on the other end, my intuitions were confirmed: "Mom just passed away" are the only words I remember from our tearful conversation.

In retrospect, I can now see the signs that pointed to Mom's decline - shortness of breath on occasion, minor but obvious memory issues, the lack of desire to do things that she enjoyed, a diminished appetite, lack of stamina, sadness that she could no longer do for others, her talk of dreams about her father and deceased siblings, her nostalgia and longing for my father (especially as the anniversary of his death & their wedding anniversary - on the same day, March 16th-approached), her insistence for Myra and me to go with her to see a lawyer with her about her will and estate matters, and her inability to deal with anything that interrupted an easy day / her normal schedule. Yet still, for a 98-year old woman, she seemed to be faring OK.

Back in late February, Mom had told me a couple times on the phone that she just didn't feel quite right. Then, one night, I got a call from my cousin Bill, who was responding to an EMT call from Mom's Lifeline. She had fallen getting out of bed, actually slipped off the side of the bed as she was trying to get her slippers on to go to the bathroom. Bill reassured me Mom was OK, but he felt something wasn't quite right about her. He stayed with her for two nights until I could get home.  The next day, I headed to Boone.

When I arrived, Mom insisted that she was "just fine," but I could tell she looked a little weak and puny. So, I moved into the same mode she would have done with others: I fixed her three healthy meals a day, insisted she drink an abundance of water (which she swore she did, but I never saw her), massaged her, assisted with her bath, walked up and down the hall with her for exercise, and got her outside in the spring air - which was abnormally warm for Boone at the time. Over the course of a few days, I began to see change for the better, and the following week, I brought her to OH to spend time with me while Myra and I made arrangements for her care once she returned. (She stayed with for almost three weeks, insisting at the end of week 2 that she was ready to go home. "I've had a good time here, Tanya, but there's no place like home.")

That care, an initial thought that she would enter Brian Estates in Boone, was NOT to her liking. Though she had insisted all her life that when the time came, she would fully cooperate with whatever needed to be done for her care, she grew sad, very sad, and depressed about the thought of "breaking up her home, " as she described the impending move. To make a long story short, Myra and I reworked the plans away from Brian Estates to include in-home care via Hospice in NC so Mom wouldn't have to leave 145 Russell Drive. That possibility resonated a bit better with her, but she was not entirely content with it either.

While in OH, Mom seemed pretty good though I noticed confusion on occasion and a greater indication of short-term memory issues. Still, we drove around in the country, went out to eat with folks she knew here, sat on the back porch, and took a day to go to Amish country. She was fascinated with the Amish way of life and asked me all sorts of questions as we watched men at the stock auction in Kittering, toured Lehmann's Hardware, and passed women and men in their rickety black buggies. That day, Mom seemed as young as a 70-year old: we laughed, stopped to watch men working oxen in the fields, and talked all the way there and back home. It's a day I'll never forget - ever.

Two days later, I took her back to NC and stayed another week in Boone with her until Myra could get home for a week prior to taking Mom to Richmond for a visit there. One day while we were both there, Mom wanted to help with clean up from lunch. She started to put up dishes from the dishwasher but had to cut it short because "I just don't have the energy to do it, Tanya." Her breath was short, she was experiencing waves of nausea, and she mentioned being a bit dizzy. My concern increased as I knew her heart was weakening.

I returned home the Sunday after Myra arrived with the thought that I might not see Mom again. As much as I tried to dismiss the thought from my mind, it lingered and surfaced as I drove home to the point where I almost turned around and went back home. During their week in Boone, Myra and Mom had several appointments, one of which was to see Mom's primary care physician. Dr. Smith checked Mom thoroughly and found her to be in good health - a good blood pressure reading, strong heart beat, etc. Mom was vibrant when I spoke with her that evening telling me, "I got a very good report from the doctor today." At that point, she seemed reassured, for I know now that she was very aware of what was happening in her body. Still, Myra confirmed she also noticed changes in Mom's endurance and breathing, and in particular, Mom's appetite was significantly diminished with tummy upset becoming more and more of a factor.

On the following Saturday, Myra and Mom prepared to take off to Richmond, but Myra called to tell me they might delay a day or so because Mom was just "out of kilter." But, they went out to lunch, got Mom's meds, had a visit with a friend from Mom's church, and talked to Samuel, Eliza, and me on the phone. Bentley, Myra's dog, hung close to Mom all day, and she let him lick the crumbs off her shirt after dinner - something she really enjoyed watching him do. (Mom loved our dogs and Richard's dog, Baxter, is the only animal I've ever known to lick Mom's face.) She sent Myra out to get Japanese  food for dinner, but when Myra returned Mom declined to eat it; her tummy wasn't feeling good. However, she stayed up to watch TV until Myra insisted on going to bed, and when Myra left her in her room, Mom was reading her daily devotional and Bible. That was about 11:15 PM or so.

