Almost Like We Matter To Each Other

Church campout marks a summer that has come, will soon be gone.  Only a few weeks and school will start again.  Here I am, sitting on the edge of summertime, at the edge of wild, sitting out of doors in blue collapsable chair at Howard Miller Steelhead Park.  River passes by on one side, can’t be heard for the breeze that messes up the leaves above my head, grand mountains on the other.  The wind, it hints at cooler days coming.  And still no leaves have fallen.  The kids whiz past me on scooters, bikes and feet.  The couples pass by, a dog on leash, lazy like, they walk about, talking to each other.  Some stop here and say a hello.  Almost like we matter to each other.  As if we do. 

And then I stop the writing for she arrives.  The girl on the edge, the wild one.  The one whose internal stimuli keeps her lips forever moving, with no words.  The searching eyes.  The difficulty tracking a conversation for the ever-conversing voices in her head.  I matter to her, I know I do, though she keeps me at bay, holds me at a distance, paranoia yanking her about to the ones who care for her most.  She asks if she can join us early next morning for the hike.  I don’t know if she will make it, it’s 10 miles round trip, an entire day of mountain-goat work.  In morning we will see.

Sun comes up just now, camp mostly quiet, she arrives, pink cheeked and tentative.  I want her to come along and still I think it’s too much.  So do her voices.  She backs out at last minute.

All day long I hike, me and my 8 year old Butterfly.  Friends along too.  All day long I climb higher and higher.  Legs and lungs they work to move us along ridges, beside fields of flowers, tree tops and shifting stones.  All day long, searching for bathroom among the hiding places.  All day catching a glimpse of the sanity a mountain-top brings.

A hike to heaven and back, that’s what we do.  End of day picked up by adored husband and lanky son of boredom.  Down an hour of washboard road, we stop along the way to buy some ice cream for little miss who managed the 10 miles of all day.  Back at camp, sticky peaches are my pick-me-up, and a hot shower to wash the layers of dirt off tired body.

It’s Sunday Morning.  I’m in the park block-house freshening up again, the community place of washing.  The place that smells of soap and mud.  Caring friend comes in, too, looking rather tired.  She sees me, needs just a minute to talk.  Shares how the wild one we both love screamed terrifying into the night.  Voices, forever the voices.  Tired eyes tell of the many who gather in the night to pray as she struggled on.  Said they had almost come to find me in the night. 

I am sad.  I hate the struggles of mental illness.  Mind that convinces the tormented one that those who love her are not safe.  Convinces mind that medicine is not safe.  That doctors and therapists are not safe.  Nothing we can do now.  We say a prayer and off to outdoor church service. 

Pastor is real.  During service shares his struggles with depression.  At one point in the sermon he asks all those who have experienced depression to raise their hands.  A few raise their brave and vulnerable hands.  Me too.  While we sit listening to a sermon on mental health, just beyond the crowd sits a mentally ill girl, tent collapsed with all her belongings inside the tent.  Caring friend comes and finds me again, tells me wild one is frozen in place, sitting criss-cross applesauce staring at tent full to the brim with no poles, caved in upon her things.  I slip away with caring one, hoping to help. 

Talking does nothing but make her lips move with no sound to match.  When I tell her I can’t hear her, she shouts that she loves us and needs her space.  I tell her “No rush, we don’t have to check out till afternoon, will help in any way I can, if you want me to help.”

There she sits, all through the sermon on mental illness.  Still like death in front of downed tent.  There my heart sits, beside her, but far across the expanse.  After the sermon I find a friend who hurt for wild one, too.  Sometimes we say “lets pray” with the thought that it’s not really doing anything.  Our prayer beside handsome mountain, our prayer along wide river – the river we can’t hear for the noisy trees above us, we pray our prayer anyway – because God has good hearing.  And as our prayer comes to a close, from a distance we see caring heart as she makes her way across the grass.  She gets closer, we see the tears on her tired cheeks. She tells us what God did for wild one.  He sent a small red headed boy, a boy much like the boys wild one once taught in Sunday School in days when her mind was well, to ask if he could help.  And she let him. Together they set up the tent, emptied it out, packed up her things, packed up the tent, and she was righted enough to make her way back home again.

