The Story Of Vera And Her Family, Chapter 25

30 09 2008

Actually I started my job working for Mrs. T about 10 days before the wedding.  Our street was full of widows and many of them were friends with each other.  One of the widows called  me and told me that Mrs. T was recently diagnosed with macular degeneration and was no longer able to drive.  She asked me if I would be interested in doing some driving and other chores for Mrs. T.  I wasn’t sure that taking care of an elderly person was something I wanted to do but I went down and talked with Mrs. T.  Her Boston Terrier would not stop jumping up on me.  Mrs. T told me that if I wanted the job–I had to be able to handle her dog.  That dog was brutal to me that day.  Oh, not in a way that would really harm me but I obtained a few scratches from Bonnie.  Perhaps I should have said no to this little job but I just didn’t have the heart to abandon an 84 year old woman who had trouble seeing. 

Mrs. T had a good retirement from working for the state. Plus, she had a daughter that was very well to do.  This was Mrs. T’s only child.  Deidra was very protective of her mother .  She called her mother every day and visited a month at a time each season of the year.  When I began my job–it was almost time for Deidra to come for a visit.  I worked for Mrs. T about 3 weeks before Deidra arrived for a visit.  It was long enough to gain a sense of trust between us.  I had to be at Mrs. T’s home at 7:30 a.m.  My first duty was to clean up all of Bonnie’s mess on the back porch.  Each evening, Mrs. T placed newspaper on the floor of her little back porch.  I was to clean up all of the mess and mop the floor.  Then I took Bonnie for a walk.  When I got back, Mrs. T liked to go shopping or just get something to eat at a fast food place.

When Deidra came for her visit–I had that time off.  She interviewd me and actually Deidra became my boss.  She decided that she didn’t want her mother to worry about paying for help.  Deidra and I struck up a good friendship.  I trusted her and she trusted me.  After years of taking care of my children–caretaking was just a part of who I was as a person.  I fell right in with my duties.  Deidra also wanted me to write out all of Mrs. T’s bills.  Then Mrs. T signed the checks.   So I was a check writer, chauffeur, dog handler and all around girl Friday.  I worked about 25 hours a week.  Plus, I still substituted for the paper routes.  Looking back–I just can’t imagine how I handled all of my duties.

Right as school started in August –you, Vera, had another accident.  We had a coffee table in the living room with a glass top.  You placed your weight on it and fell through.  The glass tore one of your legs up in a bad way.  I started screaming as I saw all the blood flowing.  I desparately looked for old towels to wrap your leg up in.  We got you to the emergency room as fast as possible.  You had to have 11 stiches and they placed your leg in an immobilizer.  You had to wear that for 10 days.  When it was taken off and the stiches were taken out–your leg was very stiff.  It took another week for you to be able to walk without being gripped with extreme pain.  I’ve never had another glass top coffee table.  They are just to dangerous.

Inbetween taking care of Mrs. T and substituting for paper routes–life continued to be very full.  It was Maria’s senior year.  She was on the year book staff and spent a great deal of time on that project.  One of her jobs was to have video footage of all important events.  Maria also continued to be active with her speech and debate team.  You, Vera, were extremly busy with the Beta Club and National Honor Society.  You continued to win all kinds of awards working with the academic team and science Olympia.  There was never a dull moment in our home.

And I keep forgetting to mention how much all of us loved and enjoyed our dogs, Sugar and Lucy.  Your Dad and I tried to walk them each day before we ate supper.  We had a well known path of walking the dogs and to this day I still get people telling me that they see us walking our dogs.  We also still had our very first cat, Tinker.  She was very peculiar with her eating habits.  She only wanted a certain brand of tuna and sauce made especially for cats.  She loved the outdoors and would only come in to be fed.  We tried to make her an inside cat but it was no use.  I knew that she would die before her time because there were just too many people on our street that didn’t like cats.  We had already lost Tinker’s daughter to poison.  We also had Max who was equally loved the outdoors.  He, too,  had he own peculiar ways.  He would climb up in the front yard maple tree that was close to the porch.  He would then appear to fly to the roof and sit at the window of Maria’s room until she let him in.  Our lives were full and rich.  There was never any time in our lives to be bored.

Spring came with a new adventure.  My brother, David’s daughter, who lived in Louisville called and told me all of her troubles as a single mom.  Jean seemed to be well doted over by her mother, aunts and her maternal grandmother.  Jean’s mom was mentally ill but if she stayed on her medication–she functioned well.  The problem was that Jean’s mom didn’t like to stay on her medication.  For some reason, Jean, was always the target of her mom’s mental problems.  I told Jean that she could come live with us.  So in April of l996 Jean and her 14 month old daughter, April–came to live with us.  Jean took the Greyhound bus.  Later, her grandmother, mother and aunts brought the bulk of her things to our home.  We enjoyed a Sunday afternoon visiting with them.  Looking back, I would have to say that I must have been addicted to crisis.   I hate to admit that about myself for my life was full enough.  Why did I have to keep stirring the pot?


Bends And Turns

17 09 2008

This time last year–I was happily painting away on the interior of our home.  I never dreamed that a year later I would be wearing a prothesis because of a mastectomy, that the factory my husband works at would be laying people off and that I would have a diagnosis of hearing loss in both of my ears.  Life works that way.  One never knows what is around the bend.  In the Holy Gospels, Christ continually tells people that there is no security apart from security in the Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  I’ve talked before how fragile life is.  I never ceased to be amazed at how one day can change one’s life forever.

I’ll never  forget the day I first learned that I had breast cancer.  I was stunned beyond words.  Yet, I learned to adjust to and accept my cancer. Now I have a new trial facing me.  This time last year I did notice that one ear was not working as well as the other.  I chose to just live with it–until recently.  My family kept noticing that I was not hearing clearly.  It became a new family joke.  I have taken a great deal of ribbing from my family.   I can hear my music, the dogs barking, the train whistles around town and so forth.  Yet, listening to people –especially group conversations have been very difficult for me.

I finally saw an ear, nose and throat specialist after Labor Day.  He couldn’t find any major sinus problems or ear wax that would cause me to have hearing loss.  His audiologist gave me an extensive test.  She found that I actually have hearing loss in both ears but my right ear has the most severe problem.  If I put my hand over my left ear and try to understand what one is saying–it is futile.  I can’t hear consonants at all.  I rely heavily on my left ear to distinguish the clarity of one’s speech.  Thus, next week– my hearing aids will be ready and I will learn a new way of life.  My right  ear actually starts hurting if I’m exposed to much noise for an extended period of time.  This is just another bend in the road for me.  That is the way my entire life has been lived.  Always there seems to be a crisis of some kind.  For me to say that I control my own destiny would be a joke.  I learned as child that I had to have faith in God.  I have always known that I couldn’t live without my faith.

As a child, especially at night–alone in my room–I would look at the starts and moon and talk to God the best that I knew how.  I wasn’t taken to church on a regular basis when my parents were still married.  But deep inside–i believed in God.   My faith has been tested and tried over and over in my life.  As I look backward over my life–I can see how wonderfully blessed I am.  I think especially about how my mother was sort of a pioneer in the l960’s as a working single mother.  The fact that she was able to go back to college for two months to renew her teaching certificate is a miracle in itself.  She had not taught school in twelve years.  Yet she finished her course work and got a teaching job all in a summer’s time.  I marvel at God’s providence in the life of my mother. My three brothers and I were extremely blessed by our mother’s faith and courage.

I’m not alone in this new trial.  My family is very supportive of me.  And yes, they can still tease.  My son, Ben, will mouth words of silence to tease me.  I know he means nothing vindictive.  We are a family that laughs and cries together.  Moreover, my church family is a great comfort.  I’m honored and touched that each Sunday during the Great Entrance in our Divine Liturgy–my priest calls out my name in prayer.  He calls me Nichole–for that is my baptismal name.  I never asked him to put my name on his list.  But he  has been very kind to continually call out my name in prayer each Sunday morning.

God is not against us planning for our lives the best we can.  Yet, there are trials that come our way that can sweep all plans into the ocean.  We must always take our refuge in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  I encourage my readers to read the Holy Gospels on a regular basis.   The Gospels have been both a comfort and a sword to my life.  May they continue to do their work in each of our lives. 

May God bless each of you!

The Story Of Vera And Her Family, Chapter 24

8 09 2008

Sandy started her freshman year at our community college.  I was excited when Sandy and Rob decided to paint our living room over Labor day weekend.  I paid for the paint but I let Sandy pick the color she wanted.  She chose a dark hunter green.  I just let them paint away.  It was so nice not to have to do the work myself.  I went to Wal-Mart to pick out some new curtains that would match the dark green paint.  Later on in September, I painted our master bedroom and bought  a new bedspread and curtains.  There was just such a spirit of new adventures in our home– that were actually fun.

Ben and Pam came by often.  Pam’s birthday was on Halloween.  I remember giving her a 5 quart crockpot for her birthday.  Sandy was doing well in college.  She knew that she loved math and accounting and excelled in those subjects.  Little did she know that one day her math teacher’s wife– who was a certified public accountant –would be her boss. 

Vera, you continued to love science.  I just couldn’t believe the joy you had in disecting a rat.  You continued to talk about wanting to be a veterinarian.  Maria ‘s friendships formed around those that were on her speech and debate team.  She especially enjoyed her friend Ross.  They did everything together but they were not sweethearts.  They were like a brother and sister.  It was her junior year in high school and she even went to the prom with Ross. 

Around Christmas time we began talking about getting a word processor.  We felt it would be sufficient for the growing needs of our family.  Sandy was not happy about our getting the word processor and it turned out to be a waste of our money.  She pouted that we gave it to you children as one of the family Christmas presents. 

On the happy side, Phillip had moved back in with his wife Teresa.  Teresa was still working on her master’s degree to become a school psychologist while living in North Carolina. They came to visit Teresa’s parents during the Christmas season and came by the house.  I remember Phillip making himself quite at home as he watched a murder mystery in our newly painted living room.  He loved the hunter green.color we had chosen for the walls. However, he would not talk about his life in a personal way.  Teresa and the boys were still involved with the group that I believed was a cult.  I knew Phillip was under a great deal of pressure to conform to their ways.  Yet, I know he didn’t bend to all of their demands. Therefore, although he lived in the same home as Teresa –they were more like room mates.  Teresa was cordial but kept her boundaries very tight.  And I kept thinking that her studies in psychology should be helping her to leave this religious group.

With the Christmas season over–Ben and Pam began talking about getting married right away.  They didn’t let us know the date of their wedding. They just walked in  our home one afternoon in late January announcing that they were married at the courthouse.  Her parents were at the wedding but we were not invited.  Your dad and I were devastated but we tried not to show it.  Pam began withdrawing from our family shortly after her marriage to Ben.  Wheras she used to seem to love to visit with us–now she only came over if we were having a family function.

Although I couldn’t emotionally connect with Ben and Pam– I coped because there was still a great deal of excitement over Sandy having set her wedding date for July 15, 1995.  We began looking at wedding dresses and thinking about all of the little details of planning a church wedding.  Sandy also convinced us to buy a real computer and printer.  It was an expensive investmnt in l995.  I think the computer cost $2,000.00 and the printer cost $500.00.  We didn’t have that kind of money in savings so we used our credit card.  We never had credit cards the first 15 years of our marriage.  That was a big mistake buying something that we had not saved our money for.  Yet, it did seem that  the computer was a necessity for our high school and college girls. 

We were fast becoming the all American family who lived by borrowing money.  Our home had reached the point where it needed some necessary improvements.  In early spring we decided to have all of our windows replaced.  Then we decided to have the exterior of our home painted.  It took some time to get a second mortgage.  Finally, in late May our big house remodeling project began.  We got our loan to replace all of our windows, have our two porches and window trimmings sided—-and to have the exterior of our home painted.  My head was spinning with all the debt we were accumulating.  Moreover, we still had a wedding to finance.

Jim was working six days a week on a regular cycle.  I can remember taking all of that over time to help with financing Sandy’s wedding. Even so–we still ended up putting a great deal of the expense on our credit card.  Rob lost his factory job and so we gave him the job of painting our home.  His uncle was a professional home painter and told Rob the kind of primer and paint that would last a long time.  He also gave Rob many tips on how to paint.  Rob started blasting the old paint off our home on Memorial day.  He finished painting our home a couple of weeks before their wedding.  Our home did look a great deal better .  The work did need to be done.  However, we were over extending ourselves with debt.

Sandy and Rob’s wedding was beautiful. Even today–many years later– I still enjoy looking at their beautiful wedding pictures on our living room wall.  Sandy was a raving beauty.  Vera, you and Maria were also very lovely. I was only 43 years old and two of my children were already married.  Sandy was still only 18 years old.  She wouldn’t turn 19 until September.  Thankfully, Rob had found a job working with a heating and cooling company.  They enjoyed a short honeymoon.  Sandy had to get back to work and plan for her second year at the communtiy college.

It was hard to believe that Maria was going to be a senior in high school.  Vera, I just couldn’t believe you would be a junior. And what about dear mom? I was beginning a new adventure of taking care of an elderly lady.  With all of the debt that we were accumulating–I had to help provide some of the money to take care of our family.  I didn’t want to work as a substitute teacher.  I thought it would be a nice change to help an elderly person.  Little did I know that I would be taking care of her dog almost as much as I would be taking care of her. 

Thus, the summer of 1995 was ending.  Sandy was back at work and starting her sophmore year in college.  You , Vera, and Maria were back in  high school.  Ben and Pam were busy with their own lives and I was about to begin a five year stint of taking care of an elderly lady and her dog.

Labor Day Weekend

2 09 2008

I have always loved Labor Day weekend.  It has nothing to do with being in the workforce and needing a rest.  I like this weekend because I see it as a transition time between summer and autumn.  Although I love the beautiful flowers of summer–I also love the cool, crispness of autumn.  One can look at nature here in Western Kentucky and see how the trees, grass and flowers are slowing their step.  The trees especially are getting ready for their winter nap.  I like to call the last couple of weeks in August–“August Autumn.”  In the days when we didn’t have good air conditioning–this time of year was especially important for our family.  We used to live in the drench of our sweat and the cool days and evenings were a welcome relief.  These days we are blessed to have a wonderful central cooling system in our home but I still look forward to when we can turn it off and enjoy open windows for several weeks before the first cool snap.

I’m looking forward to the beautiful pumpkins, mums and other fall gifts of nature.  There is an apple orchard about 26 miles from our home.  That will make a nice Saturday afternoon outing to visit the orchard and enjoy the scenery along the way.  My youngest grandson will be having a field trip to that orchard on September the 12th.  Last September ,John went with his kindergarten class.  We have DVD footage of that trip.  It is always a special event for young children.

My baking instincts will kick in again.  Last fall I made endless loaves of pumpkin and cranberry bread.  I don’t crave those breads in the summer but I’m already enjoying the smells in my mind.  I will wait a couple of more weeks before I start my fall baking.  I like to have the first cool snap before I enjoy baking my dessert breads.

Soon the grocery stores will be displaying all of the ingredients for making everyone’s favorite fall treats.  I shop a great deal at Aldi’s.  They don’t keep certain foods on hand all year round.  They make a big display of their seasonal items.  By the end of September everything one needs to do fall baking will be in stock at Aldi’s.  I especially like their price on fresh cranberries which I use to make my orange cranberry bread. 

So all of these joys are released during Labor Day weekend.  Jim’s plant closed their doors on Friday because of the recession.  ( Just a one day thing).  Since he was forced to take a vacation day–we decided to go paddle boating at Pennyrile State Park.  Neither one of us has ever paddle boated before.  I was very scared at first.  However, I soon relaxed and enjoyed paddling around the lake.  We spent two hours on the lake before the rain started falling. Relunctantly, we docked our boat.  It is sad that we have waited all of these years to enjoy paddle boating.  Now I know this is something we will enjoy the rest of our lives. 

Saturday, we enjoyed going out for lunch.  We always savor our meals and enjoy talking with each other.  Heart to heart talks are good medicine for any marriage.  Later Sandy and the boys came for a visit.  We don’t get to visit with Sandy very often.  She is always in a hurry when she picks the boys up each afternoon.  Thus, getting to visit with Sandy when she is not in a hurry is a real treat.

Yesterday I made a large casserole and invited my friend Mary over for lunch.  After lunch, I took her to visit the cemetery where my mother and my grandparents and great grandparents are buried.  I never used to visit the cemetery but since my conversion to the Orthodox faith–I’ve slowly developed a desire to visit the cemetery.  Now, I try to visit at least once a month.  After I showed her around the cemetery–we went to visit the pioneers cemetery.  This cemetery has graves that are a couple of hundred years old.  We finished our afternoon with a stop at Starbucks. 

Labor day weekend will always be another kind of marker for our family.  It was three years ago on Labor day weekend that Vera, Jim and I visited our first Christian Orthodox service.  We visited  St. Ignatius Orthodox Church in Franklin, Tennessee.  Two years ago we visited the Orthodox community at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky for the first time.  Labor day will always be an anniversary for our family of our first steps into the Christian Orthodox faith.  And to top it off–last evening we received an email from my younger brother who lives in Denver.  He told me that he is getting more serious about the Orthodox faith and is meeting with one of the priests of his parish to talk about becoming a catechumen and taking a study course.  He can’t meet when the classes are offered so this priest is going to give him some kind of study course.  That was another Labor Day marker for the Orthodox faith.

Everyone hass their own favorite holidays.  Does anyone else like Labor Day as much as I do?  Please feel free to share your thoughts on my blog.

God bless each of you!