Sunday Column: I’ll be an old woman

I’ve been thinking about growing up lately, about my age and what it means to be an adult, to be a grown woman. To be established in my skin.

Maybe it’s the changing of a season, another summer coming upon us and the noticeable way my plans have changed from frolicking around the hills on the bare back of my sorrel horse to fulfilling obligations and responsibilities, meeting deadlines and penciling in time for the fun.

Maybe it’s the new silver scattered in my hairline, the silver I just sat in a chair for hours to have covered, to camouflage the passage of time as it’s made a splattering of an appearance for the world to see.

It could be those things and then it could be how it feels to watch my big sister raise an almost four-year old, my little sister finish her Master’s degree and my parents make plans for a new chapter in their lives.

Or it could be tax season and the oh, so grown-up responsibility and that cringeworthy check I’m plopping in the mail for the government today.

Maybe. Maybe it could be that.

When I was a little girl no one told be about these things. About what it’s like to wake up one day and realize that the growing up part isn’t like a music montage in a Disney movie.

No one told me the adult version of myself might forget about the ten-year old girl who used to wonder out loud when a person turns from a kid with energy to burn into a tired adult who would rather sit on the porch and drink coffee. No one told the ten-year-old version of myself that one day, I too would find myself a little too tired at the end of the day to build forts in the trees and stay out until dark or suppertime, whichever came first.

No one explained to me that one day that supper would be my responsibility and it’s importance would eclipse my waning desire to lean logs up against fallen trees.

I wouldn’t have believed them anyway.

But all that doesn’t matter now. I’ve made it this far and between the work and the worry I decided I needed to make some promises to myself.

About getting older.

About the kind of woman I want to be.

The kind who doesn’t bother with things like gray hair and doesn’t get worked up about mud on the floor.

The kind that saddles her own horse and breathes in the spring air, declaring the beauty of the season change while searching for crocuses.

The kind that doesn’t mind the passage of time. Who wears the lines on her face and her weathered hands with grace, a badge of a life well lived under the big blue sky of home.

Making these sort of declarations is freeing. To know how I want to turn out, to see myself there in my garden below the house, to know with as much certainty as that ten-year-old girl I used to be that I want to be the kind of old woman who doesn’t just live here on this place, but becomes a fixture, like the old fence posts holding stretched wire across the landscape–expected, subtle, weathered, wise.

Useful.

Beautiful.

Coming Home: When I grow up, I want to…
by Jessie Veeder
4-13-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Catch me at the
North Dakota Bloggers & Writers Workshop
Monday, April 14, 2014
Fargo, ND

We’re ok.

It’s been three months since they rushed dad off of the ranch in an ambulance. Three months since his heart betrayed him.

Three months since we sat with him, night after night, in that hospital room in the big town as this brutal winter froze us over and life’s unexpected struggles brought us to our knees.

Three months since I told him, hang on dad, in a few months it will be spring and we have so many things to do.

And for three months it has just been my husband and I living on this ranch, going back and forth between work and home, one house and the other, checking on things, making sure everything’s fed and things are running right.

See, my parents decided to stick out the winter a little closer to town, to recover and take a breath, avoid the drive on icy roads and call someone to come in and renovate the house, nice and new for when they returned.

For three months I have been sending up a prayer each night thanking God for giving us our dad back. And for three months I’ve been telling myself that we are so blessed, so lucky to all be together in one piece.

And so it’s for all those blessings that I should jump for joy each morning, ready to get up with that beautiful sunrise outside of my window, but I haven’t.

I haven’t risen to shine very bright.

It’s been one of the longest, coldest, hardest winter of my life.

But let me say this, when we moved back to the ranch, almost four years ago now, it was not to get away from the big wide world, it was not to quiet and slow things down or to live inside a fantasy of a “simple country life.”

I grew up out here. I know it’s never been simple. In fact, living thirty miles from town on a gravel road that turns from dust to mud to ice and back again, has the potential to complicate a lot of things.

