Guest Blogger: Theresa Barnhart

carrie-closet-1040kk052410-500x399A few days ago, some friends of mine suggested to me that I ask my Mom to write a guest blog.  When I asked her about it, she hesitated initially, but I think the idea appealed to her.  She IS a writer, she’s been writing me letters since I was 12, when I went away to camp for the first time.  If you think my writing leans toward the sentimental, you only have to read the following to see where I get it.  Enjoy:

I was asked to write a guest blog for Ray. I told him I wouldn’t know what to write.  Later, after our conversation, I thought, yes, I will write about my summer experience.  First, you have to know that I save everything.  I have boxes, manila folders and file cabinets filled with my memory keepers.  We have eleven closets in this house and I bet I have some memory keepers in each one.  Does it sound like I am trying to find an excuse not to get rid of the Christmas cards or baby teeth from my son’s mouth or those special drawings and homemade cards from my grandchildren?   Of the eleven closets, three of them are walk-in, including the closet in our bedroom that doubles as our tornado safe room. I have tried all summer (school starts next month, I work at the high school) to get rid of some of these boxes and folders and other paraphernalia. I started with a box here and a folder there, not finishing  one.  I got rid of a few things, but I just couldn’t part with a newspaper article about my son and his bunny rabbits and how they came to live with us.   Another newspaper article about a play called “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” with a picture of a boy with a bag over his head.  I knew it was my son even with the bag over his head, a mother knows these things.  Right?  So back in the folder with these other special treasures they go.  Now back to the safe room, my closet.  One afternoon, the tornado sirens started, so I gathered my dog Ruby and a chair.  Why a chair? I knew if I sat down on the floor it would take a tornado to get me up.  There we sat, Ruby and I,  only Ruby wanted to look in my boxes where some of my treasures were stored.  My thinking was, if there is a tornado I wanted to save my treasures or at least the ones in my closet.  As I tried to get her nose out of the box, I discovered what one might call the “mother lode”. I found three accordion folders!  Each one had hundreds of papers in them dating from the mid 80’s through the mid 90’s.  I had written down appointments, how many hours I worked, prayer requests, praises, books I read, movies I’d seen, movies I wanted to see, personal thoughts and prayers and more. Well, I couldn’t shred them ’til I read them, so you can guess what happened.  I shredded a lot, but I couldn’t part with all my memory treasures.  I guess there will be another summer to clean out those treasure boxes.  I still have all my Christmas cards, birthday cards, etc. from this past Christmas and birthdays.  Next summer for them! 

 

 

My Father’s Garden

20130615-213737.jpgWith any luck, my Father’s garden will have a bumper crop this year. Already, it’s produced lettuce, radishes, strawberries, peas, green beans and spinach. The basil, bell peppers, banana peppers, tomatoes, carrots and more are on their way. Almost anytime I call home, unless the sun has already set, my mother wistfully says, “Your Father is in his garden.”

Now, I’ve written a bit about my father’s health before on this blog, here and here, but it brings me much joy that he’s thriving after a challenging year. It also brings me much joy that his garden is thriving as well. Last Summer, while my Dad was in the hospital in Kansas City, I drove down to Independence to spend the night and take care of some business matters for my parents. It was the first time, in a long time, that the house was empty and the quietness broke my heart and even frightened me a little. And my Dad’s garden, at the end of a markedly dry July, was dying. Though a few of his friends had made visits to water and pick the produce, it was failing without the regular attention, one might even say love, of its caretaker. For my dinner, I picked some peppers and tomatoes and cooked a steak I found in the freezer and it should have been a meal for a king, but I felt so sad, so alone eating it. At that point, I honestly did not know what the future held.

My Dad did get better, he did leave the hospital and gradually he has regained his health. And I think that is one of the reasons he has spent so much time in his garden this Spring and Summer, because he is thrilled to have the energy to work so hard. But also, between you and me, I think there is another reason. My father had cancer, in fact, he had jaw cancer. On July 10, 2012, the longest day I’ve ever experienced, he had a 12 hour surgery to remove the tumorous jawbone and replace it with a new jawbone created from a bone graft and titanium. He was hospitalized for five weeks and the rehabilitation process was arduous and lengthy. And while the doctors had hoped my father would be able to eat food again, he has had difficulties swallowing and he currently feeds himself through a tube in his stomach. It’s his daily routine and I know it must depress him sometimes, but I have never, ever heard him utter a self-pitying word. He has made progress, he drinks water and Sierra Mist and coffee and can eat a little ice cream or mashed potatoes. We have a hope that he will eat again, but we do not know when it will happen. It is a regular plea in all of our thoughts and prayers.

Some would say it’s ironic that the man who can not eat is on a mission to grow the most vibrant garden so he can feed everyone in his world. I actually think his fervor is his way of making sense of the situation. If he can’t enjoy his tomatoes, he can derive a little joy from how much you love them. Happy Father’s Day!
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