According to Myra, Mom called her in to her room about 2:30 and said she couldn't breathe. Myra knew she was in distress and pushed the Lifeline alert. The EMTs were on the way in no time flat. Mom remained alert until the emergency squad arrived, but shortly thereafter, she lost consciousness and drifted away, peacefully and painlessly, with Myra holding her and sweet Bentley curled up at her head. Myra said it was as if the nurse in Mom knew what was happening and she held on until Myra wasn't alone. Once the squad arrived, the woman of deep faith surrendered to the process and took flight. All of us - Samuel, Eliza, Myra, and I - are incredibly grateful for Mom's peaceful passage.  It is as if she wrote the script and followed it gracefully into the realm of light.

At this point, I can't write about much more than the events, other than to say that I've made progress in processing my grief.  I'll return to my blog before long when I'm ready to put the emotion in words, if I can. Most of all, I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have had the parents I had, to have had such special time all my life with my mom, to have watched her with Samuel and Eliza, and to have spent 5 of her last 6 weeks with her. That gratitude sustains me as waves of the most powerful grief overwhelms me still.

(taken the first week Mom was with me in March)










Tuesday, January 17, 2017

#WHYIMARCH - FARM MOM GOES TO WASHINGTON

As the Women's March approaches this weekend in Washington, DC, I find myself at the helm of a group of 55 women and men from Marietta and the surrounding area who will join hundreds of thousands of people in solidarity on behalf of rights - women's rights, human rights, everyone's rights. It just so happens that the Women's March was purposely planned by a group of young women to follow the day after the president-elect's inauguration.  The president-elect, in his actions, words, and in intended appointees and policies, embodies the reasons we march: to make a bold, clear statement that inclusion of all people in our country and equal rights are issues that must be acknowledged and protected. I think most folks would agree that moving forward, we cannot be assured of support, understanding, or advocacy for those causes from those who move into leadership positions on Friday, January 20th.

I don't take the reasons for going lightly, and I'm certainly not excited about being in a crowd which, by all estimates, will surpass the number of people in Washington, DC,  for the inauguration ceremonies. Yet, I haven't been so moved to be a part of a movement since the late 60"s. At that time, the Women's Rights movement was emerging from the social birth canal of our country, citizens still fought for basic civil rights, and the US was involved in a horrendous war in Viet Nam. Good people were fighting and dying (on both sides), and the country's leadership disavowed responsibility. Furthermore, the president broke the law, resulting in the Watergate scandal.

Perhaps the sting of those events and times has diminished over the decades, but the memory of the then and the current state of our country remain to worry me. Very, very sadly, the future of the very issues we stood for and worked for back in the day are under attack yet again, and our soon-to-be administration scares the living daylights out of me, offends me on so, so many levels, and forces me to "walk my talk." As a human rights activist, as a woman and mother, as one who believes in equality and non-discrimination, I would be a model of hypocrisy if I didn't do my part as an agent of opposition and change. And, I understand that I, Tanya Shook Wilder, can do very little personally to make a difference; however, the combined voices of many singular choir members can, indeed, produce a powerful song with a far-reaching refrain and call to justice.

So, I join hundreds of thousands across our country on January 21, 2017, who are genuinely committed to lifting our voices in a chorus that cannot be un-heard by those who take over the government on the previous day.

People on my bus range in age from teenagers to women in their 70's. We have lawyers, teachers, artists, massage therapists, mothers with their daughters, a minister, and others who represent a diverse cross-section of our country. We go prepared for a long, grueling day of standing on our feet for 10 hours, of being in a huge crowd, of being limited in terms of food and water, of infinite weather possibilities. Yet we go, and we carry the message of many people who cannot attend. We'll wear messages from the folks back home as we rely on them for prayers of protection and peace.

I march with the blessing of my 98-year old mother, who would be there herself if age and frailty didn't work against her. She encourages my sister and me to go and include her voice in ours. With her blessing and encouragement,  I march for my children. I march for men and women who feel marginalized because of their heritage, their beliefs, and cultures. I march for men and women who need access to health care and reproductive options. I march for my friends and colleagues in the LBGTQ community. I march on behalf of the Earth, on behalf of everyone's right to clean air, water, and land. I march on behalf of immigrants who are forced to abandon their homeland. I march on behalf of those who cannot care for themselves - children, elderly people, those who are chronically ill- and those who walk grace our world in the animal and plant kingdoms.  I march on behalf of those who lost their lives as a result of violence. I march on behalf of the rights stated within the Constitution of the United States and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I march because at this juncture in our history and in my life, complacency is NOT an option. Too many human rights and principles are at stake. I march with sincere conviction and love for all people and for my country. I do not take what I march for lightly, under any circumstances.

I hope that in differences of thought and belief people can find common ground. I hope leaders and representatives across our country will stop and reflect.