I knew this. And we came home anyway. We came to work. We came to learn. We came to make a life out here surrounded by a landscape we love and a family that can help us make the most of it.

But something shifted this winter, in the way I see this place, in the way I see this world we chose to surround us. Maybe it was the unexpected call in the middle of the night and the threat, the knowledge, that it all can be taken away in a second.

Maybe it’s our ongoing struggle to have a family and the realization that some people just don’t get what they want, no matter their prayers or their faith in something…

Or maybe it was just the relentless cold piled on top of it all, keeping me from climbing to the tops of the buttes for fear of frost bite, when climbing to the tops of those buttes is what I’ve relied on to heal me up time after time, but in the past three months this world has revealed to me her edge, and in response, it seems I’ve created my own.

And I want to tell myself that when that first crocus pops up under the warm sunshine that edge will soften and I will feel more like myself, but the truth is, I don’t think I need to go back there.

I’m not sure I want that.

Because this place is my refuge, yes. When I was a little girl so green and sheltered, it was here I belonged, here I could grow up sort of innocently unscathed for a few years before being thrown into the real world, and that is what I loved about it and one of the many reasons I returned.

But I’m a grown woman now. I’m at the age where money runs out and babies don’t make it, we don’t get the job and parents get sick…

Running into the trees and singing at the top of my lungs is not going to save me from these things, but those trees can hold me for a minute, help me breathe, help remind me that I can survive these human shaped tragedies.

And that even when this place is cruel, it is simultaneously beautiful…

Human shaped miracles happen too.

I know that. I’ve seen it.

Yesterday mom and dad moved back home, back to the ranch. Mom pulled into the yard and dad was waiting there, shoveling the drive from Monday’s snow storm, ready to grab her bag full of shoes and help her with the groceries.

Husband and I came over to visit, to see their new floors, to talk about furniture arrangement, have a glass of wine and welcome them back.

Back from a lonely winter.

Back from a hard time.

Back on the right side of life’s unexpected twists.

And I know now that we’re not all always going to be ok out here, but we’re ok right now.

Right now, we’re ok.

Sleep Talking…

My husband talks in his sleep.

In the early hours of this morning he turned to me and said, “That’s enough of that now.”

To which I replied, “Enough of what?”

“Enough of those carrots. You keep putting them in the mixer and they’re flying out everywhere. You’re making a huge mess!”

“Ok,” I said. “I’ll stop with the carrots.”

And we both rolled over and went back to sleep.

These are not generally the types of conversations we have while he’s sleeping. No. Generally our middle of the night sleep chats are much angrier.

Now, my husband, He’s not a loud man in his waking hours. In fact, he is the opposite. Calm. Reserved. Collected. Stoic.

The only thing I’ve ever heard him yell at are the dogs when they’re taking off at top speeds over the hill after a deer, leaving all sense of hearing behind and that one time when a guy driving a random piece of machinery mistook our yard for an oil site and almost ran over our new culvert.

I know it’s not nice to laugh when someone you love is all worked up, but, I mean, a brand new vein spontaneously appeared in his neck. Don’t mess with this man’s culverts.

Anyway, besides those few select scenarios, my man is basically eerily unemotional. Chill. Laid back. Reserved.

But in his sleep he is another man entirely.

Yes, in his dreams he yells, strings of words I’ve never heard him use together in his waking life, not even at culvert man. In the depths of the night he’s mad at someone. He rolls over and makes a heavy dramatic sigh. He hollers at unnamed characters. He makes general, angry suggestions to do things like ‘get over it’ or ‘hurry the hell up’ or ‘come on already.’

He curses, Tourette style, words flying from his mouth that stand alone in the quiet, dark night of our room, flinging my eyes open and reaching my arm to his back to tell him, ‘shhh, shhh, it’s ok.”

He’s upset. He’s frustrated. He’s loud.

