Enduring on the Lake

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Chapter 18

I heard Daddy’s startled voice coming up from the cellar griping, “What they hey?!” 

“Oops.  Watch your head!” I called. 

“Sydney what on earth is in all of these mesh bags?  Are these … wait … are these peanuts?!  How many … are you … Sydney what have you been up to?!” 

From the kitchen where I was throwing some more juice and veggies into the vegetable stew I had planned for lunch I yelled, “There’s a flashlight at the top of the stairs if you need it.” 

Zane walked by with his big spot light and said, “I’ll take this to them.  I want to show your dad the problem with that wiring.”  I silently wished him good luck and went back to trying to stretch the noon day meal for my parents’ unexpected arrival. 

Fifteen minutes later Mom walked into the kitchen where she’d been inspecting things with Daddy and we hugged.  “Oh Syd, I had no idea.  There’s so much.  You have no idea …” then she burst into tears. 


As I patted her back she got herself under control and said, “Oh don’t mind me.  It’s just such a relief.” 

“From what?!” I asked having her sit down and pouring her a glass of water. 

“Seeing that you can do this.  That you’re making it work.  We’ve been so worried.” 

“Again, about what?  I’ve been keeping you updated.  It’s not … I mean … yeah, it’s work and sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day but it’s like this at home.  Is … is it anything else?  Aunt Rhonda?” 

She patted my hand.  “Honey she’s never going to be what she was.  They got the cancer but the treatment caused a secondary infection which caused a clot then caused a stroke and some nerve damage in her face.  We’ve tried not to make a lot of it because Rhonda is so depressed and seems to hear every little word said and takes it out of context or exaggerates it.  She was always so vain and this has really hurt her.  Herschel tries as much as Rhonda lets him but she’s got a long road ahead of her, made harder ‘cause she is so stubborn.” 

“She wouldn’t be Aunt Rhonda if she wasn’t.  How’s Patrice?” 

Mom laughed and said, “Every bit her mother’s daughter, but she’ll do anything for Herschel.  He’s trying to get her to socialize with people her own age but she’s still not ready although there is one young man at the civic center that seems to be able to get passed her barriers.  He brings his twin brother for the adult day care program while he works.” 

“Patrice was always finicky.  And none of that is my business according to her so I’ll stay out of it.  What about you and Dad?  How are you doing?” 

“Well I’ve picked up two in-home patients.  They expect I will be able to pick up more within the month if I want them.  They are sending more people home from the hospital with orders for palliative care only.” 

“They’re sending terminals home?  Just like that?” 

“Last year many wouldn’t have been considered terminal at such a point in their diagnosis.  Used to be it was only automatic at Stage 4b.  The two I have are Stage 3 but both are on what the panels call their 2nd failed remission.” 

“That’s rough.  They’re … not kids?” 

“No.  I already told them I’m no pediatric certified.  My referrals are coming from Gerontological Services.  One lady also has dementia.  She’s a sweety.   Her husband has cancer as well though not as advanced.  No family beyond each other.  No savings.  The state has already seized every other asset of value in their estate.  Difficult situation.” 

Worried about her I asked, “You talking to your group?” 

She gave me a one-armed hug.  “You know the service says it’s mandatory; it keeps turnover low.  I’m fine.  But pray for your Dad.  He’s getting more hours but only because he survived another round of layoffs and got essential worker status.  Some of the younger men are jealous because they’ve got families to take care of.  His car was keyed and two of his tires have been slashed.  They increased security in the parking lot because he wasn’t the only one but now Hershel has started to drop him off at work when their shifts intersect, saves on gas.” 

“Daddy has a family too!  How dare they blame him for something out of his control.”  Before I could say anything Daddy and Zane came up and I could hear them sniffing before I saw them.  “Oh!  My muffins!!” 

Nothing was burnt and everyone dug in.  Daddy said, “Pretty good Sister.” 

“I would have had something better if you’d let me know you were coming.  A dessert at least.  And you have to go back tonight?!  But this is the first time I’ve seen Mom since August, and you too Daddy.” 

“I know Baby Girl but …,” he stopped and turned troubled eyes to Mom. 

Zane, picking up on the undercurrents said, “Why don’t I step outside and …”

Mom gave a definite, “No.” 

Daddy agreed.  “Zane you might as well hear this too.  See what you make of it.  You’ve been more than fair in your dealings and I wouldn’t feel right about not warning you.” 

At that ominous statement Mom said, “We’ll take some of the dried food with us but we will leave everything else here.” 

“But …” 

“Sydney.”  At my cease she continued.  “I want you to keep doing everything that you can to fill the cellar up.  When was the last time you made a major grocery run?” 

“Two weeks ago but it was to the Mennonite place.  It was closing and then went the woman saw the color of my money she sent me out back to her husband and that’s where I got those hams and shoulders and those cockerels out in the new pen.” 

Mom nodded.  “That’s something you just won’t find in the city.  Herschel is taking part of his pay in leftovers from the restaurant.  I make soups and stews up from that and can it with the jars I kept.  It gives us some reserve. And so long as you can make do, I would avoid grocery stores.  Not that you’ll find much.  Shelves are getting very bare of selection and thinly stocked of what variety they do have.” 

Zane added, “Prices are bad too.  If Max hadn’t been helping Syd I’d never had thought to look for groceries in some of the places that she’s gone.  I got Gran and Mom to that Mennonite store just in time.  I’m taking them to Dog Belly tomorrow.” 

“Syd has said so much about Max I wish we could meet him.” 

“Syd has the touch.  I’ve never seen him warm up to anyone like he has her.  Usually he’s uh … er …” 

Daddy said, “Like the rest of you were at that age is he?” 

Zane slowly grinned and said, “And then some.” 

