Monthly Archives: October 2020

Autumn Flowers

Following the wonderful occasion of my getting my first haircut in over two months, we decided to expand our rare outing to take a ride in the country, see if any autumn color was showing along the creeks.

It has been seven weeks since we were struck with COVID-19. At this point, Charles is still on oxygen, still coughing some, and definitely not up to his usual strength. He has gained back three or four of the fifteen pounds he lost. Unfortunately, I have found the few pounds I lost! But fortunately I’m able to move freely in my kitchen and, with a walker, to make those rounds in the driveway (we’re almost to a mile a day!). We are still secluding until we’re well enough to have the flu shot. But it was a joy to get out and ride around a “country block.”

Quickly we realized that, fall leaf color or not, fall flowers are blooming in abundance.

Goldenrods bloom in thick profusion on the roadsides, along the fences. Red, blue, and pink morning glories festoon themselves amongst the goldenrods or climb fence posts. Other flowers, particularly a dainty white one blooming close to the ground, join in the picture of wild beauty. In front of pretty homes roses still bloom. Pots of chrysanthemums make splashes of color on many porches.

We drove in and out of short stretches of live oak canopies. I always love to see the shadow patterns on the roadway from those huge trees so lavishly decorated with Spanish moss. Looking upward in these “tunnels” gives one a feeling of looking up at the arches in a cathedral. Also, being a girl from the hills, I take a certain joy in seeing even a semblance of banks along the road as often are part of the canopy stretches. Unlike the Meridian Road toward Tallahassee, though, these stretches are so short you can’t dwell on their beauty for long.

One of those canopies arched over the road as we approached the turn into Providence cemetery. We drove in and circled the very neatly kept cemetery and paused to read a few headstones, something we enjoy doing. Then we put our windows down and listened to a mockingbird trilling out a great repertoire of songs and sounds.

We paused on the quiet roads to take pictures as if we were tourists.

I was hoping the sweetgums might be changing color along Wolf Creek Road. I’d noticed the sweetgum at Cairo First Baptist already has a hint of red. But the only color we saw along Wolf Creek was a slight gold tinge of tulip poplar and grapevine leaves. In a couple of weeks we’ll have to venture out again and see if we can see sourwoods and sweetgums turning red.

When we pulled back into our own yard we were struck by the beauty of our own surroundings. Climbing jasmine on our big mailbox pine has yellow blooms, not as many as back in the summer, but so pretty all the same. The red firecracker plant does not display the wonderful abundance of little firecrackers as it did on July 4 but it’s still showing out. The lantana beds are a mass of yellow which butterflies hover over. A stray, very late, azalea blossom peers from amongst leaves like a child not wanting to go to bed yet. Camellias are already covered with buds and the Susquehanna is blooming. Around the rusty cotton planter the spring wildflowers we planted are looking as bright as ever.

And those autumn leaves? Our Japanese maples are tinged with red and the Indonesian cherry tree is dropping persimmon-colored leaves in the driveway. Stray red leaves appear on crepe myrtle and soon the nandina bushes will take on color as well. In a neighbor’s yard across the street from our mailbox a large flowering tree is an absolute brilliant show of pomegranate red.

Aside from flowers and leaves, we have been so interested in birds that come to our feeders and bird baths. The usual titmouse, chickadee, cardinal, mourning dove, bluejay, purple finch, nuthatch, wrens, mockingbirds and catbirds are all delightful. But we’ve also seen bluebirds on the bird bath and a bird we’re not familiar with, so bright and beautiful, maybe a painted bunting, according to our bird guide.

As usual, little green lizards find their way into our porch and don’t know how to get out making cute little green exclamation points on the screen. We now have identified four different turtles who show up repeatedly. Squirrels and birds have been enjoying the berries they dig out of the magnolia pods and even are hunting for stray fresh leaf buds on the otherwise sprangly bare branches of the mulberry tree. And, of course, our cats, Sassy and Cramer, contentedly sprawl on warm patio tiles, drink at the bird baths in preference to their own water dish, and prowl through the shrubs or, in spurts of youthfulness (they’re eleven and twelve now), chase each other. One of them greets us at our kitchen window each morning when we open the shutters.

The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Psalm 24:1

Pines and goldenrods

A couple of October reminders: (1) It’s breast cancer awareness month. Girls, get those mammograms. I’m speaking as one who knows she probably wouldn’t have caught the cancer in time if it hadn’t been for that pesky mammogram. (2) Don’t forget to vote!

Christmas will be here before you know it. Order Christmas Carols in my Heart for readers/journal keepers on your Christmas list. Click on the link below.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/christmas-carols-in-my-heart-brenda-knight-graham/1133044431?ean=9781732239197

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Vote Your Convictions

Election time is here. We’ve heard many say this is the most important election in the history of our country. That has been said probably concerning every election. But this one is crucial because it’s not just a preference between parties, it is a vote on whether or not to keep our America as she is today.

When I was growing up in the 1940’s and 1950’s my father listened to the news every evening on the radio. I almost can hear the sonorous voice of H. V. Kaltenborn now. And there was Morgan Beatty. Dad would expound on the news, standing in the kitchen door while Mom cooked supper. He hated the very idea of government handouts. He made no bones about disliking FDR. He would pay his fair share of taxes but he preached vehemently against the government taking control and telling us how we could live. He and Mom taught all ten of us at home. They taught us to love our country, honor those heroes who had fought for our freedom, to respect the flag  (by all means, stand for the national anthem), to cherish our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They taught us to love God and worship Him daily and never to give up this precious right secured for us by our heroes George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and all those others.

My Dad talked about the horrors of a society where a government takes on the job of making everyone the same, not just equal in their rights, but on the same level. He himself was an artist and he was fiercely determined that his children, too, be able to develop as individuals with the ability to compete and accomplish great things, to own property, to make the world a better place.

Even though Dad talked so much about a government, like Russia, taking over its people, I didn’t believe ours could ever come to that. I lived in a dream world of security and peace. I thought my Dad was eccentric for being so worried about a government take-over.

Now I’m thinking that my father saw what was coming even way back then. My Dad probably wouldn’t like Trump’s overbearing personality, but he would look beyond that to see that Trump is the man God is using to rescue us from that government take-over he dreaded so much. The Green New Deal, free health care, free college, free child care–he would be horrified at what all that means: government telling us exactly how to live.

In the early 1970’s a missionary to Cuba came one day to speak to our ladies’ group at Cairo First Baptist Church. As I remember, it was a sunny afternoon. I delivered my little boy to the cheerful sweet lady who kept the nursery and went to the meeting room, excited to hear what the missionary had to say. But that was not to be a warm fuzzy meeting. That missionary (I don’t remember her name) spent thirty minutes talking about how blasé the people of Cuba had been, not believing they could ever be turned into prisoners and hopeless laborers and even executed in huge numbers. But it did happen. She had been one of the “lucky” ones to escape rather than being executed for preaching Christ. The chilling message the missionary gave us was that this very thing could happen to us unless we were diligent in using our freedoms and alert to what was happening in our own government.

I titled this “Vote Your Convictions.” What are my convictions? What are your convictions? What do we believe so firmly and long to pass on to our children and our grandchildren and great grandchildren?

My pastor, Chris Allen, preached last Sunday on “Voting Values.” He didn’t talk about securing the border, having the right to defend ourselves, taxes, any of that. He summed up our values with three points: the value of human life, the value of traditional family, and the value of religious freedom. If life is not valued (from the unborn infants to feeble senior citizens); if traditional families are no longer respected (so that children grow up without a mother and a father); and if there is no religious freedom (freedom to worship, to speak of Jesus, and sing His praises), then nothing else matters.

I long for my grandchildren to have the security, the choices, the inalienable rights, that I have enjoyed. There is only one way to vote, in my opinion, to make that a possibility. I will vote for Trump.

I pray for our children and grandchildren to be able to live as the following verse, Isaiah 32:18, describes: “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.”

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Niagara Falls

The Maid of the Mist in the mist

While confined with COVID-19 we’ve had time to talk about our past adventures. Of the following episode our memories differed. I thought it happened the night before we saw Niagara, Charles thought it was the next night. I dug out my journal and found we both were right. We first saw Niagara late one afternoon but went back the next morning. This camping experience took place the night between.

It was July of 1988 and we were on the first leg of a journey across Canada with tent in the trunk of our 1987 Buick.

After leaving my sister’s house in Raleigh, NC, where we’d enjoyed a fun Fourth of July family weekend, we headed north arriving in Amish country in time to have good daylight setting up our tent. It was a new tent and very simple to put together, or so the instructions said. To us, even in our well lit family room at home practicing, it was tricky making all the poles fit the way they should. It took us almost an hour there by that creek to put it all together but we did it, tent pegs down and rain flap in place.

Our camp site was right by a pretty creek. On the other side cows were plodding home. We’d been charmed and fascinated as we drove through Lancaster and the countryside by little buggies, often driven by ladies in long dresses, mingling with the traffic. We saw boys in black hats baling hay on wonderful neat homesteads along the way.

The next day was a very long one but full of beautiful sights. We wound through Pennsylvania following narrow roads intending to reach Niagara Falls by midafternoon. We purchased beanie weenies, crackers, and apples and ate lunch at a wayside park. As my journal reminds me, “because of my making a wrong turn, we saw a lot more of the Alleghenies than we’d intended to.”

It was late in the afternoon, 6:00, when we arrived at Niagara Falls. First hearing, then seeing Niagara was such an incredible experience. I remember it as a time when I wanted to shout with surprise and ecstasy but instead was struck dumb. Maybe it was a tiny bit like when we first will see Jesus, just totally struck dumb by His Glory.

Tons and tons of water, green and splashing white, thundered over the precipice, cool spray hit our faces, and wonderful rainbows played in the mist, adding unbelievable beauty to the scene. The roar was so loud we couldn’t talk much, just make motions to each other as we moved from one viewing place to another.

We enjoyed the sights so much that we let ourselves be late looking for a campground. By the time we found a camp, then drove cautiously between rows of quiet tents to our site, it was thick dark. We had a flashlight but decided quietly not to use it so we wouldn’t waken those sleepy campers. Putting the tent together in the dark was pretty tricky and we were exhausted when finally we crashed on our nice plump air mattress. We weren’t so tired, though, that we couldn’t talk about the prospect of going back to the Falls the next morning. I imagined I could still feel the vibrations from the thundering water as I drifted off to sleep.

I was wakened from a hard sleep by the sound of a tremendous roar, if anything much louder even than Niagara. Through the thin nylon of the tent I saw a huge blinding light coming straight at us. I shook Charles awake screaming, “We’ve set our tent on the railroad track! We’ve got to get out of here!”

By the time we could have gotten out of that tent, the train would have smattered us to pulp. But, as it was, there was a curve in the track and the train cruised on by. It is advisable that campers set up camp while they can see their surroundings. The next morning we observed that there were campers even closer to the tracks than we were and they didn’t look at all stressed or haggard. 

The next day was wonderful. We saw the Falls from the Canadian side. We saw them from the Maid of the Mist wearing yellow raincoats. Our ride on the tour boat took us right into the cloud of mist at the foot of Horseshoe Falls, close enough to speed up the heart rate of at least some of us. Our tour guide told us many stories of those who perished when they went over the Falls (some on purpose) and those few who survived. One story that I recall was of a young child who somehow fell out of a boat upriver. No one was able to rescue him before he plummeted over the Falls. But he was rescued below by the crew of the Maid of the Mist. I couldn’t imagine anyone’s surviving such an accident.

We had a picnic lunch near the Falls before we struck out toward Guelph, Ontario. We would go then to Cyprus Lake on Bruce Peninsula, cross a ferry to Wawa, and drive along the shores of Lake Superior, exclaiming over and over at the splendor. But nowhere would we see anything more astonishing and magnificent than Niagara Falls. 

Have you started looking for Christmas gifts? How about a fun and inspiring interactive Christmas journal? Check out the link below.

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From the Floor

The words “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” have taken on new meaning to me. I studied the den rug, nose to fiber, spent a long time seeking a way to pull myself up or, at times, contemplating the ceiling fan in an all new way. COVID-19 will do strange things to people, including putting them on the floor.

When we first got sick, someone suggested that I keep a log of how Charles and I felt each day. I did that for a few days until everything began to fuzz out into a fog. Now I’m going back and trying to remember the progression of our illness in case it might be helpful to anyone. It is a strange and mysterious virus affecting people so very differently including the two of us in the same household.

My husband and I became sick at the end of August. Charles came home from work at the animal hospital at noon on August 31 burning with fever, shaking with chills. I started coughing a couple days later and knew that I, too, had the dreaded virus, in spite of how careful we’d been with quarantine, hand washing, etc.

Our doctor administered dextamethazone, hydromed cough syrup and in- halers for both of us. We took measures to keep family and friends safe and figured out how to get through this illness. Our granddaughter regularly picked up items we needed at the store and dropped them on our back porch. By the end of the week, Charles was feeling much better and I was two days behind but making progress. We thought we were recuperating nicely and felt almost smug, as if to say “We’ve got this covered!”    

But on Labor Day Charles’s fever spiked. He woke repeatedly in heavy sweats. I noticed his breathing changing to a pant but when I asked him if his breathing was impaired he said he was just hot. The day after Labor Day we called Dr. Nesmith who sent us immediately to Grady General ER. He was admitted that afternoon about 5:00. At the time he was admitted his fever was 103 and his oxygen level in the low 80’s.