He’s completely and utterly out of it.

Asleep.

Now I’ve shared a room with this man for a while, and I can tell you he has always slept the  sleep of the dead. Like, if an elephant opened the front door of our house and made his way up the steps and into our room to sit on the end of our bed and clean his toenails, my husband wouldn’t even stir.

Once, when we lived in town, someone threw a construction cone at his car parked on the street, setting his car alarm off in a frenzy and scaring the shit out of me enough to whack him on the back and send him up out of the bed, out the door and out on the street before he woke up under the street lights to realize he was in nothing but his underwear.

Yes, the man can snooze. And sometimes he rolls over to tell me things about how delicious the pineapple tasted in his dreams, or maybe once there was something about pants that didn’t fit, or getting the right cheese at the store, or making it to the top of a mountain in time to catch the goats, you know, weirdly normal sleep-talking subjects.

But his sleeps never used to be angry. No. This new phenomenon crept into our lives a few years ago, in the middle of the night, sending me shooting out of bed and dangling from the light fixture in terror.

Who was this man in my room and why was he shouting the F-bomb for no reason?

And of course at first I thought it was a funny, one time nightmare thing, but that, as you know, has proven not to be the case.

No. My man has become an angry sleeper.

Now, I’ve tried to understand it. I have asked him if he remembers being angry at anyone in his dreams. I’ve asked him, if there are names involved, if they are real people, people he may have unresolved issues with, perhaps?

I’ve wondered if he’s ever yelling at me.

But he can’t remember, not the angry dreams anyway.

The good dreams? The ones where he can fly or is riding a fast horse or winning the lottery? He can remember those.

The annoyed dreams, like the thing about the carrots this morning? Yup. Clear as day.

The bad dreams?  Not a slice of a memory.

Weird.

Now, I’m beyond analyzing this, except to come to the conclusion that this stoic man of mine, this even tempered rock sleeping next to a woman who has been known to have countless emotional and similarly loud outbursts of joy, anger, pain or excitement in her waking hours, has to find a way to let go somehow.

Because, wild dogs, culvert guy and being forced to watch the Academy Awards excluded, this man is pretty steady.

So sleep it out my man. Tell the world to…well..you know what…while you rest in the safety and oblivion of your deep slumber. Those words from your mouth don’t scare me.

Actually, I’m happy to hear them and perfectly fine with the booming of your voice waking me in the night.

Because sometimes, when I’m all worked up, arms flailing, words slurring together, tears squeezing out of my eyes and you say to me “Don’t worry. It’s fine. It’ll all work out,” I worry that you holding this puddle of a woman together in this puddle of a world might be a quiet burden you don’t need to bear so softly.

So yell into the quiet night when no one can hear you but me so I can wake up and smile, roll over and touch your back knowing that in this life, all things find balance…in their own way…

Oh, and don’t worry, I’ll get those carrots under control.

Back when I (thought I) was an artist

Last time my Aunt K came to visit she brought this with her.

My aunt K is the kind of aunt who saves and archives things like old photographs, art projects and inspiring drawings from her children and artistically delusional niece, puts them in file folders and dates the back.

That’s how I know this was from 1992-1993. Because Aunt K wrote it in pencil on the back right corner to remind me how brilliant I was when I was 8 years old.

Brilliant.

Like this shirt.

Now, I feel like I should comment here, let you know that the ukelele hanging out by that hat is actually supposed to be a guitar, but the size of that hat and lack of horse feet probably indicates I had a little to learn about proportions and gravity.

But this drawing reminds me of a time in my life when I really believed that I could be anything, and a gifted artist was one of these things.

An olympic figure skater, a talk show host, a rodeo queen/Miss America, a veterinarian horse whisperer, novelist and famous singer like Reba McEntire were some of the other things.

Turns out I may have hit my artistic peak at 8 years old.

Turns out I was never really “gifted” in this area, no matter my hopes and dreams…
New Drawing

Same goes with the figure skating thing.

