August 26, 2017

The reminder in a Kansas sunset

We had an emergency about mid-week. Jerry blacked-out and fell in his bathroom at the nursing home. He has a bump on the back of his head so we think he must have hit the door jamb on the way down. He hadn't even been sitting at all, just standing, so he didn't get up too quick (it's not like my 340# husband with mobility issues can move very fast anyway). He said next thing he knew he was lying on the floor with everyone around him. So, when the nurse called me, I had to hunt down a vehicle to use so I could get over there. Fortunately, x-rays showed nothing was broken, and the ct scan didn't show anything bad going on. But because this happens at least 1-2 times each year (for as long as we've been married anyway), that means, once again, there are no obvious answers to why this happens to Jerry. That kind of stress is really hard on both of us, especially since he has medical issues rear their ugly heads so often. Most of the time nowadays, all I can do is shake my head and think, "Really, God? REALLY??"

As I sat here in my apartment last night thinking about this week – and so many other weeks like it in the past – I watched the sunset from my ninth floor windows. When we moved into this tiny apartment in August 2014, I hated it. It wasn't where we wanted to be, but financially we had to because Jerry's medical issues had used up the last cent our money and we needed to find something extremely cheap. The apartment has west-facing windows, and the first evening of our first day in this apartment showed us a marvelous sunset. I started taking a couple photos each day, and sometimes several just because the sunsets can change so quickly. Since then, I've taken photos nearly every day at sunset, and sometimes during various weather changes. I've started printing off the better ones for an album with the dates and times taken. No sunset is ever the same as any other. Neither is the weather. As we say here in Kansas, "If you don't like the weather at the moment, wait five minutes, it'll change."

Jerry has been in a nursing home for nearly three years now; his always-worsening medical issues were directly affecting my own and I could no longer be his full-time caregiver. Being separated from my husband by almost an hour's drive, with a vehicle that isn't highway worthy, has been stressful. But I continue taking sunset photos, and I make sure to mail or take copies to my husband whenever I'm able to get there. Even being apart, no matter what happens in life, we trust God because He knows what He's doing.

I want to share with you the photo I took on March 21, 2015... the cross in the sky. It's a reminder from God that he gave me Kansas sunsets to admire and be thankful for the amazing beauty He has provided to all of us in this world

"The Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets. From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth." [Psalm 50:1-2]

August 17, 2017

My hero

Five years ago today, my Dad went to be with Jesus.

He'd had a stroke nine days prior (his third since 1994)... scans showed that this time it had caused so much damage that nearly half of his brain was involved. He still knew me and everyone else, and what was going on and had happened to him. Doctors said he probably had less than a month, maybe more like a couple weeks... but it was nine days. There were hard decisions I had to make. Thank goodness Dad and I had already discussed such things.

We chose Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice for Dad's last days (it's on the eighth floor of Via Christi Hospital St. Francis). My Dad lacked for nothing in his care while there. Neither did I. They took care of me while I stayed with Dad in his room during that time. I can't say enough good things about their hospice center and staff; it's truly a home-like, supportive environment.

Dad was born Elmer Ray Buller on November 25, 1925 in Hillsboro, Kansas to Daniel Stuart and Maria (Ratzlaff) Buller. (Note: Dad's obituary and death certificate both say Walton, but that is incorrect; the person helping us with his funeral wrote down the wrong city, I believe because we'd talked about some of the family history and thus he got the information mixed up; I didn't realize this until it was too late to amend.) Later, the family moved to Walton, Kansas, then to Newton, Kansas. It was there that Dad graduated in May 1944 from Newton High School.

Dad was drafted and entered into military service at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas on June 23, 1944. His unit departed from U.S. soil two weeks before Christmas in December, 1944; they reached the European Theater of Operations (ETO) just four days later. He was a Private First Class, Rifleman, assigned to Company E, 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Division… commonly known as the 2nd Armored “Hell On Wheels” Division. They were part of the famous “Battle of the Bulge” in the Ardennes, Rhineland, in Central Europe; after 1 year, 5 months, and 22 days, his group returned to the U.S. on June 3, 1946. This is the patch of their division they wore proudly on their uniforms.

