Chapter 12, continued
Peter lifted SueAnna from the floor and followed Lorna to the room she’d prepared. What happened? One minute he was like a child—too excited to keep his presence hidden—the next he witnessed his wife fall into the arms of a man he didn’t know. Why was his sister in the company of this person? Where was Lily? This was not at all the homecoming he’d envisioned.
“I’m sorry, Peter.” Lorna touched his shoulder. “I’m not eager to send you back out there, but I do need some privacy to get this girl settled. I’ll let you know as soon as Doc Thayer is through examining her.”
“Mrs. Nelson, who—”
She flicked her wrist toward him. “Later, Peter. Tell Doc he can come in any time. And you tell that young man where he can find his wife.”
“Wife? SueAnna is married? To that—”
“Later, I said. There will be plenty of time later to try to make sense out of what’s happened. For now, it’s SueAnna we need to worry about.”
Doc moved away from the wall when Peter left the room. “She ready for me in there?”
He nodded. “Anything she needs, Doc. I’ll take care of anything she needs. Just help her.”
“I’ve a feeling what she needs is standing in the middle of the mercantile holding your wife. Don’t envy you none, son. But reckon you’re man enough to take care of it.”
The man was right. The scene hadn’t changed. Claire was still in the arms of the stranger, and they seemed oblivious to their surroundings. It seemed like an eternity before Claire lifted her head from the man’s chest and looked his direction.
“I’m sorry, Peter. I…this is…this is an old friend I never expected to see again.” She didn’t move from the man’s arms while she spoke.
He would take this up with his wife later. For now he hoped he could get a message to the man without causing a scene. “The doctor just went in to tend to your wife, sir. I’d think you’d want to do the same.”
Ruts…or a path?
For many years I’ve tried to practice the presence of God. I don’t always do well. Some days I fall into an all-too-familiar pattern of
seeing only the
Prairie View, Kansas
Lorna Nelson ran her feather duster over the top of her husband’s head. “Move that mail sack, James, so I can finish dusting these shelves before Martha Jean Larson comes in.”
James sneezed. “Martha Jean never has dust? And slow that thing down. You got more dust stirred up than what was there in the first place.” He sneezed again.
She smacked him on the head with her duster.
“Quit—now my head will be dirty and what will Martha Jean have to say about that?”
Lorna laughed. “It was shining in my eyes. I swan, I do believe you used lard again this morning. I bet that fringe around your ears couldn’t move even if a Kansas whirlwind came storming through.”
“You go ahead and laugh, woman. I know you like my shiny head.” He pinched her cheek. “Here,” he handed her a letter, “see who might be writing a letter to the mercantile.”
Lorna sat down on a cracker box by the stove. “Wonder why they addressed it to Nelson’s Mercantile? Hmm.” She took the missive from the envelope and leaned against a stack of flour sacks. “Well…my, oh my…well, what do you think about that…who would have thought—”
“I’ll never understand why you read snippets and make comments aloud before you let me know what it’s saying. Now, does that letter say anything I should be hearing, too?”
“Why yes, it does. And you’ll never believe…come sit down and listen to this.”
James wiggled himself into a chair next to her. “Okay, read. I’m listening.”
“Dear James and Lorna Nelson: You might not remember me, but you helped me and my sisters after our pa died. I know I promised to come back for the girls, but I found a job in Illinois before I made it all the way back to Ohio. I’ve been feeling real bad about not keeping my promise to them and was wondering if it might be okay if me and my wife came for Thanksgiving and Christmas. If we could stay with you, it would be much appreciated. We’d surely like for it to be a surprise and was hoping you might think of a way we could get the Bittman’s to bring the girls to your place. We’ll be glad to pay for anything that is needed if you would be so kind as to make me a ticket. I do thank you and will be there for Thanksgiving unless we hear we aren’t welcome.
Peter K. Morrow
James scratched his head. “Well, what do you make of that, Lorna?”
“What I make of it is we better get busy. Thanksgiving is next week. There’s not time to get a note back even if it weren’t okay. And he doesn’t know the Bittmans have left, or that SueAnn is married and has Lily out on the ranch. Guess more than one person will be surprised, won’t they? But how’re we going to get the girls in here? They won’t just come without a reason, will they?”
He shrugged. “If we could get a note to Adam, and let him in on this surprise, I reckon he might consider bringing them here for Thanksgiving dinner.”
“And how are we going to do that. Trey and SueAnna took supplies for the winter with them when they left. I doubt we’ll see anyone from the KIM until spring.”
James plucked a feather from her duster. “Suppose we could hook a note on one of these and hope the wind would carry it.”
“Pfft. I think that lard has soaked into your brain. We’d have a whole lot better chance of them getting a message if we was to pray.”
Grandma’s Awful, Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Day
(actually, the week hasn’t gone so well, either.)
I finally made a long-overdue appointment (for Tuesday morning) to have a lesion on my arm removed. It was growing…fast…and while I was pretty sure what it was, it had become bothersome enough to be…well…bothersome.
We still doctor 1.5 hours away. I know, I know—you’re wondering why we don’t go local. Change is hard. We are old. There, you have it.
Tuesday morning—hubby left before I did, to drive 3 hours in the opposite direction to watch granddaughter #2 play volleyball, so would be gone until late night. That’s fine. Son #2 lives six miles this side of where we doctor. Although he was on duty at the fire department, I was going to spend the afternoon and evening with DIL, granddaughter #2, and grandsons #1 and #2. What fun!!