But I hung that picture on my fridge anyway, because it reminds me of my Aunt K and that little girl who believed she would cherish this magnificent piece of art forever and ever.

And it turns out I was right about some things.

Peace, Love and Precious Childhood Delusions,

Jessie

 

 

 

How faith might find you…

Yesterday morning one of my best friends, my neighbor down the road with curly hair kind of like mine, a similar obsession with photographing wildflowers and a much better success rate with house plants, gardens and crafting projects, gave birth to her first child.

A beautiful baby girl.

When that baby drew her first breath from within the safe walls of a hospital made of bricks standing strong against the chilly North Dakota air, I had just landed in MInneapolis after taking the red-eye out of Las Vegas where I slept face down, hair splayed out on the tray table for nearly three hours.

When I finally landed in North Dakota, my momma and I rushed to the floral shop to buy tulips and chocolate, a small token of appreciation for the newest addition to our neighborhood, then we pointed our car toward that hospital made of bricks so that we could take a look at those tiny hands and count those toes and say hello, we’re so glad you’re here.

I’m so glad she’s here.

Now, babies are born every day. All of the people I passed on my way through the airport, all of those souls standing in line and sitting shoulder to shoulder, taking off across the sky together, have mothers who grew them and carried them and brought them into the world to grow up and drink coffee, tell stories and host dinner parties, drive cars too fast and take midnight walks, make a mean cheesecake and fall in love, fall out of love, then back again and bite their nails, own too many cats and someday, have babies of their own.

And while all of these living and breathing people, all 7.046 billion of us, have stories we can tell each other about work and family and that great restaurant we visited last night, stories we might hear over a long overdue phone call or while standing in line at the post office with a stranger, every single one of us carries with us a different story about how we came into this world.

And although we carry it with us, not every one of us is able to tell it. Because not every one of us were told–not all of us really know.

That’s the thing about humans, we may choose not to share every detail in words.

A child may never know how much he was wanted.

Or how he was a plan.

Or a surprise, a pleasant surprise.

A terrifying one.

A surprise that couldn’t be handled.

But I’ll tell you something about my friend and her husband, the couple who welcomed that beautiful baby into this cold little corner of North Dakota yesterday–yesterday they witnessed a miracle.

And they knew it.

Now their story is like everyone’s story in that it is their own. And I, as their friend down the road, am not qualified to tell it, to give justice to what it’s like to pray and worry and drive hundreds of miles to spend countless hours in doctors appointments explaining and re-explaining, planning and re-planning and spending time on procedures and money on drugs while hanging on to a hope, a hope that has hung on for years…

Five years to be exact.

That someday she will be a mother.

And he will be a father.

And they will hold their daughter, a daughter with a little splash of red hair, tiny pink cheeks, long fingers like hers and eyes like his in their arms in the brick hospital in the middle of winter on the edge of North Dakota.

Because even some of life’s most natural promises are not promised to everyone.

And then sometimes that promise does not come easy.

But when it does, well…

There are no words.

Last spring I was driving my pickup down a gravel road, coming out of the badlands and onto the highway. My friend with the curly hair like mine was my passenger and we were talking about our struggle to become mothers, another thing, besides the unruly hair, that we have in common.

My hope was dwindling, wavering and faltering after years of disappointment. Six pregnancies celebrated and then lost with nothing but an unsolved mystery, heartbreak and frustration left in their wake.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be a mother,” I told her. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take. It might be a sign it’s not meant for us.”

She sat there beside me then, a woman with the same hope of a family, but one who had not yet seen those two pink lines.

“I just know there’s a plan. I have faith. I can see it for us,” she said. “I can see it for you.”

Faith.

In my life I’ve had it and lost it…

Moving along that gravel road with my friend talking and holding on tight to her hope, I believed for her it would work out.

But I couldn’t hold that same belief for myself.

And then I got the phone call in the early morning hours of January 5th, the one with my dad’s voice on the other end of the line begging for help. The one that sent our whole life reeling with prayers and hope and desperate pleas that the man called dad, grampa, husband, Pops, brother, uncle, friend would live to hear us tell him we loved him a thousand more times.

The one that promised this man was not going to live.

But some of life’s promises are not promised to everyone.

I stood in that North Dakota wind outside of that hospital as they prepared my faltering father for a plane ride he might not survive. I watched that wind bend the trees down and cool the air and I struggled to catch the breath that I lost with the news…

I tried to imagine a world without my father…

Today my dad stopped by the house. He wore his blue jeans and boots, a checked wool vest and a cap he got free from a company he’s likely been working with now that he’s back working. I made him a  cup of coffee and we sat at the counter and visited a bit about the weather and plans we have for spring when the cows come back…the things I promised him we’d do when he was lying in that hospital bed for a week working on pulling through.

Yesterday I got off a plane that flew me high above the clouds, shoulder to shoulder with a hundred other people with heartbeats and stories who were flying too…

And then we came back to the earth safe and sound so that I could hold my friend’s baby in my arms where she wiggled and opened her tiny little mouth to cry a bit before I bounced her and shushed her and told her she’s ok.

She’s got all the love in the world around her and in this world where she now lives, sometimes, miracles happen…

I know, because I have faith…

Love and snow fall…

We woke up this Valentines Day to find a nice fresh coat of fluffy snow, a little sun and some sparkle in the air.

I was happy to see it, because for about three months it’s literally been too cold to snow.

Yes.

Too. Cold. To. Snow.

That’s a thing here.

Which means I’ve been cooped up a bit, and so has my camera. Things like cameras and fingers don’t work too well when it’s too cold to snow.

But those clouds and that sun seemed to be working this morning (I mean it was like 10 degrees above zero) so I went out in it.

A gift to myself for a day covered in love.

Love and sparkly snow on the tips of berry covered branches…

On the noses of dogs…

Ok, all over the faces of dogs…

On the tips of the grass…

On the backs of horses…

In barnyards…

and all of the things made more beautiful with a little light…

and a little frosting.

Happy Valentines Day Friends. Spread a little love today.

An accent, an accident and a coffee related incident…

And now, I humbly present to you:

Yesterday’s Revelations:

Ahem..

I accidentally slept in too late and then proceeded to have a fight with my coffee Keurig. I’ve never had a coffee Keurig until I opened one for Christmas. Generally in this house it’s old fashioned Folgers Black through the pot. Yesterday morning I put in one of those little pods and proceeded to frantically flail my arms and dish towel around as I watched water spew from all corners of the foreign little machine, proving that sometimes you need coffee before you can even make coffee. 

Revelation #1. We can’t have nice things. I can’t handle nice things.

Yesterday while I was checking out at a convenience store in town, the clerk told me she liked my accent. Then she asked me where I was from.

“Here,” I said.

That was my fourth word to her.

Revelation #2: My Northern accent is so strong that Northerners themselves think I’m from a different country. I’m not sure what to do with this…except maybe hang out with more southerners…

Texas

On my way home from town I pulled into our approach, hit an icy patch on the road, spun out, fish-tailed and went in the ditch. In my own yard. 

Revelation #3: I’m the type of person who hits an icy patch on the road, spins out, fish tails and goes in the ditch. In my own yard.

On a trip to check on the place I spent a good three to five minutes trying to convince Big Brown Dog to make the jump up into the back of the pickup before resorting to lifting his feet up on the tailgate then hoisting his rear-end as he flailed his back legs and I grunted, scooched and reassured the 105 pound animal that we could do this.

Revelation #4: Even the best dogs get old (and I need to start lifting weights).

When I let the pug sleep in my room he inevitably winds up in my closet sleeping on a sweater. Or a pair of my good pants. Or inside my packed suitcase. 

Revelation #5: I should really start putting my clothes away.

Pug on Ugg

And then last night I dreamed about mustaches, like there was a chart on the wall of my doctor’s office with photos and descriptions of the top ten acceptable upper lip hair formations and I was studying this carefully and taking it seriously and I don’t know what all this means–my inability to press “brew” on a new-fangled coffee machine without disastrous results, my thick northern drawl, tendency to get into weird driving predicaments and, you know, the dog situation–except that I just thought I should take notes…especially about that mustache thing…

photo-51

You’re welcome friends.

You. Are. Welcome.

Computer

 

Sunday Columns: What faith might be

The reason I write is to share, to relate and reason and wonder out loud. The reason I read is to find a common ground, to learn about the world and those who exist here and to find out that I might not be so alone after all.

When I wrote about my dad’s survival from a major heart condition and emergency surgery last week, it was my way of connecting the dots, researching and sorting through my own feelings. I was terrified. I was grateful. I was nervous and worried and not breathing. I was on my knees.

And then I was alive. Alive with my family in the middle of the frozen North Dakota prairie.

Alive with my dad who means more to us in this world than we could truly understand before.

Before we almost lost him.

And now here we are. It’s been two weeks since he opened his eyes and declared he was living and every day we learn something new about what it means to be hopeful, to have faith, to wonder why and how and what next.

But I don’t really know what next, except that the cowboy is getting restless and we all prayed for this moment.  His sister took him to visit his aunt and uncle yesterday. Then we drove him to the badlands, my aunt, my little sister and I. We drove through those buttes with the window down a little and then stopped to take a walk on a paved trail through the campground before driving him back home in the sunset.

Since I got my dad back all of the the little things have become big things.

All the things I thought were so big have become much smaller now.

And I know I still wonder about all this.

Because I wrote his story and it was out there then, out there being read and shared and open for discussion. His story was seen by thousands of humans around the world. He received hundreds of comments and messages wishing him well, thankful that he was alive. Glad that we got our dad back.

Because some of them did too and they felt our joy and relief.

And some of them didn’t.

The week before Christmas one of my best friends was scheduled to deliver a baby. Their first. I visited her the month before and we took pictures and talked about names. We decorated the nursery and made plans for my next visit when she would have a little baby boy or girl in her arms. When she would be a momma.

The week before Christmas, as planned, my friend delivered a beautiful baby boy.

All he needed to do was breathe. To suck in the air of this world. To cry and scream with the shock of it all and their dreams would be fulfilled. Their prayers would be answered and life would move on.

But the baby didn’t take a breath. He couldn’t. He wouldn’t. No matter how hard they prayed.

A week before Christmas my friend met and lost her first child.

And I can’t shake this as I walk with my father down the paved trail in the badlands, bring him tea and sit with him as we watch t.v. or play the guitar and think about the months ahead when the snow melts and the earth greens up and we get back to work. Get back on the horses. Get back to life as our lunges fill with air and our hearts beat strong and alive within our chests.

How can a world be so cruel and so forgiving all at the same time?

We all have our own story. My dad has his. My friend has hers. And the only lesson I can take with me as I move through the days is that we just don’t know the plan. We don’t know how tomorrow might hurt us or make us rejoice.

And maybe I am grateful for that. Maybe I am scared as hell. I’m not sure yet.

But what I do know, what I have learned is that our pain, our struggles and our joy is not ours alone. And maybe that’s the only thing that faith can really provide for us after all.

The promise that we are not alone.

Sunday Columns

The day my dad lived
by Jessie Veeder
1/19/14
Fargo Forum
http://www.inforum.com

A happy life starts with what you do on the weekends
by Jessie Veeder
1/11/14
Fargo Forum
http://www.inforum.com

Life about laughter, not resolutions
by Jessie Veeder
1/4/14
Fargo Forum
http://www.inforum.com

The day he lived.

10 days ago my dad lived.

