Sunday, June 20, 2010


Closer Than Usual

To say it has been a full, eventful week is to say the sky is blue. Even in a week when the body decides to mandate time sitting still. Even when the voice is non-existent. Even when the legs are as weak as overcooked noodles. Even then, there are lives on the end of those telephone calls. And in those emails. And in those cars that turn into the driveway. True to the word 'rescue', the need just never, ever goes away.

Last weekend I told you I was about to retrieve a beautiful little mare. Gitanna was, in fact, retrieved and I am thrilled to say that she is doing remarkably well in her new home. Her pal, the mare I call 'The Camp Mare' is almost unrecognizable. Her knotted, matted, long winter coat is replaced by a slick coat with blood spots appearing. Her skeleton is hidden by a layer of fat and developing muscle. She is feisty and noisy! And displaying her Arab breeding with every step and every look. Gitanna will fit in just fine.

I also told you that upon my return, I would tell you a story. A heartfelt story of hope. And trust. And endurance. And faith. This past week has changed the story that I am going to tell you. But remarkably, it is still a story of hope and trust and endurance and faith. Originally, I was going to tell you the story of a horse. Instead, on this Sunday morning, I need to tell you the story of the family that has walked with me every step in these past few days . . .

For some reason - unknown to me - my family has been right over my shoulder. All week. I hear my Mother as I walk down the stairs in the morning. The presence of my Sister I feel as I feed the horses. And I sense my Father as I try to focus on an issue that needs a resolution, and that resolution is just out of my reach. Riding in the truck I feel my family is right there. Right behind me. In my heart and in my mind.

To know my Mother, I'm thinking, would be to know me. Those who knew Mom tell me that before we are even close enough to hug each other. "You are the spitting image of your Mother!" they exclaim. I have her stature and her build. Her face and her double chin. And I have her ways when it comes to caring for those you love.

Now, my Mother would be aghast if she saw this house. The hair balls. The dust. The piles and piles and piles of boxes and papers. The lack of places for guests to sit. And the condition of the kitchen. When she opened the refrigerator, I think, would have been the last straw. "No one needs to live like this", she would mutter and spit. And then she would begin the process of "putting it right".

My Mother believed in order. And from order came sense. But even if the house were a mess and dishes were piled up and the floor needed sweeping, if my Mother saw a creature in need my Mother let the housework sit. She never placed doing housework above caring. She taught me well. Too well! For, you see, I can always find some 'caring' that needs to be done rather than run that contraption piled in the corner that you call a vacuum!

My Mother placed her family above all else. She was devoted and supportive of us. Never one to see us as perfect but always asking "What happened?" before giving us that look. That look. That look that preceded the utterance of "Sannnndra!". To this day, if someone calls me Sandra I feel myself straighten up and attempt to stand a bit taller.

Violet was a good teacher. She taught me to care for those I love. To protect them and to defend them. To be their best advocate in all issues of well being. And to have a sense of humor. Even when times are tough, to find a reason to smile. Genuinely smile. Violet was an excellent teacher.

She taught me to share. And that possessions were just things. It is the living things that matter. Enjoy the outside. Work hard with your hands. Love the earth and look at what it produces! Learn to love the weeds. Be comfortable in your skin. And smile. Great lessons from a great woman.

If you had met my Sister, you would have loved her. A tall woman with light brown eyes and skin that burned in the summer sun. A woman with the "gift of gab" and a wit that took most by surprised. My Sister was quick minded and fiercely loyal. I never doubted her love for me even when she doubted my sense of reason. We had much in common and, at the same time, very little in common.

When Donna and I would spend a day together, she would come to my house and bake something. Homemade bread. A pot roast. Pumpkin pie. Me? I would be in the garage changing the oil on her car for her. Then we would clean up and go someplace we had never been before. Just to go. To look. And to spend time just being together.

One day I came in from working in the garage and she suggested I clean up. She was making meatloaf that afternoon and so I said, with a smile, "Cool. Then let me make the meatloaf. I'll mash up the hamburger. It's either that or I'll have to wash dishes to get the dirt out from under these nails."

My Sister never ate my meatloaf again.

The one devotion that Donna and I had in common was our love of horses. When we were kids, Mom would take us to the Circle T Ranch once a summer to ride a horse for an hour. It was expensive and the hour flew by! But I treasured the feel of the leather reins in my hands. And the smell of the horses. I was intoxicated by their smell! We would be sore that day but both of us were in our own make believe places. Dreaming of owning our own horses. Someday.

Donna knew Ono. And adored her. More than once I found her in the little barn with Ono. Just standing with the horse. Looking at her and inhaling. Donna loved horses, too. And I'm thinking when I'm in the barns is when I feel her the most. She loves these horses, too. It would be very much like Donna to love the underdog. Heck, she loved me.

My Dad. Now there was a man. Strong in character. Strong in body. And strong in the ways of the heart.

A quiet man. Not one to talk much. But when he talked, you listened. He was honest. I clearly remember the conversation between Mom and Dad at the dining room table. Mom wanted Dad to have some sort of a contract for this job that he was about to take on. I got the impression that the man Dad was going to be working for wasn't highly regarded by most. Mom wanted a contract.

My Dad didn't do business that way. They talked about it and my Mom pressed my Dad for a contract. I clearly remember my Dad turning his head and looking Mom right in the eyes. He said, "Violet. If a man's handshake is no good, what makes you think his signature is any good?"

It was my Father who taught me to trust right out of the shoot. Trust people. Only when they have proven that they can't be trusted do you pull back. And then, be sure to talk to the person and try to understand.

It was my Father who taught me that sometimes it is wiser to be silent. That the absence of words can be more powerful that any words at all. That a hand on a shoulder can do more to help someone than any words of encouragement. That quietly doing something for someone in need is the reward in itself.

It was my Father who showed me endurance and strength. In the year I was born, my Father suffered what we used to call "a nervous breakdown". I never fully understood it, but when he came home from Mayo Clinic Mom said he was thin. And shaky. And afraid of his shadow. He was even more quiet than usual.

He had "relapses" from time to time. Mom said he was never quite the same after the "breakdown". I remember one morning, he was dressed to go to work. He held my Mom, put on his work cap, and started out of the house. Started to walk to the shop down the driveway. The shop where his equipment and his tools were. He stayed in the yard that day. My Mom took me to the library to read books for the day. But the next morning, and the next, and the next, I watched the same process each morning. Quiet, solid strength. Endurance. Resilience. Determination written on his frightened face. And then finally, several days later, he made it all the way into the shop. And I remember my Mom hugged me and cried.

The love between those two was written on the siding of our house. Visible for all to see. I grew up in a house filled with love and laughter and high expectations. We had faith in God. And we had faith in each other. We believed in the power of love and we had hope for all good things. We were not ashamed to hug each other. Our house had rules and we knew right from wrong. It was simply expected that we would do right. And, in our house, every single member knew they were wanted. Even when times were tough and money wasn't there, every single member of our family knew they were wanted. We simply endured and loved a little harder.

This family of mine sticks with me. In the stories I can tell of them. In the few pictures I have of them. And in my heart. Always in my heart.

But this week, of all weeks, they have stayed close to me. Closer than usual. Is it because it is spring? Is it because I was ill? It is because of what lies ahead? Or is it just because they miss me, too? For whatever reason, they are close.

And I am the lucky, lucky one.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd with Donald and Violet and Donna

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