good enough

June 26, 2019

Scrabble did the trick. It was just a game. We weren’t doing anything of consequence. We didn’t even finish the game, for that matter. Before too long, she started getting droopy. Knowing it was past our usual 9:00 hour of turning-into-pumpkins, I knew it was time to suggest that we didn’t finish the game. “Oh, you don’t mind?” she asked. “Not at all . . .” I picked up the board and, as she poured tiles into the bag, I heard one drop onto the floor. Crawling under her feet to pick it up, I heard her quietly berate herself. “Oh, I’m sorry.” I lifted my head back up, smiling while I tossed the tile in with the others. Before I could tell her it didn’t matter, another one slid to the ground. I could tell she was embarrassed—the lifetime of constant motion gave her a well-deserved nickname of “Busy Bea” (which, in fact, is also her online Scrabble handle). But now, slippery fingers replace rapid motion. I tried to make it as small a matter as possible by waving off her apologies. But it’s hard to tell, these days, what really gets to her and what is easily forgotten. Judging from how quickly her breathing slowed and snoring began, I think this annoyance at her slippery fingers was a small one. I hope so.
Though she slept soundly that night, and I eventually slept well on my improvised bed (a small stack of folded hospital blankets that [almost] worked as a cushion), it took me a while to wind down. I tried to read but was distracted by my own train of thoughts. I looked at the peaceful expression on her face, and I wished that such peace was there during daytime hours. Moments occur, but they are rare.
That game of Scrabble was one of those rare moments. She forgot the worries about bills, long-term care, and meals. She forgot her new normal of without-him. She forgot her aches and pains and pills. And, blessedly for me, she forgot that a moment ago she’d been looking at me as she would any acquaintance who couldn’t make sure the sandwich arrived on time and was to her liking. Everything is either a disappointment or a frustration to her these days . . . even those of us closest to her.
Just moments before that game, a well-intentioned nurse had poked her head in the door while passing. “Good evening, Ms. Bea!” she said, “You enjoying your sandwich?” Her question was so normal and her demeanor so casual that it caught both of us off guard to hear the abrupt, “No!” that my grandmother shot back. “It was not good at all,” she continued. Clearly flustered, the young nurse tried to apologize, though it was evident that she had no reason to do so. In that instant, I was embarrassed. My Southern upbringing came back to me full-force, and I wished my grandmother had her old sensibilities again. Thinking through this reaction, I wished I was more comfortable with honesty. Why shouldn’t we all feel free to speak our minds like this? But I suppose the other part of me is simply weary of the constant string of “not good enoughs” that the world has become.
For all that is not good enough, however . . .for all that is not right, there has to be something that is good enough, that is right. And in this hospital room, on this night, that good and right was a game of Scrabble. For that brief period of time, we were transported back to our old selves. She was just my word-pro GramBea. And I was her eldest, do-gooder grandchild. We focused on our tiles, agonized over our moves, and then, as she does, she let me win.

on the [back]lines

June 16, 2019

This is the weekend of Peter’s annual IT conference. In the past we have always traveled together; but this year, the realities of setting up our homestead meant he needed to travel solo …and, consequently, I am needing to “farm” solo. It’s easy for me to say that I understand that farm life is a challenge. It’s another thing to live it!
The garden is easy enough, in one way (i.e. my black thumb will likely not give itself away until after the master gardener’s return 😉).
The animals are another story. Each milking session since he left has been increasingly difficult, and I cannot help but suspect that goats are more like children than most other animals: one aspect of this being behavior when daddy is away. By yesterday evening Lady was kicking so much that I lost a portion of the milk and had to give up before milking her out. This morning I dreaded an expected repeat and, as I was looking for the hobble (a strip of Velcro that can be used to help prevent kicking), my neighbor happened to come over for a visit. When I apologized for having to cut short the conversation, gesturing to my goat and explaining that she was expecting her food, I mentioned my issue with the kicking. Virginia offered to help: “Why don’t I hold her legs for you?,” she suggested. This being exactly what Peter does when the kicking begins, I instantly accepted. “Oh, would you?!?” So between the two of us, I managed to get most of the milk successfully in my jar. Should I admit to you that Virginia is well into her 80’s? I guess I just did 😉 But before you think less of me, I should also add that she lives on her own (with children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren coming by from time to time), she keeps up her own garden, mows her own lawn … and grew up milking her own cow. Virginia is probably more capable of handling Lady than I am! After we finished she patted Lady and, as lady nosed in on her, said, “do I smell good? Probably do, to you: it’s past time for my shower!” I smiled, thanked her for being my “milking angel,” and waved back at her.
This evening the dreaded hour returned again, as it does. This time I decided to try the hobble. The last time we experimented with it, Peter thought it was secure, but she managed to wiggle out of it. In my attempt to not repeat the error, I overcompensated and discovered, in the middle of milking, that she could hop around but not keep herself stable. She hopped herself sideways, careened over my head, and ended up pinning me to the stanchion while she flailed in the air. It was, frankly, a bit terrifying; I didn’t know if I was strong enough to lift her back up. Once I managed to do so, and got the hobble off her legs, I hugged her tightly. “I’m so sorry, Lady,” I repeated, trying to catch my breath. I feared I had just scarred her for life, and begged her to forgive me. Her response was to nose around in the bin for remnants of food, and sniff my hands for more. She was, in short, remarkably un-phased.
That said, I am not looking forward to the next day (one more solo day for me), and I still worry about after effects. I also worry that the peaceful, easy milking days are a thing of the past. But of course it does no good to worry about what has not yet come.
For now, all is well. All in a day’s homesteading?