My dad, with his beautifully raspy voice, his strong, callused hands, his passion for this landscape and the creatures that exist here. My dad who loves unconditionally and laughs with a promise that things will be ok.  My dad who’s given the shirt off his back, the boots from his feet and all his heart to those he loves or those who need him.

Our dad who knows things. Takes care of things.

Takes care of us.

The weather report warned us that the early January thaw was about to turn treacherous, sending snow blowing across slushy roads, turning them to ice and dropping the temperatures to dangerous lows. But it was warm that early Friday morning when Pops struggled to find the phone to make a call that would save his life.

That evening as Husband drove us home in that mild winter air I was uneasy. There was no reason for it really. We had just finished a nice dinner with my family, celebrating my mom and little sister’s birthday. We laughed. We ordered steak. We watched Little Man move from lap to lap around the table. And then we all said goodnight and happy birthday.

But on the road that night as the tires hummed along the highway I looked up at the stars with a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach and asked my husband if he ever feels lonesome for something. Something he can’t describe.

He said he thought so. He said he understood.  Then we pulled into the drive, trudged up the steps and tucked ourselves in safe and unaware that in a few short hours, at 2 a.m. the phone would ring in the darkness, threatening to change the comfortable and blessed life we take for granted.

The hours that followed are indescribable, a nightmare that threatened to paralyze me and send me gasping for air at the sound of my father’s voice asking for help and the sight of him lying helpless on the floor. But deep down under the fear that percolated and boiled up in my throat was an untried and reassuring belief that this was only an obstacle and not the end.

The stars spun in the warm January night and under those stars our neighbors responded to the call, loading up in the fire-trucks and an ambulance, asking their God for strength to make the miles in time to help a suffering friend laying too far from town, too far from help.

And so how do you thank that God for second chances? My dad looked up at me from the floor of the home where he raised three girls and loved one woman, the walls that absorbed the sound of a family’s laughter and arguments, the notes of his guitar, the smells of supper warming on the stove and a life well lived and he told me he was dying.

I held his hand, looked him in the eye and without a waver, without a tear, I said no. No, you are not.

But he was. I didn’t believe it then. I didn’t know it then, but he was.

That big strong heart of his, the one that taught us – showed us – compassion and patience, bravery and tenderness, was torn and leaking and poisoning his body.

And with each passing minute, each hour it took to load him in the ambulance, to get him to town, to test, to poke and prod and diagnose and medicate, to plead with the nurses and doctor, to fight to make him comfortable, to hold his hand and ask him where it hurt, where is it…what is it…what can we do…do something…help him…the odds fell quickly and silently away from his favor.

“Dissection of the Aorta,” the doctor said. “We’re calling an airplane. There’s no time to talk now…”

My mother’s hand went to her mouth. My sisters gasped. The temperature dropped outside where the wind blew chilled rain across the plains and I ran out there to stand in it, to come to grips with the idea that we might go on living in this world without my dad.

But I could not accept it. This wasn’t our story.

I pushed down the fear and walked back inside where we hugged him goodbye for now.

“See you in the big town,” I said.

“Are you sure you want to drive those roads? The weather’s getting bad,” he told us. “I’ll be ok, really. You don’t have to come all that way.”

Just like dad to worry about us.

Silent and shaken we crawled in the pickup, 180 miles of daunting highway stretching before us under the darkening and freezing winter skies.

And up in those skies they flew him, my dad, on the wings of the plane and some merciful angels, to get to where he was going in time to be saved.

Who am I to give words to the feeling of moving through those miles in the dark, uncertain and silent, mind wandering to a future you can only will and pray for. Who am I to tell you how my stomach knotted with each ring of the phone, what it was like to watch my mother and sisters suffer with worry? Who am I to describe the relief we felt when we got word he made it to the hospital where staff and surgeon were waiting to perform one of the most difficult procedures of their careers?

