Monthly Archives: May 2018

Let the Trumpets Sound

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Our mystery trumpets

The month of May is a time of celebration, especially along a stretch of our driveway. Well, you won’t be hearing “Pomp and Circumstance” or Mendelssohn’s wedding march or any of Sousa’s heart stirring marches. These trumpets are silent. But on each tall flower stalk there are eight or ten little red horns fringed in green. If all one hundred horns, or trumpets, were to play, great would be the sound. I think maybe a hundred cute little toy soldiers would march right out of the woods and down the driveway!

 

I’ve been trying to discover the name of this flower. In addition to its tall stalk, it grows a pretty thick ground cover with lush green leaves that come back every year. When we realized the flower went with this growth, we proceeded to protect both. We’ve been rewarded with a nice multiplication of blooms so now, instead of a few mysterious flowers, we have a large bed of them. They enjoy the partial shade of an Indonesian cherry tree.

I have shown pictures of the little trumpets for two years to friends and family members but until today had not found anyone who knew what they are. Finally, I went to see Beverly at Annell’s Flowers with a couple of samples in hand. She said the flowers look like alstromeria lilies. Pulling one of hers from a cooler, she and I compared them and, though hers come in many colors and are larger, we think it is a match.

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Alstromeria lilies, Inca lilies, trumpets tuning up

 

Alstromerias are native to South America, specifically Peru (where grown in the winter) and Brazil (grown in the summer). It is also called an Inca Lily. I like that. I was calling it our mysterious flower and, even now that I know its name, it still seems mysterious–and exotic. Inca lilies growing under an Indonesian cherry tree beside a Japanese maple.

“Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”  Luke 12:27

 

 

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Conversation

One day Charles and I dropped by the Mitchell County Animal Hospital on a day Dr. AlexGreenberg was the veterinarian. His Great Dane named Sir was trying to be a pal to the orange hospital cat. I took a series of pictures of Sir’s attempts at “conversation” with While Drs. Greenberg and Graham were conferring with each other. Later, I showed five-year-old Kaison these pictures and made up a conversation between the dog and cat. Kaison became the cat, I the dog, then we switched roles. Following is a semblance of the conversation we made up.

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A Vet’s Wife’s Diary–Riding Shotgun

After being married to a veterinarian for over fifty years, I naturally have loads of memories, pictures in my mind, like the following. My veterinarian is a much better storyteller than I am, but I love to write his stories down, even if only in my diary. Here are three from the year 1992.

August 3, 1992

One of our fairly new clients had a sickly pig recently which, the farmer said, should be culled, but whom, his wife said, must be cared for. (Shades of Charlotte’s Web!) One Saturday, a day off for Charles, we were deep into painting our kitchen when this lady appeared at our back door wanting Charles to tell her what to do for the little critter. They went out to his truck where he gave the little pig several shots, cautioning her not to be too optimistic. “But,” he said, “amazing things can happen.”

She wanted to pay him. He insisted not. Coming back in to take up his brush he told me, “She couldn’t afford to pay, the pig is not worth the cost, and if I can’t do some things just because they need doing, I’m not worth my pay the rest of the time.”

A few weeks later that lady called and asked if we liked fish. She gave us a mess of fresh water bass fillets explaining she wanted to do something nice for Dr. Graham’s treating her pig. I cautiously asked how the pig was. She became very enthusiastic. “Well, you know he’s deaf, but he’s been eating and growing since Dr. Graham treated him. Like Dr. Graham told me to, I’ve been spoon feeding him, and now he’s trained just like a baby. He’s really a character!”

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A typical scene, a healthy hog, not the little sickly pig!

November 4, 1992

Charles is blessed with such a huge amount of cheerfulness that in the worst circumstances there’s usually some of it left in his well. He’s sort of like an airfilled balloon in a tub of water. There’s just no way you can keep him down. But the other night I found him morose and very subdued. He’d lost a patient, he told me. It was a cow on whom he’d done a caesarian. The operation was successful, though the calf had been dead for hours. He was almost through closing the wound when the cow suddenly drew a big shuddering breath and died. Years ago this would have been so common he would have been sad, but not surprised. But now procedures and supplies are so vastly improved, he expects to win more of these battles. This one really got him down. For one thing, he was physically exhausted which, of course, affects one’s mental attitude. Being disappointed as well, he was not interested in much conversation the whole evening and announced he was going to bed around 9:30.  But the next morning he was whistling again.

