Monday, January 16, 2017

Just Like Old Times

Patrick and Maggie came home from Austin to run in the Big Bend Ultra. This was their sixth year to participate. Rose's fifth. The three of them ran the 30k. They each got medals in their divisions. Most of all they had fun, running in this part of the world we call home, within a stone's throw of the Rio Grande and Mexico, surrounded by jagged mountains that look like the profile of princesses, indian chiefs, and wild animals. Can it be six years? Can it be that this region is home to us now?

The day before the race I begged, or was that ordered? cajoled? asked kindly? the kids to join me on a pecan pickup. We have four pecans trees on our property. The nuts are abundant this year. I told the kids I believed it to be a sin to let the delicious, buttery source of nutrients rot on the ground. I told them I needed those pecans to use in the bakery, and to feed us. I can live off pecans, toasted in a cast iron skillet with a little butter and sea salt if we run out of all other foods.

Back on the farm we had many opportunities to work together as a family in food harvesting mode. Cherry picking, chicken butchering, corn shucking. Even the barn cleaning maintenance was seen as one of many vital steps that brought our food and income to us.

Typically the chore would start with complaining, grousing, shuffling of feet, and a sudden sense of urgency to clean one's room. Eventually we would find our family groove and the job would lead to bonding and closeness.

The kids are growing and going their separate ways and we have few opportunities to do brutal bonding over big jobs. The sunny day morphed into clouds and mist. We gathered buckets. We put on jackets. We dove in, or rather sank to our knees to gather the many nuts.

The work was steady. We quickly covered a great deal of ground, five of us, instead of poor little ole me. An hour later, the ground was cleared of pecans, and we had almost four five gallon buckets filled with brown gold.

Kids went on about their own business but I heard the call of the backyard, and spent the rest of the day gathering trash, raking, pulling out the old zinnias and sunflowers in anticipation of spring. It felt great. Patrick and I burned stuff. We had one rather dramatic moment when he looked at me, I looked at him, we both looked at the small christmas tree drying out on the edge of the yard, and remembered days of yore on the farm. Yeah, I know we shouldn't have. But it was sprinkling outside, no danger of wildfire spreading, and I guess we needed a little drama in our lives, remembering the crazy bonfires out at the farm in the good old days. He poised the small tree, upright in the firepit and whoosh! The flames soared to the sky in a primal, soul stirring rush.

In a moment, flames were gone, and we looked at each other a bit sheepishly, amused by our need to create a little stir, even if only for a couple of seconds. Too bad Thomas wasn't there to enjoy!

Next day we enjoyed our trip to Big Bend State Park. My parents joined. They came down to watch the kids last year. It was a marked difference, this trip. Their health has diminished. My dad is dealing with the shock of dementia, creeping into our life, stealing away his ability to remember how to drive, to cook our favorite foods, to work certain machines. He didn't feel well. But we managed, and were thankful to be together.

Funny how everything changes and yet some things remain the same forever and always. Daddy can remember stories of watching his grandmother age, curious about what it is like to grow old. He was quite young when she moved in with his family. He can remember childhood moments on the farm. He can remember falling in love with mom. He is very aware when he can't remember. And we are all feeling unsteady, wondering if a diagnosis would offer any stability? Would it help if we knew which part of the brain was clearly functioning? And which one was growing weaker?

We are seeing doctors. Working every health angle possible. And adjusting. I told daddy that I remember how to make his special meals, since he did such a good job of teaching me. Mom is learning to adjust to being the driver, the phone caller, the primary cook. We are learning a new dance. Or is it a very old one? I get this niggling thought that we know the dance, it is stored in our DNA. We might stumble a bit, grouse, complain. It isn't always very pretty, this coming together, scrounging for our purpose, whether picking up pecans, driving to doctors, clearing out uhauls and barns. But it is rich. And nourishing. And embedded in the moments are gleaming diamonds of joy. And love.

Oh, now how in the world am I gonna get those kids to help me shell and pick out so many pecans??? And after the big rain and wind storm, I bet there are another five gallons newly dropped. Tomorrow is another day.....

No comments: