Written August 19, 2013.
Good neighbors make good fences. (Robert Frost had it backwards.) That’s just one of things I learned this past week. Another lesson learned: 13 people can ride a four-person golf cart. Well, at least 13. We’re not quite sure that is the maximum.
Greetings, everyone! I’m back from a mini-vacation last week. Life’s so busy I don’t really know where to start, so I’ll start with the object of much of my attention lately: a billy goat.
While my husband, Jarred, made a trip to Arkansas to service two of his feed cart scales, the billy goat decided he really needed a change of scenery. Of course, the time he likes to roam is just at that time in the evening when I want to take one last peaceful glance at the yard and call it a day and put the kids to bed. That’s when the Spanish billy goat says to himself (in his Spanish goat accent): “You know, I wood love to geeve my ladeez and myself a lovely new place to graze. I think I shall start with dee corn field and a bit of dee baby lilac bush.”
And so, he tore a hole through the sheep fence, and led his harem out to graze on tender shoots of all sorts of forbidden fruit. Normally, at bedtime, I’d pass the goat issue off to Jarred and I’d get the kids in bed. With my partner in crime off in Arkansas fixing scales and eating catfish, I had to take care of it. Fixing a fence posed a small problem because A) I didn’t know where to find the fencing supplies and B) I’ve never fixed a fence before.
I managed to find fencing wire and wire cutters (in my two-year-old’s tool kit from grandma). I called my neighbor, Bernice Gathje, and she told me to just weave in new wire to repair the tear in the square grid of fencing. I put my crochet skills to use in wire, and began to cut wire and weave, sort of. About halfway in, her son, Bill, pulled in the driveway. A short time later, I had a mended fence, and he had a frozen chicken to bring home. I’m very thankful for good neighbors that make good fences.
However, billy goats have plenty of free time on their hands. The next morning, he busted a new hole in the fence. This time Larry Gathje brought down a fence panel they hadn’t been using, and helped repair the latest damage on the fence. That early morning repair gave me just enough time to get ready for my morning destination, which, unfortunately, was my cousin’s funeral.
My cousin, Sarah (Siebenaler) Hackenmiller was just a year older than me, 36 years old. Diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis as a baby, she lived twice as long as her original projected life expectancy, but just the same, the time was all too short. Growing up, she was one of my favorite cousins. I remember swinging with her and hanging out in the back yard at Grandma’s, and playing with her in the pool during a family reunion. Sarah was kind, sweet, and fun. As a child I often felt shy at big gatherings, but she had a quiet demeanor that drew me in.
As an adult, Sarah created beautiful artwork with vibrant colors. She possessed what her family described as a gentle strength, which she exuded throughout years of treatments, hospitalizations, pills, and surgeries. She saw beauty in the world around her, and loved her family above all, and she will be missed greatly.
Sitting there at her funeral, honoring a truly good person’s life that was all too brief, felt all too familiar. Hearing Sarah’s pastor sing a solo of “Amazing Grace” made my mind drift back to seeing my niece singing the same song at my brother’s funeral a month and a half ago. Looking at photo displays of her life, and reading the beautiful program with her life story…it was all a wonderful tribute to the her, but so hard to see. I don’t want to attend another funeral for someone too young any time soon.
On the morning of Sarah’s funeral, just as I rounded up the kids to head out the door, my four-year-old threw up all over the rug and even on computer. I attributed it to coughing too much, and cleaned him up and loaded him in the van. Just before Utica he said, “Mom, I don’t feel good.” I slammed on the brakes, found a plastic bag, climbed back to his seat, and held it open below his mouth just as he began another round.
I ended the day of a puking son and a funeral with another hour’s worth of fence repair and reinforcement.
Sarah, though, put it all in perspective. She wrote not too long ago, “Some days I mourn that I will never be that full time career woman, or the ranch wife in Montana (I know, completely different paths there), or the mom whose little blond daughter will go with her to the grocery store like I did with my mom. But I also sit and thank God for all I do have and for still being here on this earth with the ones I love.”
I felt completely wiped out, but grateful for a puking child, which means I am a mom. I have a little blond daughter to take to the grocery store, along with her three older siblings. I lived in Montana for about 12 years, long enough to know I didn’t want to be a ranch wife, but I did marry a Montana guy. Fence repair at the end of the day means I am living out in the country with a few animals. I don’t want to take that for granted. I get to live some of the dreams that Sarah never got to fulfill. I get to enjoy my family every day.
I especially enjoyed them all during our mini-vacation. After goat adventures, fencing, and a funeral, our planned trip to Jellystone in Warrens, WI seemed all the more appealing. Twenty-one of us hung out together in two adjoining log cabin condos. They threw in a golf cart with our cabin rental, and we filled that poor little thing far beyond capacity time and time again to shuttle ourselves to and from the water park area.
Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of the overloaded clown car, but I can assure you, we drew surprised glances everywhere it went. I also can assure you we traveled at reasonable speeds…I mean, really, floor a golf cart on a hill, and it only goes at walking pace when loaded with that much weight…
By day, we hit the water slides, lazy river, pools, and mini golf, ate, and then ate some more. By night, we hung out, kids took moonlit cruises on a golf cart and played card games, and we roasted marshmallows over a big fire.
For me, it was a complete break from my continual mental to-do list: no laundry, no re-organizing, no extra chores, no cleaning. While my kids napped, I sat and watched a show about cooking wood-fired pizzas and felt completely guilt free. I hula hooped. I played some mini golf in my swimming suit with my nieces and nephews. I took a late night ride through the woods on a golf cart to get cappuccino with my sisters.
After a few days of hard core family adventures and outdoor pool fun, we appreciated coming home again. And in the words of my cousin Sarah, “I sit and thank God for all I do have and for still being here on this earth with the ones I love.” I am thankful for all of it. Although, billy goat, I’m not sure that includes you.