November 9, 1992

I never grow tired of hearing Charles explain firmly and kindly the intricacies, causes, effects, possibilities of injuries, diseases and conditions. For instance, yesterday (Sunday afternoon) a young woman named Rebecca brought in her 11 year-old poodle who’d had two seizures in quick succession. Rebecca was swollen-eyed and still crying, blurting out, “I don’t want her to be in pain. I’ll do what I have to do.” She implied she was afraid she should euthanize her dog.

Charles took the dog’s temperature. Normal. He questioned her about other seizures. Very few. He asked her about the circumstances surrounding these recent ones. There was company at her house, otherwise all was as usual. How severe were the seizures. Very bad. The dog virtually lost all consciousness, eyes glazed over.

Finally, as he rubbed the little dog’s back and looked her again in the eyes which now were wide open and eager, Charles said, “Just because she’s had a few seizures is no reason to put her down. You may have to do that one day if you think it’s best for her, but I can’t recommend it now. She’s not in a lot of pain, just bewilderment at times. When she has a seizure, leave her in safe surroundings and ignore her. Let her be quiet awhile. I don’t even recommend medication unless seizures are pretty frequent and regular. Medication partially sedates one most of the time. I’ll give her a tranquilizing shot now just to calm her and then I recommend you just watch her. You know, we can’t guarantee how any of us will die and whether we may be frightened and alone sometime. But let’s live fully while we can.”

Rebecca smiled through her tears as she hugged her “baby.” “Thanks, Doc, thanks so much!”

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Journey With Two Mothers

When we left Habersham County, Georgia, in our beige 1985 Buick that beautiful October Sunday in 1990, we carried precious cargo: both our mothers. We were bound for Niagara Falls, a veterinary convention in Rochester, New York, and for New England and the rocky coast of Maine. My mother was 86 and dependent on a walker. Charles’s mom was only 65 but had a bad knee and was expecting to have a complete knee replacement after that trip.

Mama Graham (Elizabeth) had dreamed of going to Niagara Falls. My mother (Eula) had a great longing to visit the rocky coast of Maine. We had proposed the trip almost a year ahead so they could anticipate and plan.

As it turned out, Eula had a very bad fall the January before our trip. She crushed a vertebrae which put her into severe pain and a lengthy hospitalization. She de-scribed her pain as “worse than birthing any of her eleven babies.” I realized she wouldn’t be able to travel, that we would all just be thankful if she could walk again and put on her big signature Saturday morning breakfasts. But one day as I leaned over her to adjust her pillow she whispered, “I have to get well so I can go on that trip.”

And get well she did, though she never was able to do without her walker.

Our mothers each chose a side of the Buick’s rear seat, made their “nest” as Elizabeth described it, and declared that would be their place from then on. When we tried to switch around and give them each turns in the front for a better view, they held tight to their places. We worked out a system for getting in the best handicapped, or at least possible, bathrooms–meaning, Charles would park temporarily while I ran in and scoped the place. If I gave a thumbs-up we’d begin unloading the walker and, in some instances, my mother’s toilet seat extender (in a bag!). Remember, handicap facilities were not a given in those days. All up the eastern seaboard, we found McDonald’s to be our winner. They had the best restrooms!

Charles and I had experienced Niagara Falls’ greatness two years before this. But seeing it through our mothers’ eyes was even more awesome. Charles rented a wheelchair for Eula and we walked down toward the overlook. I had a sudden overwhelming fear that Charles was going to lose control of the wheelchair and my mother would go flying off the cliff. But my mother had no such fear. She and Elizabeth were spellbound and not just because of the tremendous roar. They were taking in everything in total awe. It was late afternoon. There were rainbows. It was stunning, incredible, so beautiful. It was, to me, like heaven, simply unbelievable. Could we possibly be actually sharing this experience with our mothers? It was one of those moments when you almost hold your breath for fear you’ll wake and find it was only a dream.