I naiively thought this would be a short hospital stay for Charles so was surprised the next day when Dr. Nesmith informed me he was giving Charles a strong intravenous drug which would require at least five days of administration. I appreciated the daily phone reports from Dr. Nesmith who also asked how I was feeling. He particularly asked if I was breathing all right and whether I had any fever. I told him I was fine except for the incredible fatigue which is, he assured me, a normal affect of the virus and takes a long time to get over.

Day by day I expected to hear that Charles was much better but instead heard that his “numbers had not yet turned around.” I called him about twice a day but couldn’t talk very long as I could tell it was hard for him.

That week when I was home alone is not very clear, looking back. A couple of days I took things to the hospital for Charles. I fed the cats, replenished bird baths and such. Amanda brought things I needed and I would creep out after she left to retrieve them from the porch. I treasured her wave and air hugs. As the week wore on, I began to think it was all right to leave the mail in the box. I remember one afternoon walking around the end of the house to put seeds in a bird feeder and wondering if I would make it back inside.

Food didn’t taste right. Everything had a metallic taste.  I was supplied with beautiful soups and casseroles by loving friends who brought things to the porch. But I would take two or three bites and push it away. I didn’t realize how little I was drinking.

By Saturday that week I was so wiped out I hardly budged from my chair. When I did, I used my cane, not feeling very steady on my feet. Dr. Nesmith reported that Charles’s numbers were beginning to turn a curve but Charles said the doctor wouldn’t even talk about when he might come home. I fed the cats and locked the door against the dark of another night. Opening “These Far Green Hills” by favorite author Jan Karon, I tried to concentrate on her funny, inspirational characters.

It was about 9:00 when I attempted to get up and prepare for bed but ended up on the floor instead. After an hour and a half when I did finally get back in my chair and to my phone, I called my sister-in-law and told her I was ready to use Memaw’s walker she’d been offering me. We agreed she would bring it the next day. Opting for as little movement as possible, I slept in my chair that night. Sunday was a bright beautiful day but I didn’t dare move much, stayed close to my chair waiting for the walker. When Revonda delivered it, my first thought was to feed the cats. As I attempted to take the step back up onto the porch I hit the floor again, this time the hard unforgiving porch floor bricks.

“Lord, what do I do this time?” I asked with my face smashed against the bricks, my glasses frame hopelessly bent. Wrangling my phone out of the walker basket I managed to call Amanda. I was halfway inside the screen door and half way out and too scared to worry about how ridiculous I might look. As I waited on Amanda and Jared, I tried to squirm myself into a more bearable position. My phone rang. My son Will calling from Birmingham to see about us. I had repeatedly told him not to come, not wanting him and his family exposed to the virus but now when he said, “Mom, I’m on my way” something in me relaxed as if God said I could let go.

It was that night while Will was with me that I fell a third time. The next day he took me, on Dr. Nesmith’s instructions, to ER where I was eventually admitted that afternoon to an ICU room. Dr. Nesmith grinned as he cautioned me what to expect: “Your husband is still here but don’t even think you’re going to see him.” Someone has joked since then that Grady General should have a honeymoon suite. When I was admitted my temperature was over 100, my oxygen in the low 80’s. I was put on a different steroid than Charles had been given. After three days I was moved from ICU to a regular room. The hospital was eerily quiet with no visitors at all. Nurses dressed in their COVID resistant gowns, masks, gloves, and shields were like aliens. But they spoke kindly and were very thoughtful.

Will brought his dad home equipped with oxygen the day after I was admitted. When I talked to Charles on the phone, I was shocked at how weak his voice was. In fact, when we tried to talk he usually let Will interpret for him.

After a week of IV’s, careful nursing, long nights and slow days, I came home, so happy to see Charles who’d grown a woolly beard. We hadn’t seen each other for two weeks. Will stayed on several days to be sure we were okay before heading back to Birmingham. We were so thankful when the report from his test came back negative!

Sitting here safe in the den I remember clearly the feeling of helplessness as I urned this way and that trying to pull myself up from the floor. I remember whispering against the rug, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” In the hospital during forever nights words of Psalm 103 scrolled in my mind: “Who healeth all our diseases and crowneth us with lovingkindness and tender mercies.” Charles and I are both so thankful for the Lord’s bringing us to this side of COVID. We’re thankful for the superb hospital care, for Dr. Nesmith and his staff, and for our family and marvelous church family who kept us supplied with beautiful food and other needs. 

Never does a trauma occur that God’s faithfulness cannot shine. Even when we’re knocked all the way to the floor, God reminds us to “keep looking up.”

Start planning for Christmas! Look up my Christmas book to give to family and friends.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/christmas-carols-in-my-heart-brenda-knight-graham/1133044431?ean=9781732239197

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