I hope even those who are not in agreement with what I offer here can at least respect my thoughts and conviction.

Peace and love....to all.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

IT'S A NEW YEAR

Mac, Merrybelle, and I rolled back into the farm after a 2 1/2 week visit in Boone over the holidays. Samuel, Eliza, Mom, Myra and I had over a week to enjoy together, and the greatest gift of the season was to have family time with them. After Myra left to return home, the kids and I took a couple of days to ourselves - the longest stretch we've had together in a while - to enjoy a lunch at Black Cat, coffee at Expresso News, and meals around the table with Mom. On the classic scale of 1-10, those moments soared way past 10+++!! The absolute very, very best in every way.

I'm forever grateful my kids love each other like they do. Samuel and Eliza have each other's back-- no squabbling or sibling rivalry between those two. I'm proud of that bond. They've gone through a lot together, and I think the difficult moments they endured over the years as a result of their parents' divorce have ultimately cemented their love and admiration for each other in indestructible ways. Now, as adults and professionals in their respective fields, they grow deeper in respect and pride of each other's achievements, relationships, and paths. What more could a mom ask for?!

 
For 98 years old, Mom's holding her own quite well. She's not going to run a mile in record time, and moments of spaciness result in a bit of confusion for her from time to time. Nevertheless, her sharp wit and sense of humor remain intact. Her house served as command central for folks who came to visit and spend time with her. Aunt Lera and Richard joined us for Christmas dinner, a tradition (with the exception of maybe 3 or 4 years) that has been in place for close to 60 years.

Aunt Lera remarked after dinner that she really enjoyed the fact that three generations of people, ranging from 25 - 98 years old, shared interesting and engaging conversation around the table until shortly after 10:00 PM. Aunt Lera has been Mom's best friend and sister spirit for decades, each serving as a second mother for Richard and me (and Betsy, too). Samuel and Eliza have never known life without the Randall connection; I'll never forget how Eliza immediately rejected the idea that we really weren't related to the Randalls by blood.  Didn't matter to her. Aunt Lera and Uncle Frank were indisputably her aunt and uncle, just like Richard was my brother by another mother, which still made him her Uncle Richard. (Apologies to Richard for his absence in the photo. He was the photographer.)

There were other connections in Boone with family members and friends. Zeb's family is still represented strongly in the mountains. My uncles, aunts, and cousins fill the void of missing my dad and grandparents. A ride over to Pigeon Roost and back through the mountains soothed my longing to be a child again at Grandma's table on Christmas Day, and a wonderful afternoon with my cousin Bill and friends Terri and Debbie, as well as a visit in Boone by my friend Pam, put the icing of wonderful memories with special friends and family on the holiday cake.

Return to the farm has provided the pups and me a chance to get outside (despite very cold temps) and move our bodies. I'm in search of a leak in my water line, so I've walked the distance from the house to the end of the driveway several times in unsuccessful attempts to find a "wet spot."  It looks like there'll be a new water line coming down the lane before long, damn it. The high thought, however, is the knowledge that I won't be dealing with water leaks again. I've had three leaks since I took over the farm 16 years ago. The upcoming damage to the bank account, however, makes me think that part-time work is in my not-too-distant future.

Some may recall the unfortunate ending two Novembers ago to a huge stag who had protected my land for many years. I had watched this majestic animal grow from a young buck into the alpha male on my land over the course of time since the kids and I redefined our lives here. I had met him and locked eyes with him on more than just a few occasions back in the woods. We knew each other well, and we understood the magic of the land upon which we dwelled harmoniously together.

A neighbor, upon whom I would not piss on if he were on fire, allowed one of his hunting-buddy houseguests to take the buck out, and I found the neighbor and his friend crossing my field to carry the animal away. The buck jumped the fence in his last moments to come to the farm to take flight (We won't dwell here on that; however, it was more than just "luck" that I came across him and held him as he died.)

Shortly thereafter, I met another young buck back in the woods and have watched him now for two years as he has taken heir to the farm as "chief stag." This is the first time I have mentioned him or written about him, except to communicate about him to a friend who would understand my connection to this animal.

I arrived home Friday afternoon, and yesterday morning, when I opened the blinds to check out the snow, there he stood across the driveway as if to welcome me home and let me know he had kept close watch on our land in my absence. Interestingly enough, the dogs didn't pick up his presence, so in the silence we exchanged our unspoken understanding that all was well, a new year was upon us, and we would each remain in touch to ensure the farm's protection and care.

With all that's happened / happening on the political scene in our country and across the world, I've found myself either enraged, stunned, grief-stricken, ill, or depressed since early November. However, the encounter with his buck has stilled my heart of worry and concern, comforted me, and left me invigorated and energized as I begin my 37th year here as Farm Mom. And with that ease of heart, I begin 2017 with great gratitude and humility for the many blessings that flow my way.

Love, love to all......infinitely!