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Charles with our two mothers at Niagara

 

I saw a hotel over on the Canadian side right by the Falls, a brand new nine or ten story ho0tel with windows overlooking the Falls. Charles and I decided we would see if there were a room for us in that hotel. Miracles had already happened, maybe this one too. The clerk at the desk said yes and we took it! I will never forget our thrill when we walked in that generous room and discovered the view overlooking the Falls from a bay window with seats. Three of us went to dinner. My mother said please to let her stay in that window absorbing the view and writing cards to all her other children. She’d be happy with whatever take-out we brought her.

The moon was full that night. We could hardly make ourselves go to bed!

Contrary to the planning of the rest of our journey, we did have a room reserved at the convention hotel in Rochester. Our room was on the mezzanine level which meant we could walk out our door into a beautiful courtyard on the fifth floor. There were fountains and flower gardens and nice benches here and there. We three girls thoroughly enjoyed that place while Charles went to his meetings and seminars.

Ours was the last car on the ferry across Lake Champlain. Charles, Elizabeth, and I went up on deck but Eula happily stayed with the car and, because of our being last on, she could see out.

Riding through Vermont and New Hampshire in the autumn, we were in a constant state of celebration. Every turn in the road brought a new aaah or oooh. It was so much fun just seeing everything together. Even the signs were an adventure, especially when we realized we were passing an entrance to the Appalachian Trail. We had to stop and take pictures there and think about the southern end of the trail near home in Georgia.

The little coastal town of Bar Harbor, Maine, was cozy and bustling just as you’d expect it to be on an autumn morning in the fog. Charles chatted with locals outside while we girls shopped for souvenirs. He learned that we were seeing Bar Harbor at its most normal, fogged in!

In spite of the fog, we drove up the winding, steep road to the top of Cadillac Mountain. We’d talked about this adventure all the way from Georgia. Wouldn’t the sun come out and burn away the fog? It didn’t. We could barely see to park.

Back on the coast, Charles drove along slowly to let us see what we could. We looked for a place where Eula could see the waves crashing into the rocks. The rest of us walked down a steep path to see a Devil’s Cauldron, the water crashing in and shooting up spouts of white foam. Mamma said she could hear it and that was good enough.

Charles was determined we would see the view from Cadillac Mountain. So after lunch in a little seaside “cup up” spot, we climbed the mountain again, this time hoping so hard we could see out. A light rain had started falling. Maybe it would wash the fog away!

Again, no view. Nothing except fog so thick we felt smothered by it.

We left Bar Harbor area midafternoon and drove south along the coast. Suddenly the sun burst free of the clouds and we could see! Our mothers were like little girls in their glee. We drove around a point and could see President H.W.Bush’s home across the sound. We were at Kennebunkport. We took pictures and lingered there on the rocky coast of Maine.

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Eula and Brenda at Kennebunkport

 

One of the highlights of our visit to Maine for Charles and me was eating lobster at a lobster pound. Not so for our mothers. They had clam chowder and looked at us as if we were murderers for eating poor lobsters dropped alive into boiling water.

On the way home we visited Washington for one day, Charles and his mother sightseeing, Mamma and I enjoying time with my niece. We drove through Amish Pennsylvania and then down to North Carolina where we spent our last night out with my sister. Mamma stayed there with her while the three of us headed for South Georgia.

This journey was a time to treasure in our hearts and remember fondly as we pay tribute to our dear mothers on every day, but especially on Mother’s Day.

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Home at 1010

I remember a columnist from years ago named Gladys Tabor. She wrote about her garden, seasonal flowers, about feeding the birds and digging pesky vine roots, pruning roses or picking berries. I’m not the gardener or the writer that she was but I’d like to take you around our corner and just shout out a few hallelujahs for the blessings God displays for us.

