Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady #378

Nancy White Kelly

“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Nobody knows but Jesus,” goes the old spiritual. Jump ahead a century and half. The words are still relevant regardless of race. Everywhere we turn we see difficulty.

Right now I can name ten friends who are struggling with either cancer or stroke. I have close relatives who have recently lost their livelihood. They wish they had a mule and forty acres. Personally I would pass on the gift of a four-legged mule since I am married to a lovable two-legged one. Land would be a welcomed gift, but with real estate in the dumps, it can’t be counted on as a fluid asset.

There is so much sadness in this world that you’d think no hope exists. I can vouch for the physical, emotional and financial discomfort that accompanies metastatic cancer. I have aggressively battled this disease off and on for twenty-five years. Throw in kidney failure and dialysis and I ought to qualify for the 9-lives trophy. A friend calls me “Mrs. Kitty” for good reason. How many people have been in hospice twice?

Buddy and I have attended church regularly since we were young children. It isn’t a mere habit, but our source of strength to keep functioning in today’s demoralizing environment. Last week was different.

I teach an adult Bible study class on Sunday mornings. This week a young man headed to the Peace Corp filled in for me so I could participate in an unusual program to be presented during the worship service. Few people knew about it ahead of time.
Spurred by something similar seen on the Internet, members of an appropriately named “Praise Committee” decided to do our own version of “Cardboard Testimonies.”
Against the solo choral backdrop of “Amazing Grace,” thirty-one people slowly walked one by one to the center of the church stage holding a ragged piece of old cardboard. While they stood there silently, the congregation focused on the individualized and succinct statement written in bold lettering.

Each sign simply stated what difficulty that person had experienced. After a few seconds, the individual turned the cardboard over which revealed the positive outcome. Those short testimonies were awesome. Many related to a close encounters with mortality due to illness or accidents. Others told of depression, fire, and deaths of children. One has a spouse serving time. Two of the participants were in wheel chairs.

Each cardboard testimony told a short story of desperation; all gave praise to God for His help in coping and over-coming. Most of the participants were familiar church members, but probably only a few congregants knew the difficult circumstances their pew mates had endured. Only God knew all those stories.

The cardboard testimonies were a great reminder that in the midst of all our troubles, hope exists. We don’t hear that good news often enough.

Hope springs from the eternal.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Journal of a Living Lady # 377
Nancy White Kelly

We’ve all heard the quote, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” That’s me. Funny how so many of our friends and family members think that because Buddy and I are technically “retired,” we sit on the porch and rock away our days. Far from it.
We cram so much into a day that we have to schedule our headaches. I make promises to myself that I plan to keep when all the conditions are perfect which they never are.

I have been writing the Journal of a Living Lady for about 11 years. Writer’s block is becoming more frequent as I age, so I slowed down the pace a bit. Now I try to get this column to the publisher every two weeks. There were a few unhappy murmurs from good friends, but they understand. I have too much on my plate, but can’t bring myself to unload any of it yet. Everything and everybody is important to me.
Out of nearly 400 essays, it surprises me that someone will remember one written years ago. A column frequently mentioned has to do with Valentine’s Day. Let me share it again for those of you who have never read it. Yes, it is deadline time. If it wasn't for the last minute, nothing would get done.

Generally, at our age, we just blurt out what we want for a special occasion. Hinting is for young folks who can still hear well.

I told Buddy no roses for Valentines this year. For that price I could get something more touching like a therapeutic massage. With a son then in college, luxuries were low on our priority list. Since Buddy would insist on buying roses and take me to dinner anyway, I suggested a romantic substitute. Instead of eating out, I would treat him to his favorite meatloaf dinner with candlelight and banana pudding.

What Buddy requested for Valentine’s Day surprised me. He has always wanted and I have always refused a pet pig. Not that we didn’t have a baby pig once. We kept him in the back of our three acres in Stockbridge. Porky was an entertaining pet. He looked forward to Buddy’s coming home from work each day and squealed and did a jig when he heard the old truck turn the corner.

Alas, as all pigs do, Porky grew and grew and grew. Finally we had a 400 pound pet that was eating more than our family, which included a host of needy kids who were living with us at the time. Our family could never have eaten Porky anyway, so he went to a co-worker who left singing, “This little piggy went to market.” That mean man had Porky slaughtered the next day and his family ate him all year. So much for the pig phase. At least I thought so.

But this last Valentine Day, Buddy wanted a pig. Not just a pet pig, but one to be kept in the house. Now I am an amiable person, but a pig in the house? That was really testing the limits of my congeniality.

Buddy is not your usual husband. He is kind, helpful, and loves me to a fault. Actually he is very hard to say no to. Knowing that my days are considered numbered due to active cancer, I decided to let him have his pet pig as a parting present. I kept it a secret and didn’t tell him that I was seriously trying to find a piglet. I just rolled my eyes anytime the subject came up.

A friend helped me locate a genuine pig farmer not too far from the house. I called the pig breeder who confirmed he had pigs of all sizes. I told him I wanted a baby for my husband and would be at his farm before Valentine to pick him up.

My sister was in town, so on Friday we shopped for the best, most expensive high protein pig pellets we could find. Next we got some good quality kitty litter and a huge paint roller box to serve as “Gussy’s” litter box. I never believed for a minute a pig could be trained to use a kitty box, but the research said she would.

My energy level is very low, especially in the afternoon, so by the time we got Gussy’s collar and other toys, I was ready to let Buddy in on the surprise. I sent him to unload the trunk full of pellets.

When Buddy came back into the house, there was a smile on his face from ear to ear. He searched every room looking for the piglet. He was disappointed that I hadn’t already gotten him. I explained that the pig farmer was supposed to be home the next afternoon and he could go with me to pick his piglet out. Buddy and our son, Charlie, had already changed Gussy’s name to “Bacon.”

The man I had spoken to wasn’t home and his elderly father insisted there weren’t any baby pigs. I insisted that he must be mistaken since his son had told me so. The elderly man reluctantly told us to drive up to the pig pens and look for ourselves.

Buddy and I walked in muck past our ankles from one pig pen to another. There were hundreds of hogs, each pen as full as the next.

We spotted a sow that must have weighed 1000 pounds. As for a piglet, the smallest pig that we saw weighed more than me and, until recently, I shopped in the plus department.

The hog smell was not something you would find in a fine perfume shop. You could have collected that stench, put it in a gas bomb, and destroyed a large, unsuspecting nation. It took less than twenty minutes for Buddy to decide he didn’t want a pig after all.

We thanked the old gentleman and headed home for quick showers. Neither of us said a word as we rolled down the windows and breathed the wonderfully fresh mountain air.

It wasn’t a total loss. I am not one to waste food. The pellets mixed up well with the meat loaf.

Oink. Oink.