This sign hangs in Grande Ronde Physical Therapy clinic where I received concussion rehab treatment. I wanted to give up so often, but this reminded me to keep trying. No matter how slow my progress, keep moving forward.
I am home now. "Home" being Wallowa County. I wondered, as I gazed across Grande Ronde Valley toward the western side of the Wallowas during the past four months, would I ever make it back? I wasn't so sure, even seeking rentals in Union and Baker Counties. Repeatedly, I was told, "It's been rented." I felt frustrated and confused, not knowing what to do, regretting my brain injury, just wanting to be back in Wallowa County.
Random thoughts are a way of life in early recovery of a brain injury. Being aware of that and not trusting my judgment is a scary place to be. But my friends in WC are so good, saying "Yes" when I need help.
I've needed a lot of help and I'm so grateful to be back where people and places are familiar. I'm more functional now, able to do some things on my own. I even get to help others, making sure we all know I have limitations now.
I'm having to relearn some things, such as names and where to shop for certain items. But that's ok, because there aren't too many places to look! LOL.
A huge "Thank You" to those who have assisted me this past year. It's good to be home.
On March 5, 2018, three days after my previous post, I face planted in the snow and suffered a mild traumatic brain injury. It was around 9 p.m. I don't believe I lost consciousness, yet I was so dazed. I realized my neighbors were all in for the night and I was alone behind my house. My first words, said out loud, were, "This is not good."
Contrary to local opinion, I did not slip on ice. The fall began when I tripped over something as I was unloading my car which was parked under a canopy. My descent seemed to last 30 minutes- I kept bouncing off of things and thought I would never make impact. When I did, my chin landed on a metal bar lying on the ground.
Somehow I made myself get up and walked around the house to my front door, deliberating each step with, "I've got to get inside. I've got to get inside..."
So much has happened since then as I've recovered. In the mix was a second fall on June 12, 2018 where my feet got tangled up under me and I slid on the bathroom floor, smacking the back of my head.
This brief explanation is to say why I haven't posted on my blog. Up until now, my vision was so affected the Doc said, "No screen time." I'm still limited in how long I can spend on here. but I am so happy to make this post and reconnect with A Wallowa Gal blog.
Today I read an article that described a concussion as "an insult to the brain." Now THAT makes me laugh, and laughter is good medicine:)
I've been thinking about prayer lately and the part is has and has not played in my life. In a few hours I am participating in the World Day of Prayer for the simple reason that to me, this World needs prayer.
Things are falling apart, as far as I'm concerned. I can't stop it and wonder how to live with it. "How do I have the peace that passes understanding?" when fear engulfs me regarding what is to come.
My relationship to prayer has been tumultuous. In my first 16 years, I prayed for the violence in my home to cease. It only got worse. I wondered, "Who was I praying to that would do such?" Then I examine the gods and discover the one my parents taught me was all about robbing, destruction and death.
As an adult, I left what I knew of that, and changed to another god, the god of a church that eventually kicked me out. So where did that leave me? Angry, bitter and done with the god idea.
Yet there have been times when things were so desperate that all I could do was pray, "God, help me!" and things worked out. Who was that?
My biggest struggle is believing people who put God in a box. I truly admire those who know where to be on Sunday morning, who know the words to songs, who know what to expect from God, who have organized doctrine that makes sense to them.
I cannot do that. I have tried.
The God I think I believe in bears no resemblance to what others around me follow. He and She is the Infinite God Is Everything. I can put no limits on that. For just as I do, He is bigger than I can imagine. Infinite God Is Everything is deeper than Snake River Canyon. Infinite God Is Everything is taller that Sacagawea Mountain. Infinite God Is Everything is longer than the Milky Way I gaze upon at night. Infinite God Is Everything is wider than the horizons from my viewpoint on Zumwalt Prairie.
Infinite God Is Everything is the song of a canyon wren at Freezeout. He is the majesty of a bull elk commanding the herd. He is the flow of the many winding waters that tumble from the mountains, and the purity of the snow that rests upon us now.
Infinite God Is Everything is all that I need for peace and rest and love. And that I cannot put in a box.
My finite human self cannot comprehend it all, but I have experienced that when I pray to the Infinite God Is Everything, good things happen. Maybe not exactly what I want, but good just the same.