I get in car to leave…and battery is dead. It wouldn’t even crank. Really, really dead. Guess who forgot to turn the key to ‘off’ when she checked the mileage a day after returning home from a conference?
Rescheduled appointment for Thursday morning, 10:15. Called DIL and sulked. Hubby didn’t get home until after 11:00
Thursday morning, 8:00 and all is well. Tried to get hubs to go with me, but he assured me the battery was charged and I’d have no trouble. It was foggy when I left, but I had no trouble. Car purred like a kitten all the way.
Arrived early, got in early, had three lesions removed, and was back in the car ready to head home by shortly after 10:30. UNTIL I turned the key and…nothing.
At this point, my brain decides to join the battery. Son #2 is off duty today, but has gone with wife and granddaughter #3 for a college visit. I text him anyway–with the whole story! Misery loves company.
I call hubby, and he reminds me we have AAA. However, he will start my direction and I should let him know if AAA can get there sooner than he is able to make the journey.
Now—I text, I tweet, I send emojis and emoticons. I check my emails, face book, and instagram. I can do a lot of things with that little hand-held device—but do you think I can call AAA? It’s all automated. Oh, the lady is nice enough, but by the time I listen to the instructions, find the keyboard, and punch in numbers all I hear is “I’m, sorry—I didn’t get that. Would you please re-enter your 16 digit identification number again” I tried, lady, really I did.
At 12:10, son #2 calls me. He’d just checked his phone—college visit—but they were eating lunch. He knew someone he could call to come give me a jump start. Where was Dad? I checked with Dad. He was two miles away. Might as well let him come to the rescue.
My dear husband is SO very patient. Of course, I wanted to remind him that had he come along with me…but I didn’t. And when it was all said and done, I was rather pleased that I’d refrained.
He hooked up the charger…and it still wouldn’t start. He stepped back…he always steps back and looks at a problem. It’s a part of him. You can almost see the wheels turning and most generally he finds a solution.
This time was no exception. There wasn’t a frown, or even a hint of annoyance either on his demeanor nor in his voice when he asked me to ‘turn off your lights and see if that helps.’.
Did I mention it had been foggy when I left home?
He even bought me lunch and said I didn’t need to worry about supper.
However, I’ll not be surprised if he takes my keys.
Too Soon Old
At Vince’s funeral last week there was a special place designated for the retirees and their spouses to sit. Wives smiled at one another. The guys shook hands, clapped shoulders, and began to question (in whispers, of course)…”What are you up to now? What do you do to stay busy? You still live in…”
And most would agree they no longer knew most of the now active, much younger firefighters from the department who filled the rows ahead of us.
Even during the dinner afterwards, the retirees stretched along both sides of a long table. Wives played the ‘remember when’ game, while the men shook hands again, laughed at the same old stories, and grieved the loss of one so young. All wondering who among them would be missing the next time they had the opportunity to be together.
To witness the changing of the honor guard, to hear the bagpipes, and to listen to the ‘last alarm’, tears the hearts of these men to pieces, with both extreme pride and deep, deep sorrow.
Those rows of retirees represented a time when their jobs meant much more than a paycheck. It was even more than a career choice.
Those wrinkled faces, and slower footsteps represented a commitment to one another, a pride for and loyalty to their jobs, and a way of life…
that is still evident in their lives today.
Where Did She Go? What Did We Do?
She was an organized, get-er-done,whip-you-into-shape kind of gal. She was the one who insisted our Lori not leave to go shopping without some kind of identification. And she was one who came to stay with us—to help in any way she could—after our Lori was home from the hospital after her wreck.
Thus began many years of relationship with her. I’ll not give her name. There’s no need. Those who know us will know, and for those who don’t it really doesn’t matter.
This special person became a part of our family. She came for holidays. She called us mom and dad. Our sons looked to her as an older sister. She was with our Lori when she died so far from home. And to our Tammy she became the sister she lost.
At one point, she lamented “Why can’t you just adopt me?”
So we did. Figuratively. We even had a special plaque made confirming the relationship. As far as we were concerned, she was a Hiebert. She’s even in the family pictures for both our boys’ weddings.
Then after our Tammy died, this very special person left, too. And I don’t suppose we’ll ever know why. She just stopped coming ‘home’. She didn’t acknowledge the birth of our sons’ children, and it finally reached the point we could no longer find her by phone.
The last time we saw her was after 9/11. She called. She said she was married. They were on their way to NYC because he had a daughter they believed had been in the towers.
They came. They stayed. They even were recipients of an offering from our church to help them on their journey. And when they left, it was with a promise to keep in touch. Never to leave us again.
So many things I wish I could tell her. Every time I think of what our daughters have missed, because of their deaths — nieces and nephews in all their growing stages, brothers advancing in their careers, etc., sisters-in-laws—I’m angry. Angry that she CHOSE to leave us. Angry that for a few years she made us believe she wanted to be a part of us. Angry that we were so taken in.
And at the same time, I miss her.
A mother’s heart has nothing to do with actual birthing.
And I’m certainly not the first mom to have a prodigal, am I?
Other parents are asking the same questions: Where are they? What did we do? Why?
Many words describe FAMILY.
Mundane isn’t one of them.
If only she knew how much it matters.