Not really covered

I helped my dad shuffle up the steps into his house and I laid his mail on the kitchen counter. He slowly worked his way to his recliner and dropped in.

SeasonsMom was in the hospital following heart valve replacement surgery. Dad and I had made the 60-mile trek every day to visit her in her recovery. At 88, he couldn’t drive anymore. To be honest, we were a little nervous leaving him alone while Mom was gone.

“Do you need anything before I go home?” I shuffled through the stack of envelopes. “Uh, what is this bill?” I handed him the envelope.

“Our health insurance,” he said. “I’ll get it.”

“We don’t want to miss any payments with Mom in the hospital.” It was a joke when I said it, but then I saw an envelope attached to his refrigerator.

A stamped return envelope to his health insurance company.

“What’s this?” I handed it to him.

He squinted and leaned forward. “I haven’t mailed that yet. I’ll get it.”

“Let’s open this,” I held the new bill and sliced it open. “Dad, this is the current bill. Is that envelope on the refrigerator last month’s payment?”

“I can’t remember.” He shifted his weight, looking for his TV remote. “I’ll get it out to the mail.”

“How about if I pay this bill today?”  I could sign their checks so that I was able to make this payment immediately.

“Sure, if you want to.”

reminderI wrote the check for the current month and then took both payments home where I mailed them from my house.

And held my breath, hoping the insurance company wouldn’t balk at the coming hospital bills for Mom’s surgery.

They didn’t but that was the month I switched their insurance payment to an automatic debit from the bank.

Who wants to take chances like that, even if Dad did think he had it covered?

Family eyes

I’ve heard of husband eyes but hadn’t really experienced kid eyes until the Christmas tree deal.

Story_squareThis eyes thing shows up when someone is sent to a location to look for something and they can’t find it.

My older son, who is now a husband himself, tells me that his wife accuses him of that. He told me that after he went looking for a box in a storage room.

“It’s not there,” he told me when he came back. “Although I’m told I have husband eyes so you might want to look.”

I found the box.

This came into play recently when our youngest daughter came home from school to ask, “when did you take the Christmas tree down?”

“Three weeks ago,” I said.

“No way.”

Yup. So she pulled her younger brother away from alien attack in the computer room. “When did Mom take down the Christmas tree?”

He looked up, his eyes wide. “The Christmas tree is down?”

They waited until their father got home to verify this amazing discovery. “Dad, did you notice that Mom took the Christmas tree down?”

He met both their faces with a calm smile and patted our daughter on the shoulder. “Did I notice?” He grinned at them both with that confident look that fathers get when they know the answer. “Did I notice? No.”

Family eyes. They all have it.

Making a list

The list came together one afternoon about a week after my dad’s funeral, when my mother, sister and I gathered for tea and brainstorming.

“What do we need to do now?” I asked.Seasons

We were all missing Dad, but he had passed at 90 after a year of increasing weakness and difficulty. He had died with his family at hand after many had been able to say goodbye.

Seeing loved ones leave is never easy but his hadn’t been unexpected.

Now we needed to gather ourselves.

“The funeral home took care of some things,” Mom said. “The obituary is done and we own two burial plots now.”

It had been easier to purchase two when we bought Dad’s.

“We need to send out thank you notes,” my sister said. We spent some time compiling a list, going through the cards that had come in.

“Why don’t you do the ones you know and I’ll do the ones I know?” I suggested. “Mom, you get the rest.”

She smiled. “I guess that will work.” As it turned out, that was closer to equal for us than I had guessed.

“We need a thank you note in the paper,” my sister said.

Mom wanted the recording of Dad’s funeral digitized so she could have it on a CD.

“We need to check with Medicare and Social Security,” I added. “I don’t know what needs to be done there.”

As it turned out, the funeral home took care of that.

Mom had to change the registration on their car to her name and cancel Dad’s Medicare gap insurance. So that went on the list.

“What about the bank?” Mom asked. “Do I have enough money to live on until we get things sorted out?”

We called the bank. The beauty of a revocable trust such as my parents had is that the checking account was in the trust name. All Mom needed to do was take a copy of the death certificate in to verify Dad’s passing. She had immediate access to her funds.

“I want a memorial fund,” Mom said. “For the money that was donated. Something in Dad’s name.”

I was amazed how quickly we had moved from the must-do list – things like bank accounts an insurance – to the “in memory” list.

“How about a headstone?” my sister added. That went on the list.

Before the afternoon was over, we had about 15 things to do. Most of them were checked off quickly.

It was a good thing, too, because within five weeks of that tea party, Mom was hospitalized with a stroke.

Without the list, there would have been a lot of things overlooked.

I’m not always big on lists but I’m very glad we made that one.

Full immunity

Story_squareI was in full homestead mode when our youngest was young, toting him as a baby around in a backpack, cell phone on my hip and goat feed loaded in the back of the pickup.

In his first year of life, our son got to bond with the goats every day while I milked. I’d sit on the stand which elevated the goats and let him pat the doe’s shoulder while I milked.

While I sat on the milking stand, my back was to the goat’s head. Of course, my son in the backpack had full access to the goat. He patted them, laid his head on their back, tried to pull their ears.