There was general laughter and then Daddy sighed.  “Sydney, Baby Girl, you’re going to think we’re being hard but … well … the reason your Mom and I made this trip is because we don’t want you coming home for the holidays.” 

Shocked like they’d suddenly slapped my face I gasped, “Wh … what?!” 

“We need you to stay here and keep things … ready.” 

“But …” 

Before I could help it I felt my eyes water and tears slide down my cheeks.  Zane looked around the table and then asked quietly, “You think things are that close to popping?”  Daddy gave Zane a hard look until Zane said, “I’d be crazy not to figure out what is going on.  Syd keeps her lips locked tight but I’ve got eyes and I see how hard she’s working.  Junior brings home gossip he hears from the tourist set, Josh too, and Annie has the pulse of the local businesses.  Old folks around town have been feeling things in their bones for a few years now and I’ve still got buddies that are active duty.  Add it all up together?  It ain’t pretty.” 

“You got that right Son.  Your family?” 

“Soon as it cools off we’ll be hunting.  Gran was a canning fool until her knee gave out.  Mom and Belle help too but Belle isn’t what you would call a self-starter and needs … encouraging.” 

Thoughtfully Daddy asked, “You up for hunting Baby Girl?” 

“It’s been two years Daddy.  I’ll need to practice.” 

Zane snorted, “You already impress Max with your snake shooting skills.” 

“Snakes?!” Mom yelped. 

I said, “In the wood pile.  They tore down the blown up house and ran a bunch of rattlers this way with all of the big equipment squashing up the ground over there.” 

“Sydney …” 

Still sniffling away the shock they’d dealt me I told her, “Don’t worry Mom.  I’m careful and always wear gloves.” 

“Well I should hope so.” 

Zane said, “If she can get a license she can come with us.  Josh has a friend that has a Health Department certification where we can process and tag the venison.  We also try and pick up a feral pig or two.  Do you remember my Uncle Hightower?” 

“Hi?  I sure do.  We played together as boys.  Knew him better than your father to be honest.  What about him?” 

“He bought Gran’s daddy’s place from the family that got it at the auction years ago and has moved back.  He’s built what he calls a sausage factory and makes all sorts.  If I ask he’ll show me how.  Even if Syd can’t get her license for whatever reason, if she’ll help process we can do things by shares.” 

Daddy looked at me and asked, “Syd?” 

I shrugged and then trying to get into the spirit of things said, “I’m game.  Or I can barter a share or something.  Junior says he can’t keep the dry mixes I make on the shelves.  The made-over t-shirts sell pretty good too.  So do the scarves, scuffies, and braided necklaces.” 

Daddy said, “Well then you two work that out between you.” 

It went on from there with Zane leaving then Mom and Daddy leaving a couple of hours after that.  We talked about future plans for the cabin but would barely respond with half answers when I asked about what was going on with the family.  I freely admitI cried and cried after they left.  I tried to understand their reasoning but I felt more along rather than less. 

Part of it was because Mom pulled me to the side while Daddy unloaded the trailer and then loaded some supplies from the cellar into the car’s trunk.  “You haven’t asked about Keven … or Dan.” 

Uncomfortably I responded, “I haven’t known how.”   The truth was that I had put them from my mind and rarely thought about either one if I could help it.

Mom missed the white lie for which I was thankful.  She patted my hand.  “Half the time I don’t know how to ask Herschel about Kevin myself but I still force myself to.” 

“Ok then, how’s Kevin?” 

“Not good Honey.  They finally moved him to the minimum security side of the facility but the damage has already been done.  Herschel says he has tattoos and looks much harder.  He’s definitely not a boy any longer.” 

“He wasn’t a boy when the accident happened.  He’s the same age as … anyway, he wasn’t a boy and had no business acting like he was still one.  That was Aunt Rhonda’s doing, tying him to her like that, getting in the middle of everything serious relationship he almost had.” 

“Well …”  I nodded knowing there were just some things Mom could never say aloud.  Then she asked, “Do you want to hear about Dan?” 

I winced.  “Mom …” 

“Honey I know you were hurt but you can’t hide from reality.” 

“I’m not hiding.  It’s just been going on two years.  I've ... I've been moving on.” 

“And you still haven’t even acted like you were interested in dating anyone new.” 

“Don’t take this the wrong way but do you really think Daddy would have wanted me to?” 

She sighed.  “Sydney, don’t deflect, it isn’t healthy.” 

“Honestly …”  I stopped and tried to see things from her side and put it the way she would understand it.  “Mom, I’ve just needed to … to focus on keeping my priorities straight and not having a pity party.  Dan … hurt me ... he hurt me badly.  And all that came after it, the way people acted and probably still act if they’re given the chance … that … that hurt me too.  But it also woke me up to some stuff.  I’ve just need to, like I said, focus on things that move me forward and grow me up in the right direction.  I’m not that old.  There’s time.  And when I do really feel like dealing with Daddy’s issues … I’ll be in a better, stronger place to do it.”  

Mom looked at me then gave me a hug.  “I love you Syd.  Just remember that we don’t want to see you hurt or stunted by what’s been thrown at you.” 

“Too late for the hurt part but I’ve dealt with it.  As for the stunted part … I don’t want that either so I’ll go as slow as it takes and wait for what feels right.  And so far nothing - or should I say no one - has.” 

She let it go at that but her eyes said there were a lot of things she wanted to say and maybe not all of them I was ready or willing to hear.  I let her look slide.  Sometimes moms are just going to be moms.  But I still couldn’t shake the sadness of not being with my family at the coming holidays … or the anger that they were the ones taking that decision out of my hands in a very intentional way regardless of their motivations being the best of intentions.


  1. Wow! Powerful story Kathy. Thanks

  2. I hate it when family isn't around for the holidays. Its really a bad feeling. poor thing