Dad received an honorable discharge on June 8, 1946. He earned the Combat Infantry Badge, Rifle Marksman Badge, Bronze Star Medal, Army of Occupation Medal With Germany Clasp, 3 Bronze Service Stars, American Campaign Medal, Eamet Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, Victory Ribbon; he also received the WWII Victory Medal on December 1, 1947. I have all of his badges, medals, ribbons, and certificates, plus a slew of photos... of himself, his Army buddies, the places and people overseas. At some point I'll do a post or two of those items. For now, here's a photo of him in his Army uniform.

It wasn't until near the end of his life that Dad talked with me in any great detail about his time in the service. He was always a very quiet man in many ways, so I knew he had to have been greatly affected by what he saw and heard and did in that war. My son Jeff had done a high school assignment of talking to a war veteran. (I still have that paper – Jeff earned an "A" on it.) We lived in another city at the time, so Jeff wrote out the questions and mailed them to his grandad. The assignment consisted of simple questions for the most part, but I remember one in particular: "What do you think was the scariest thing about the war?" Dad's answer was... "The strafing. The strafing." Yes, he wrote it twice on the paper he mailed to Jeff. His answer gave me great pause. Can you imagine dozens of soldiers, most of them still teenagers or in their very early 20s, running for their lives to find cover as enemy planes dip low over them trying to shoot them with automatic machine guns?

After Dad had been back in the states for a while, his best friend told him that his girlfriend had a really nice friend and asked if would Dad be interested in going on a double-date. That's when Dad met my Mama, Maxine Dessenberger. They were married on November 13, 1949 in Hutchinson, Kansas. They had two children... myself and my brother who is two years younger than me. Mama died of stage IV breast cancer on October 23, 1971... just three weeks shy of their 22nd anniversary. The photo is my Mama's senior picture for high school; she was 17 years old.

That was a tough time for all of us, really for several years after Mama died. Dad did his best raising us... and, I believe, we turned out pretty decent in spite of it all. I know I caused my Dad no end of frustrations, yet he was always firm but loving. It surely must have been difficult to be a widower with a daughter who was just getting started as a teenager. Sorry, Dad!

Dad was a manufacturing supervisor for Cessna/Eaton Company (agriculture equipment manufacturing company in Hutchinson, Kansas) for 36 years, retiring in 1993. He was a Leader and Trainer in the Boy Scouts, affiliated with the Kanza Council for nearly 32 years. He learned square dancing and round dancing. He loved bird watching and being outdoors enjoying nature. He was great at woodworking and making toys.

The square dancing is where he met my stepmom (Mom to me), Sharon (Henson) Kramer. Mom told me about the first time she saw Dad. He was a Boy Scout leader back in those days and had come straight from a Scouting event with one of his friends. She said “...he was still dressed in his Scout clothes and looked so cute in his uniform.” I guess it's true what they say about a man in uniform being hard to resist. They were married December 14, 1985 in Wichita, Kansas. Mom preceded Dad in death by six months... she died of stage IV breast cancer on February 20, 2012. So Dad put two wives in the ground who died of metastisized breast cancer.

One weekend when Dad and Mom had my boys in 1989, they went to a miniature golf course. Mom got a photo of Dad playing... and my youngest son J in his first photo bomb at age seven.

Not the greatest photo (my first cellphone, I think), but this next one is Mom and Dad at our Buller family reunion in 2006.

And finally, this is what happens when a garden goes wild. Mom took this photo of Dad on August 29, 2009 standing in front of the wild sunflowers in their backyard. This used to be where I would help Dad with his veggie garden. Good soil, huh! I think it's an awesome photo of Dad... my cousins know how hard it was to get him to smile or even be in photos. (The photo is much better in real life.)

Even after all this time, I still find myself starting to reach for my phone to call my Dad. I sure miss him. He was the wisest man I knew. He always was, and still is, my hero.