When he was old enough to graduate from the backpack, he still had to come with me on our trips to the barn.

One day as I milked Riggy, she shifted her weight. Not a big deal with some of our goats, but Riggy never lifted a hoof. Odd but everybody twitches once in a while, right?

Then she did it again.

And so I looked over my shoulder at her head, where she had a nice box of sweet feed before her.

Sweet feed is a mixture of rolled grains. Oats. Corn. Wheat. Barley. With a molasses coating.

It sort of looks like granola.

Too much like granola, actually. For there was my young son, his head also in the feed box, chowing down the sweet feed.Goat Milking Stand Best1

He’d put his head in, Riggy would butt his head away – hence the shifting weight – and they would alternate bites.

This was the same boy who, when he was still riding along in a backpack, would lick the goat’s shoulder when he could.

I know, I know. The number of germs that boy ingested is mind-boggling.

But, to be honest, he has a great immune system with no allergies. Maybe thanks to Riggy.

Mildred’s memory

Mildred’s eyes lit up when I approached her table at the dining room and I patted her hand.

“It’s so good to see you,” I said. Mildred had just transferred from an assisted-living facility to the nursing home.Seasons

She gave me her familiar broad smile. “It’s good to see you, too. You’ll have to remind me of your name.”

I had lead a devotional class at her assisted-living home for several years and Mildred never missed. “I look forward to this every week,” she’d told me more than once. She always made good comments, recalling stories from her youth and sermons from her pastor.

I hadn’t been to her facility in several months and she had re-entered my life at the nursing home where my mother now resided.

“Remember me from the Cedars?” I asked. “I used to see you every week there.”

“Oh?” Her eyes searched my face and I could see her mind trying to make connections. None came. “My memory isn’t as good as it used to be.”

But her smile was still there. Her love of people was still there.

I was sorry to lose those years we’d had together, although glad to re-connect.

Whenever I see Mildred, I always touch her hand. “It’s so good to see you,” I tell her.

And she always responds, “It’s so good to see you, too. You’ll have to remind me of your name.”

And I always do.

Stepping right out

I wasn’t this nervous during the birth of my first child or when I gave my first presentation in sophomore speech class.

Story_squareThe day I started my running program was not a day for public consumption.

I downloaded an app on my iPhone ( C25K Free) which promised to get me from a couch potato to a 5K run in 8 weeks. I selected my running playlist. I signed up for Strava, a GPS service that could track my runs by distance, trail, and time.

In short, I stalled.

But the day came. I had already decided on a secluded trail where nothing but hawks and crop dusters could watch me run.

Yeah, there was a crop duster that day. A small yellow airplane made at least three passes over me while I staggered through the training.

Fortunately, I had thought to wear a baseball cap and I just kept it tugged low.

Nobody could see my face.

The training app featured a sweet voice calmly cuing me: “Start walking now.”

I was good on the walking part. I strode out confidently for five minutes and then my sweet trainer said, “Start running now.”

I knew I only had to run for one minute on this day and so I stepped right out.

When waiting out a labor contraction or that last minute before the Friday bell releases you for the weekend, sixty seconds is an eternity.

And it’s even longer than that when you’re running and you’re out of shape.

I have never been so glad to hear my trainer speak again: “Start walking.”

I thanked her. Out loud. The hawk didn’t care.

App or no app, those were welcome words.

Ninety seconds go by fast when you’re trying to catch your breath and the trainer, with that voice that now sounded more like she didn’t care much, said, “Start running now.”

I survived. But then, just for the record, I survived labor and the sophomore speech, too. Amazing.

Mom’s adventures

When my mother was 80 years old, she climbed onto a 4-wheeler and drove it down the lane and back.

She spent most mornings from April to September in her yard, pulling weeds. May was for planting and October for raking the limp leaves.Seasons

Although my father had made all the auto purchases in the family, she took that on in her 80s and selected the car she wanted.

She’d call a family member in the afternoon. “I need you to come over here for supper and help me get all this food eaten.” And they’d come because she’d prepare a nice spread for a meal, often including a pie.

One day at breakfast, the kids and I decided it would be a good day to visit the zoo. “Let’s invite Grandma,” one of them said.

“Uh, we need to leave in a hour,” I said. I didn’t think that even my mother, who adjusted to almost anything, could pull that off.

She did. “Sure, I think that’ll be fun.”

Mom walked all over the zoo that day and helped me tend to energetic kids. Wonder where they got that kind of energy?

@copyright Kathy Brasby

@copyright Kathy Brasby

So when we decided to make a trip into the Colorado Rockies to view the fall aspen colors, of course Mom came along.

Although she slept all the way up on the two-hour trip and slept most of the way, home, too.

Two weeks later, we found her on the floor beside her bed with a useless left arm and leg. A stroke.

Her life changed in a moment.

She still has the same spunk, the same drive to go. But she has to go in a wheelchair now.

It’s a cliche but life is precious. I’m glad Mom had those adventures and did all she did. The memories keep us all going as we walk through another season in Mom’s life.