Our tubs of herbs along the outside of the back porch are green and luscious with rosemary, parsley, basil, lavender and mint. I hung a bunch of everything in the kitchen to smell good and to dehydrate. We bought two red geraniums for the porch which I can see from the den window. There’s something about red geraniums that makes me feel good all over. And Charles transplanted a patch of a dozen or so small purple iris around the maple tree south of the porch. The white ones in the same bed have done their thing and bowed out. The purple flags, as my mother called them, are smiling center stage.

The mulberry tree is at the height of its season, berries thick on the branches, the whole tree in motion with squirrels and birds feasting. The squirrels have had to find a new way to the mulberry since we cut down the two large oak trees which they had used as connectors in their super highway. We meant no offense in particular to the squirrels, just became concerned that at least one of the big oaks might land some windy night across our bedroom. They were both rotten and hollow. But Charles, in preparation for the tree felling, also took out a massive bank of old shrubbery–azaleas, wisteria, etc. So now, not only are the squirrels missing their highway, but they hardly have any cover on that side of the yard. They sneak across a wide open stretch either in one headlong dash, or, often, a few feet at a time, stopping to sit up erect like meerkats on the prairie before tackling another stretch. Once they scale one certain large pine they have it made–a leap to the cherry tree and then protection all the way to the arms of the generous mulberry. That pine is a giant stairway to freedom for hundreds of tiny squirrels’ feet.

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Mulberries are sweet even before they are ripe!

 

Charles’ sister Revonda came and sat on our porch with us Sunday afternoon. We talked about old friends they knew when growing up in Thomas County schools. Our cat, Sassy, brought a skink to the screen door and meowed for attention. We talked about her and didn’t rescue her victim which was all but dead. Birds flew in and out of the feeder area. Squirrels scaled the pine and leaped to the cherry tree limbs, then to the mulberry. We caught up on ours and Revonda’s grandchildren, then called the third sibling of the JB Graham family, Ronnie, up in Michigan. The temperature was forty degrees there to our very pleasant seventy. We’d forgotten about Sassy and the skink when suddenly we spied her lugging a baby rabbit up the driveway. She tried to settle in by the screen door to give us another show. But our sympathy was warm for that little bunny. Charles stepped out and made Sassy release it. We laughed with glee as the small “Peter Rabbit” took to his feet and made a very quick and bouncy exit. I knew for sure at that moment I was not married to a “Mr. McGregor.”

Along the front porch are knockout roses. When five-year-old Kaison spends the day with me, we include in our activities, “dead heading” the roses. He is surprisingly adept with the clippers and gets almost too much pleasure snapping the dead blooms off with an “off with your head” to each one. He and I fill the bird baths too. I chuckle remembering my father-in-law who used to call out to Mama Graham, “Elizabeth, here’s those pesky birds flopping around in the bird bath. They’re going to splash all the water out!”

When Charles and I walk around the yard in the evening, we always stop to see how our new blueberry bushes are doing. Charles has worked so hard testing the soil and preparing it then to blueberry specifications. There are berries now on each little tree and we’re hoping to have some soon enhancing our cereal. In a couple of years we’re expecting to make muffins, cobblers, and stick some berries in the freezer.

Brown thrashers are here. We saw a beautiful one at the feeder outside the breakfast room today eating voraciously. They only grace us with their presence during their nesting time but I greatly enjoy seeing them for those few weeks–flying in and out of their chosen bushes. The feeders are busy, too, with cute little black-capped chickadees, tufted titmouse, bright cardinals and purple finches. We woke this morning to the sound of birds singing from low bushes and high in the pines. A mockingbird trilled his thirty-minute repertoire from the cherry tree as if he would burst if he couldn’t sing. A few minutes ago we spotted our first hummingbird of the season.

I heard about a shrub called a “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” plant. We found one at Nesmith Nursery in Thomas County and just finished settling it into the soil near the butterfly garden. We’re told it blooms sporadically all summer and that on any given day there will be yesterday blossoms of pale lavender, today blossoms of almost purple, and tomorrow blossoms of white. We’re giving it to each other for Mother’s Day/Father’s Day, a fun new acquisition!

Thanks for wandering with me. (And thanks, Gladys Tabor of long ago, for your inspiration.)

So many blessings close by! With the psalmist, let’s say Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. (Psalm 103:1)

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