August 12, 2017

Of flowers and plants and other things

I'd planned on doing a post mid-week, but haven't been feeling well. There's a odd bug going around making people feel sick, but they're not full-out sick as if it was the flu. Not sure if it's that... or one of my health issues that has become concerning the past few months. I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (moderate 3A) several years ago, but since last December my lab work has shown that I have reductions in kidney and liver function... which in turn leads to greater exhaustion and other problems. I've had chronic fatigue most of my life, but what I've been feeling the past several months is different. Not having health insurance and an extremely limited income means all I can do is tough it out for now. I have to drive 45 minutes to a health ministry clinic where I pay $25 for a 15 minute visit with my ARPN and get minimal lab work. Plus, I get four of my medications through their medication assistance program, otherwise I couldn't afford them because it would be nearly $3,000 every three months! (I don't have that much in the first place!) She orders the absolute basic blood work so I don't get charged more than that, but what will show her the specific results so she can keep track of these issues. For now we try to figure things out as we go along. And pray a lot.

Enough of that. On to other things....

A week ago we were having some severe weather... torrential rains, lots of dangerous lightning, tornadoes in the area. I watched the storms from my ninth floor windows as the 60mph wind-driven rain came straight from the west. The east-west streets below looked like literal rivers for a time. The house I grew up in, which is the house where daughter-in-law A and the grandkids live (my Dad was going to leave it to me when he died, but I didn't want it, so told him give it to my boys) always flooded during storms like that... it still does. In all these years, the city has never figured out how to remedy the situation. But! We finally got enough rain to make a little bit of difference for our lawns and gardens. Woohoo!

Daughter-in-law A has pretty much given me free rein on what to grow and where, so I've kind of taken over. Ha! But she's happy, and she buys the plants she wants (or what I think will work) and all that, and I get my garden therapy. Mama and Dad started me (and my brother) gardening when I was 9-years-old... and I haven't stopped since! I've taken classes along the way, worked in a garden center/nursery for several years, and done loads of research with a ton of trial and error. I've always said it's not the green thumb, but the brown thumb that proves you're a gardener.

I used to look at other women's perfectly manicured, polished and laquered fingernails and compare them to my raggedy, permanent dirt-under-the-tips nails and would be embarrassed... until a friend told me I'm more down-to-earth (pun? haha). I grow plants, not nails!

This year, the veggie and herb garden consists of: tomatoes (Roma, Early Girl, Sweet 100 and Grape), jalapeƱo peppers, sweet bell peppers, zucchini, cucumber, onions (just yellow this year), parsley, chives, basil, dill, and asparagus (which is in it's first year, so no cutting yet). The lettuce and beans didn't do well because our Spring was so wet. There's also lemon balm, spearmint, and sweet mint, but those are small bits of the plants I thought were dead but that came back mid-summer after things dried out some. I don't know that I would be able to list all of the flowers and schrubs that have been planted over the years, plus the annuals that change from year to year. There are descendant daylilies of the the originals my Mama planted when we moved to that house (I was 4 years old) still going strong. Any time I moved, I would dig up a bunch to take with me for my own gardens. So, there may still be some of those daylilies growing in Dodge City, Wichita, and Newton. Not to mention how often I gave some away to friends and neighbors over the years.

Most of the Spring and summer flowers and other plants are starting their yearly die-off, while others are just beginning their show. I love to watch the gardens change with the seasons. It's never the same... and yet it's comfortable familiarity. August and into September are definitely not my favorite months because in Kansas it's always so hot then. We've had an unusual summer, though. Right now we're experiencing low- to mid-80s, which rarely happens at this time. I saw some folks on Instagram posting photos of the foliage in Colorado because it's already showing signs of Autumn color-changes.

I'm ready for Autumn anyway!

Well, until my next post (which I hope is sooner than a week!), I'll leave you with something funny. Yup, actually happened to me during those thunderstorms last week.

From my Instagram: "That moment when, during your wandering from window to window watching the thunderstorm because the electricity went out, you pass by your table and look down at the rubberbands you left there the night before, and the table be all like... "