Here I am, sitting on the edge of summertime, at the edge of wild, sitting out of doors in blue collapsable chair at Howard Miller Steelhead Park.  River passes by on one side, can’t be heard for the breeze that messes up the leaves above my head, grand mountains on the other.  The wind, it hints at cooler days coming.  And still no leaves have fallen.  The kids whiz past me on scooters, bikes and feet.  The couples pass by, a dog on leash, lazy like, they walk about, talking to each other.  Some stop here and say a hello.  Almost like we matter to each other.  As if we do. 

    

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Random and Regular

The Fall shames me. Today I went with our son to registration for high school. Of course I didn’t realize registration was today until it was nearly over. When we arrived I explained to the first lady who started hunting for his name that he had not yet been signed up. She asked if we were new in town. “No, he’s just been to a private school” Of course she had to introduce me to the vise-principal who asked very loudly if we were new in town, to which I answered again “No”, he walked us over to the registrar’s office who had more questions and gave us a packet a papers.

How all these hundreds of families knew something I didn’t is nothing new to me. My poor kids, I embarrass them continually. Found this article I wrote on ADHD and wanted to share it again. Here’s to the Mom’s out there who feel like losers and are nothing of the sort. We will make it through another fall, and so will our kids:)

...because healing spreads

If you don’t believe in ADHD, come follow me around for a day or two.  I will make you a believer.  I don’t mean to be random, I just am.  I spent a lot of my life thinking I was stupid.  Wondering why I couldn’t hear a word spoken, busy with a thought far away from whatever was being said around me.  Couldn’t sit still.  Sitting in the tortured stillness of church or school impossible unless I distracted myself by bumping my knee up and down, relentlessly doodling or standing up intermittently and pacing at the back of the room.  Or the forever late problem.  Loosing friends because of being late, forgetting what I said I’d bring, or forgetting altogether that I would be meeting them.  Getting lost going places I’ve been dozens of times.  Loosing things.  Paying bills late with plenty of money in the bank.  Having no idea…

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Laundry Day

Today is laundry day.  I’m rich. 

I have more clothes than I can wear in a month. 

I have a wash machine.  Push a couple buttons, it does it all.  Gently, and without shredding thin the garments. 

I have a dryer – not a rope that hangs among the trees in our back yard. 

I have a dresser to put stacks of pants and pj’s in, drawers that shut just nice, and a closet. 

I have a bug and moth free home, most of the time:) 

An indoor sink with plumbing (ashamed to say, but 5 of them). 

Sweet tap water for drinking down. 

Barefeet cool on hardwood while I fold towels, pile up the socks and shake the shirts. 

I sometimes complain about laundry.  And why?   

As a kid it was bags and bags to the laundromat. 

The generation before that, Grandma used a wringer washer.

Before that, hours at a time, hands in boiling water, washed in tub and on the board. 

Great Great Grandma Amanda lost her soldier husband Peter in the Civil War.  She had two little girls Margaret and Melinda to raise, alone.  Despite the kindness of the extended family, nothing could be done to provide Amanda and the girls an easy life. At first Amanda was a single mom with two small children.  I can’t imagine tackling the wash, let alone having to track down enough wood to keep her little family warm, pack the water alone, manage it all, and grieve.  The 1860’s were hard.  The 1860’s life was even harder as a single parent no matter how effective the latest wash powder.  

Wash Powder, Silvers 1866

0432 b1860 Melinda Akles Degman

It was wintertime.  Amanda’s youngest, Melinda made her way toward school.  Up the steps in through the door, she removed her wraps.  She was a tiny 4th grade girl.  Her feet still cold from the walk, she took her seat and waited for the teacher.  In the hussle of morning-time, somebody bumped the teacher’s desk, the kerosene lamp swayed and toppled to the floor, shattering into pieces. When the teacher returned, she went into a rage. Who had done it? The students pointed to Melinda. The teacher rushed at her, grabbed hair, pulled her to the floor and bashed her head against the metal shoe scraper that sat beside the door. Repeatedly smashing Melinda’s head, the teacher ripped out handfuls of her auburn hair.  The attack caused Melinda to go to bed, and remain there for over a year. She had difficulty reading and learning.  