And I can live with that. So today, on World Day of Prayer, I ask the Infinite God Is Everything for peace on earth: within and without, above and below, in front and behind.
Peace on earth and goodwill among men.
What is a BFF? It's Best Friend Forever, I learned. And today one of mine is celebrating a birthday! She'll remain unidentified on this post, but she knows who she is. I gave her this card...
In some form of context, the above describes us. We call ourselves "The Two Grandmas." With both of us having experience in theater, we discuss the script of each adventure as we go along. Not really. But maybe.
We wonder about our paths crossing and the similarities. Both husbands Vietnam veterans, both buried at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland (within shouting distance of each other! We were surprised to learn that.)
We share stories of living with these guys: the depth of love and friendship, the unique circumstances they present that required us to develop creative navigation. We burst out in laughter at the remarks our guys made to us- unique to combat veterans.
As time passes we find more fun things to get into that we don't want our grown children to know. A fear of many women our age is that if we have too much fun, or laugh too hard, or create some kind of family disturbance which is all in merriment, that we'll be shut up in a nursing home. "Mom on a shelf" I call it.
We don't do anything illegal, but since we don't fit in a box of adult children's expectations, we travel down the road and agree, "Our kids don't need to know this..."
Or we take photos of each other that don't reveal our location. This is to assure our kids "I'm not alone," and yet not disclose our fun places.
We laugh. Oh, we laugh. Here we are with over 130 years experience of life and our kids don't ask us for advice. We can't say anything to our daughters-in-law. Bottled wisdom stored in the basement of our hearts, and we say, "Oh, well."
And find more adventures to enjoy, because we're healthy, we have few responsibilities in this time of our lives, and there's more living to live.
When you have a friend like that, it is surely a gift!
So Happy Birthday, BFF! Hey, I have an idea...
Last Sunday, Jan. 14, we had a bluebird sky. The air was crisp. Most of the snow in the valley was melted. Petey and I needed an adventure.
I guess you could call me an outdoors writer. Not that I write about outdoor living or outdoor sports, but that I love to write when I'm outdoors. I'm more relaxed and in the quietness of some of my favorite spots, I can hear my story voices.
Petey and I headed for canyon country, but I decided I wanted to take one particular road that would take us "on top." A wary glance acknowledged the snow on top, but the conditions were such I was sure the snow would be melted enough for us to travel safely. With 4WD we wiggled up a shadowed canyon road, but when we reached the top, this was the view.
A rock pile beckoned, and we hiked the short distance. I settled down into the radiating warmth of the rocks while Petey played in the snow. Cocooned in silence, my words spilled onto the page. I was in bliss. After a time the squeal of a hawk made me look up for Petey. He could easily be hawk-bait.
Whenever I sit still, Petey takes his post as The Watcher, my guard. Whether I'm at home, or driving, or anywhere else, I am his job and he watches over me. Two factors must be in place for this to happen: 1. I must be sitting still and 2. No squirrels should be in a 1 mile radius. If there's a squirrel around, I'm on my own.
I sat in quiet and enjoyed the wispy rainbow of a sun dog caught in the perfect light of afternoon sun and ice crystal air.
I picked up my pen again and wrote until the chilling angle of the dropping sun sent a shiver over me. It was time to go, before the road iced over.
The fundraiser and subsequent building of Joe's shed was amazing. With a few mornings of light snow which melted in the afternoon, we knew time was at hand to get the job done before the Big Snow came. 1917 Lumber gave us a discount for lumber. Joe said he wanted metal roofing for the shed because of the high winds that blast through there. I prayed about "where will we get that?" At the end of the day, before I spoke of this dilemma, I got on Facebook and someone I had never met before asked, "My husband just brought home some metal roofing from a job. Could you use some?" Of course!
Kim Hutchison, VFW Post Commander, designed the shed and began building it in parts to be assembled. He needed help with lifting, so the shop class at Joseph Charter School, led by teacher Tobey Koehn showed up.
Those kids were so cute! Under Kim's watchful eye, one would call "LIFT!" and in unison they carried it to the shed site. Before they left, they gathered around Joe and called, "Semper Fi!" for this photo. Thanks!
Kim had helpers and they got it just about done when we needed shingles to put on the ramp so Joe wouldn't slip. I posted on Wallowa County Free Classifieds FB page "ISO- Shingles" and in 40 minutes another veteran notified me that he had them and would drop them off. Thanks Roger!
