"We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike." ~Maya Angelou

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Madhouse That Was December 2014

      I am a big believer in not haggling over which in-laws married couples visit on holidays. Let me put this as bluntly as possible: I don't care. That frees my children up to go wherever they choose, whenever they choose. I do not care.  Every day is sacred and, therefore, none is more sacred than any other. That being said, the picture above was taken moments ago, here at the farm. We have not yet had our Christmas….not yet, soon. I think this is common among people who have small business that live or die in the fourth quarter. So be it.
      I also know that, in times of crisis, people step up and do whatever job needs doing. Everyone knows that.  This little bird tree stepped up and took over the awesome job of being the official Christmas Tree this year. I think it is doing a bang-up job. (As they would say on MASH: "Tasteful without being gaudy."
      This year all my children spent Thanksgiving somewhere else and I spent it in Okeene with my father, my sister and two of my brothers. We had a very low key, relaxing and delicious meal after which no one moaned that they had eaten too much. We looked through Mom's recipe box, picking out some of our favorites and remembering her. This was one of her favorite cookies, Coconut Oatmeal.

      I had tried to talk my children out of coming out to the farm for a big meal but they insisted, saying," Thanksgiving needs to be at the farm." Fine. They had it planned for Saturday evening and Sunday. We had extra workers on the schedule for the store.  I had the turkey sitting shivering in the deep freeze, ready and waiting.
      My sister spent Thanksgiving night at the farm so I could get her to the airport on time the following day, a good plan if ever there was one.      That morning, Friday, my brother called and said Dad wasn't feeling very well and he would stay another day to be with him. Hmmmm….Ann and I headed to the airport anyway.  When we were three miles down the dirt road I remembered that I hadn't moved the turkey from the freezer into the refrigerator so we turned back. I sprinted inside and hauled the frozen bird out of the ice and into the back fridge to do the slow thaw. He would be ready to fry on Sunday morning, as planned.
      We flew down the shale road, drove past the blinking red light in Hennessey and headed south, past Randa's and Taggarts and all at once, at nearly the same time, we both changed our minds, shot a quick U at the curve, and headed back toward Okeene to check on Dad. Sure enough, all was not good there and after several hours of hemming and hawing they loaded him into an ambulance and headed to the city.  When he arrived he was whisked into surgery.

       The next two and a half weeks are kind of a blur; waiting rooms, walking the halls, climbing up and down stairs, trying to remember where the car was parked, cafeteria food, sneaking parking passes from closed information desks, making friends with nurses and parking garage attendants, sharing the tensions of ICU waiting rooms with lots of other folks, helping take care of Dad as he struggled toward recovery, and working at the spice shop every chance I got, since we were doing land office business there and the back stock boxes  were threatening to spill out into the store proper. Ann's daughter, Kira flew in from LA to work a little PT magic on Dad. Mark and Janet flew in from St. Louis. Scott caught a cold and went home.

     Dad slowly began to improve; Jim and Mark flew home; Ann and I manned the oars; Jim came back;  Dad stepped down to a bed in Okeene; Ann flew home and I headed to the farm for some R and R, leaving Jim and Scott on duty.


        When I had been home a day or two I happened to open the back refrigerator and, lo and behold, there sat the 'way past fully thawed' turkey. Yes, the old bird had flown right past fully thawed and on into far too thawed to touch, let alone eat.  Oh my. A three week old turkey, a mass of salmonella germs, sitting happily on the shelf of my fridge.  *gasp* I shut the door and walked away.

       The next week happened, the week after Christmas, a week which I had thought would be much slower in the shop but turned out to be just as busy as the one before. Also, added to the mix was the fact that Kari's grandmother died the day after Christmas. I took Kari's shift at the store on Saturday and then worked Sunday…and Monday and Tuesday, since Able and Kari were both at the funeral.
      I came home. Something had to be done about that dumb bird and it needed to happen sooner rather than later.  It had sat in the fridge for a month and wasn't getting any younger. This is the point in  the adventure when Danny would say this famous line: "Sometimes you have to take the bull by the tail and face the situation."  So I cowboyed up, put on my rubber gloves, grabbed a sharp knife and hauled the bird to the edge of the creek bank under the cover of darkness. My plan was to slit the plastic wrapping and let him slide down the tall bank to where he would be out of the way of the cats and where maybe the coyotes would find him, eat him and maybe die from salmonella poisoning.
    That was the plan. You know what they say, "Plan your work and work your plan."
       I did just that, kneeling on the creek bank I slit the plastic and let him slip down the bank…..except that he didn't slip, he caught on a horizontal root about two feet down the bank and sat there, still in the wrapper. DRAT! I lay down on my belly, reaching down with my razor sharp knife and tried to push him through the slot between the root and the bank. No good.  I reached for a stick and pounded on him. Nothing. Fine. This was a fine kettle of fish. Both cats stood perched on the top of the bank, ears forward, sniffing the wind.
        I decided to dig some of the bank away and let the dirt fall on the bird, hoping to bury it there on the root so maybe the cats wouldn't get involved. I began digging and the dirt started caving away and covering the bird and then I remembered that the entire bank had been eaten away into a concave shape from the flooding earlier in the year. Oh Great! The dirt was coming away so beautifully that at any moment I thought I might go tumbling ass over teacup down the bank, most likely taking the bird with me in the process, and the whole rotten mess of us would end up at the bottom, covered in dirt, stinking of spoiled turkey, and with me possibly having a broken neck or a broken something that would make it nigh onto impossible for me to climb out of there. (I'm not sure I could climb out of there even without anything being broken). I had visions of the coyotes finding not the turkey but my own broken body and having me for supper instead of the bird. Nope. I was headed into crazy territory. It was time to make a hasty and well organized retreat and let the stinking bird fend for itself.
      I haven't been back out there to check on what happened. It doesn't matter. That turkey is dead to me….in more ways than one.
      Anyway, that's the story of the Thanksgiving turkey and the drama that was December around here.  Oh, as an addendum to that, one of my brothers went in for open heart surgery on the 29th, Monday, and is, maybe, going home tomorrow. Thank God it's January. It was a great year, all in all, but those last few weeks were a wild ride, a sprint past third base and a crazy slide into home.
    I wonder what surprises 2015 will bring our way.


Brenda Cohorn said...

Oh, My.

Kathryn said...

Uncle Jim wrote in a Christmas card to me, re: 2014, "Let's close the book on this one." I wholeheartedly agree. I managed to start this year off with a great gathering of my college friends, which probably lowered my blood pressure by 10 points. Hope the rest of it is that good.