Calling

SeasonsHarry dialed his son. “The neighbors came over to scoop off the front walk.”

His son, Dean,  lived across town and hadn’t made it out yet. “Oh, good. Thanks, Dad.”

“Just wanted you to know.” Harry hung up. Within minutes, Dean got another call. This one was from his sister.

“Dad says you didn’t scoop off the front walk.”

“Well, the neighbors did it. When did he call you?”

“Just now.”

Dean calculated. His father must have immediately dialed his sister after calling Dean. In fact, while Dean talked to Sharon, his phone buzzed with a new call. It was Harry.

“I better see what Dad needs now,” Harry told Sharon and switched the call to his father.

“Yeah, Dean, I wanted you to know that the neighbors also scraped off our windshield. But I don’t think we’re going to church anyway. It’s cold, you know. I just wanted you to know.”

Harry could no longer scoop snow or carry out his own trash but he could dial his phone. His children had given him a cell phone and it proved to be Harry’s new hobby.

He called all his children regularly and passed on news from one to another.  Harvesting news and passing it on the the rest of the family became his daily goal.

Harry had a new purpose and it involved his favorite people: his family.

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Vaulting new fences

SeasonsMy dad once rescued an angry mama cow by luring her into a runway where she thought she could mash him flat as a Gumby toy. He let her stay close to his heels until he reached the door into the barn.

Then he grabbed a fencepost and vaulted onto the top railing while the cow’s momentum carried her into the stall where she could tend her newborn calf sheltered from the blizzard outside.

That memory of a lithe and strong man of resource has held firm in my mind as I watched his abilities wither along with his body.

The family woke up to Dad’s challenges when he set his pickup engine on fire. Dad was a master mechanic and even in his 80s he wasn’t afraid to crawl under the hood and adjust a carburetor.

Something went wrong. Something that wouldn’t have gone wrong 10 years before.

The fire scorched the pickup engine and underside of the hood.

Dad was nearly in tears for his clumsy mistake.

We were nearly in tears at the thought of a fire stealing him away from us.

We could have grounded him, taking away his vehicles and finding ways to keep him tethered to a recliner and television.

We didn’t.

We became very interested in his projects. We hung out with him as often as we could, turning a wrench when he started a repair. We listened when he discussed maintenance.

Just like Dad had rescued that angry cow even though she didn’t know it, we had to do the same for Dad.

He’d taught us to solve problems creatively. If he could vault the fence to save a cow, we searched for ways to save him from himself.

Our thief

Story_squareThe nest was empty. After almost four weeks of waiting –  four weeks of fluffy yellow duckling dreams –  all the nests were empty.

The ducks had done their part, filling four nests with beautiful eggs.

And now some varmint had raided the nests.

Raccoon. We were sure of it. We knew raccoons darted in and out of the nearby corn fields, waiting for the ears to start to ripen before they ripped them free with those crafty little hands and gorged themselves.

The same mask that makes a raccoon cute to most stuffed-animal connoisseurs signaled something different to us on our hobby farm. We saw them as little thieves.

And now one had dashed our hopes of a crop of ducklings.

“I’m going to get a humane trap,” my husband said, his arms folded over his flannel shirt.

We found one at the local farm supply store and set it up.

On night one, we failed to put any tempting food in the trap. Nothing happened.

On night two, we realized we had set the plate too tight after the critter ate our bait without springing the trap.

Night three caught our cat.373074_5095

We tiptoed into the barn after night four. The trap had been dislodged from its spot and the dirt floor was plowed and furrowed. We couldn’t see the trap, now hidden behind some metal leaned against the wall.

Finally we had scored.

We rushed around the barrier to gloat over our raccoon.

“Whoa,” my husband was leading the pack and he stopped with the gang piling into his back.

“What?” The youngest couldn’t see past the mob and started to push her way forward.

The crowd could have stepped aside but we were all busy rushing away.

All because our raiding raccoon, that detested varmint, turned out to be a raiding skunk instead.

Next week: what to do when a skunk is angry and trapped in your barn.

A creeping shadow

Seasons“Mom, I have exciting news about our house.” Carol sat down on the edge of the bed, putting one hand on her mother’s wheelchair. “We finally got the living room re-decorated. New paint. New carpet. New drapes. I can’t wait to show you.”

Her mother stared at the white wall of the small nursing home bedroom, her eyes half closed. A late-afternoon shadow creeped across the wall.

“Mom?” Carol leaned forward and her mother stirred.

“That’s nice,” Mom said. “Did I tell you about those people who visited me last night? They said this was my last night. I don’t know what they were talking about.”

Carol’s shoulders drooped a bit. “Last night? What do you mean?”

“They meant it was my last night and then—“ Mom pointed upward.

“Well, you’re still here so I guess they were wrong. Who were they?”

Mom shook her head. “I don’t know. I heard them out in the hall talking. They said last night was my last night and then they’d put someone else in this room.”

“Do you think you were dreaming?”

“I don’t think so. I heard them.”

Once Carol had shown her mother every new change in her life. The new drapes. The new towels. Even the new recipe.

But that mother was gone, leaving this one in her place who could barely distinguish dream and dialogue. Carol watched the afternoon shadow creeping across Mom’s face. She wanted to push it away.

Instead, Carol put her arm around her mother’s shoulders. “I’m glad you’re still here. I think you had a bad dream. Really.”