Melinda’s Father, a good man, had helped his brother through college before the war.  After Peter died, his brother, Uncle Charlie as the family called him, decided to give back to Peter’s girls what had been given to him. Amanda’s oldest Margaret went to live with her uncle and family.  She was given an education through college. This was in a day when most men were unable to attend college, and rarely a women. Melinda stayed home with her Mother and Stepfather and learned to be a housekeeper and cook.  No telling the tole the brain injury had taken, and the opportunities lost.  Her education had stopped with the 4th grade thrashing. 

I don’t know how Melinda managed her life as a woman. How had she washed clothes, baked before sunrise, and through the long hot days?  Had she managed to wash from her spirit what the Civil War had taken?  Had she let wash away the brutality of a monster teacher – enough to raise four daughters and send them off to school each day?  A young bride’s fear of marriage, honeymoon night hid in darkness under bed, husband finding her and pulling her out?  Had she been able to scrub hard against the shame of being simple when husband was smart and able, educated, Justice of the Peace, blacksmith, Sunday School teacher, ran the theater and performed Shakespeare?  Oh, did I mention his handwriting looked like art?  

Some stains run even deeper. What did it take to get up and do another day with the guilt she carried – she too had allowed their 16 year old daughter Grace to attend an evening Vaudeville play at the downtown theatre – on way home was raped by No-Name Vaudeville actor – left pregnant – Melinda’s oldest daughter’s fiance and his brother late of night tracked down the No-Name, a murder, a body thrown into the swirling darkness of the Missouri.  Vigilantes left town for months – just in case. Small town. Questions asked.  It was too much for capable talented husband.  He walked away, too.  For good.  Too much for their daughter Grace.  She fled to places far from home, except for a visit 40-some years later.  The Grace they knew never did return.  

Melinda, alone in Brownville to provide for her daughters was offered a job by a family friend to be the hotel cook, feeding the men who came down the Missouri on steamboats. Single parenthood in those days meant poverty. Melinda’s youngest, Muriel, told how she owned one dress for ever’day, one dress for good.  She and her sister Alice and their Mother Melinda lived above the hotel.  No electricity, no indoor plumbing, no toilet, tub or sink, no wash machine, no buggy, bike or car, no bug spray, I could go on but you get the idea.

The childhood injury, referred to in those days as brain fever, left Melinda tired much of the time.  Despite her deficiencies, she was a very hard worker. She was remembered for working well past exhaustion, insisting that everything be tidy, making the following day a new start.  She didn’t let the hard things that had happened to her harden her.  Brownville though rural was not all small-town loveliness. Prostitutes provided services for the men who came through.  The townsfolk wouldn’t speak to the girls, or have anything to do with them.  Great Grandma Melinda reached out, they lived just down the street from where she was.  Knowing there was talk in town of her visits with them, she did not let that stop her. She took the girls food.  When they became sick – as they often did, she would tend to them. I suppose she had learned that life can either stain you hateful ugly or shine you.  Muriel once asked her “Momma, how did you keep going?”  Melinda thought a minute and then said “When there’s something that has to be done, God gives you the strength”.  

 

0433

For Grandma Muriel, the Wringer Washer was a huge improvement but still required handling every item. Wash was scalded clean, sent through the ringer over and over, then hung on a line for the breeze to toss about and the sun to brighten. Years before, she washed on the board for ‘rich folks’  leaning heavy over the hot tub for hours, hands all-day-long in abrasive brine and boiling water… one of the many ways she managed to make a living for she and her four children as her husband was out staining up the world, and eventually abandoned the family to his carefree ways. 

 

Laundry day for Mom with all it’s update conveniences was still exhausting.0179For a couple years there, she had three babies in cloth diapers and plastic pants.  And no wash machine.  I call my sisters and I the Irish triplets.  3 girls in 2 1/2 years. Boyl_2012-593 I can not imagine. Mom was a teacher and had to grade papers when she wasn’t at the school. As my sisters and I got older we’d work the laundry together.

 

For all the laundry days

for times this life has rung us out

for the swirling darkness

the abrasive cleansing

hung out to dry

for all to see

we take our form

and find our place once more

It’s laundry day,

am rich!