How can I tell you what those hours were like, waiting with my family while my father was in another room with his chest cut open, his big, strong heart exposed and open to the uncertain world?

How can I describe what it meant to us that you drove all those miles behind us in the storm, neighbor, to sit with us and ease the silence while we waited hours for news of his life as the earth froze over?

What words do I use to thank the doctor who walked into that waiting room with news that he saved him? The nurses who cared for him? The family and friends who sent prayers and positive thoughts into the universe, begging for mercy for a man we still need with us here, while all around the world people with much better odds of living were being taken up into those spinning stars.

Ten days ago my dad lived. The earth froze solid while he slept. 60 below zero the weatherman said and we were frozen too with fear of the unknown. We touched his hand while he slept and told him we loved him.

Two days after that he breathed on his own and the air warmed up enough to let the snow fall. In the dark of the night we took turns sitting with him in that room in that city full of lights and unfamiliar noises as he healed, passing one another’s footprints in the snow on our way back and forth from the hotel to his bedside.

Twelve hours later he was walking down the hall of that hospital aware of his mortality, grateful for his saviors, both unseen and on this earth, and planning his escape back to the ranch where there is so much more work to be done, more people to love and more life to be lived.

“I almost died,” he said as the drugs wore off and he came back to us.

“But you didn’t dad. I told you you wouldn’t,” I said.

“You know why I didn’t?”

“Why?”

“Because I’m a son-of-a-bitch.”

Maybe not a son-of-a-bitch, but the strongest man I know.  How comforting that his sense of humor was so quick to reappear.

And with each passing day that laughter eased our worries, the temperature warmed and the earth thawed out as we all learned to breathe again.

Our dad is a miracle. Doctors and nurses got word of his survival and recovery and stopped by to see him, to tell him he’s an anomaly.

I could tell you the odds. I knew them all along, but it doesn’t matter now. He was meant to stay with us.

Because ten days ago, in a world that worked to freeze up, crush us and break our hearts, my dad’s heart, big and strong and open, against all odds in a world that can be cruel and forgiving all at the same time, kept beating.

Ten days ago he lived.

 

Happy New Year Life is Beautiful

Happy 2014 everyone. Looks like we made it another year, despite my overconsumption of champagne and cream based party dips over the past several weeks.

We rang in the New Year with style and class as always here at our humble abode under homemade party hats constructed out of Red Solo cups, because these are the things we resort to when there’s not a New Years headband to be found for miles.

photo-56

And we’re crafty, you know.

That’s my cousin on the left. And now he’s gonna kill me.

Or something like that…

Anyway, yesterday when the smoke had cleared from the unsuccessful egg bake I attempted to make for my guests, Husband and I shuffled around the house, ate leftover dip and pasta and reminisced a bit about the year we left behind us.

We both came to the conclusion that it went too fast. So fast, that most of our memories are a blur.

But there are some favorites we could agree on, fun little tidbits of 2013 that will hang on with us forever.

Like making a bon fire and attempting to curl on the stock dam and sled down the big hill outside our house with all the friends we could convince to come and visit us,

the long trip to Montana to sing under the mountains,

my cousin’s wedding that brought all the relatives together,

the arrival of the cabin on the spot the old house used to sit,

the construction of the deck and celebrating turning 30 under the stars.

It was the year of the wild berries and impossible hornets,

Pops’ Trail 90, a Disney Extravaganza, the slow destruction of my windshield and the pug’s motivation

and what feels like a million words written and a thousand songs sung.

It was the year of Juno,

a big March snow storm,

so much rain we never got out of the mud,

the coldest December of my life, a master bathroom project that threatened to end me and some of the best horses we’ve ever had on this place.

It was the year we didn’t quite get what we wanted but tried our damnedest anyway.

It was a good year, one, as always, spent behind the camera.

Because life is beautiful.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November 

December

Thanks for all the love friends. Here’s to good friends, good wine, good tunes and good times in 2014!