We could not have done this without our donors:
Stewart Jones Designs George Hill
Janie Tippett Anonymous
Goodrich Family Duane & Caroline Rueb
Gloria LaBolle Sandi Richerson
Barbara Childs Ken Brown
Charles & Mary Johnson Sara Jane Williamson
Lynn Wolf Long Maxine Stone & Rob Hager
Betty Cosgrove Shannon McNerney
Terrie Everts Marcia & John Raines
Bill Cunningham Joni Herb
Anonymous Diana Tryall
Divide Camp Deborah Stubblefield
Sarrah Crist Teresa Hubert
Kathy McGuire Anonymous
VFW Post 4307 1917 Lumber
Clay Claypool Roger McGee
Joseph Charter School shop class
Tobey Koehn Roger Curtis
Yall stepped up to the plate and I hope you enjoy being a part of something good, for without your financial support, this would not have happened.
Kim is now in the shed-building business, so call him (541-263-2077) if you'd like a storage shed or garden shed. Whatever you need, I'm confident he can design and build it.
Of course, any job needs supervisors. Clyde and Petey offered Support Services...
A BIG THANKS TO EVERYONE! This is why I love living in Wallowa County. We all get to do things like this and do it well.
SHE HAD HIS SIX
by Katherine Stickroth©
“She’s yours, not mine”
He was gruff to say
Of the pup squirming in my arms
But she won him over
With soft brown eyes
Her honesty was her charm
A cellophane pop
The grab of his cap
It was time to have a smoke
She stood at the door
To the sacred porch
Then she gave his leg a poke
How often I gazed
Through the curtained glass
At the two who were now a pair
Not a word was said
Not a move was made
But I saw the thousand yard stare
Without a sound
He told her of
The Hueys that swarmed like bees
The tracers of light
The ear-numbing booms
The blood, the cries and the screams
“We didn’t have friends.
Just ‘Buddy’ would do”
He told his little girl
She wiggled her tail
And nudged his hand
His fingers would then unfurl
By then I ran
To the kitchen sink
Pretending I didn’t know
She was on his six
In the places where
His wife was forbidden to go
And now he lies
On a hospice bed
Agent Orange counts the rise of his chest
She nuzzles his hand
On top of her head
Too soon is his final breath
She had his six
Like no one did
He was safe with her along
His little girl dog
Her mission complete
She trailed him all the way home.
We have met success in our fundraising for Joe Lewellyn's shed. Construction has begun with the shed being built in sections in a shop by other veterans. Project should be up and assembled by end of next week. I couldn't be more pleased.
Both of my brothers are veterans. I was texting with one of them, his name coincidentally "Joe," and he thanked me for helping with veterans. "You should have joined the military," he said. Joe was Army and served in Iraq, Bosnia and Afghanistan.
"I came close," I replied. "Was lined out for a full ride ROTC scholarship and I bailed out. Long story." I started laughing, remembering something else.
My first husband, Nick, was a Major in the National Guard. I ran a tight ship in our household with two boys. Add a large dose of bossiness, plus my ability to out- argue him, and he'd complain, "Man, you'd make a great Drill Sergeant in my Company."
I continued with my brother Joe, "My being the oldest of six kids trained me to be a good squad leader."
That brought a big LOL out of him. Probably because he was on the receiving end of much of that.
With the deadline of August 31 approaching to reach our $2000 goal for Joe's shed, I thought I'd share a little background on this story...
I met Joe in early November 2016. Word had gotten 'round that I enjoyed helping veterans. After introducing himself, he said, "I want one of those chairs Bill O'Reilly helps out with." Since I don't have a TV or watch news, I asked him to describe it.
Within a few words, I realized what he wanted.
"Oh," I said, "An Ac...tion Track Chair?"
"Yes. I want one of those."
My mind locked on "Where could I find a charity that gives one of those to veterans?" I began with Bill O'Reilly's website, of course, but that was only a start. Within a few clicks, the Independence Fund page came up.
After a brief review, I said, "Joe, it looks like there's an organization in North Carolina that could give you one."
"What do we have to do?'
"I'm not sure. Let me give them a call."
With Joe sitting nearby, I called the Independence Fund and quite frankly, tried to quell my excitement. Joe qualified on every point- it seemed to good to be true.
I hung up the phone. "Joe, it sounds like this could happen for you." I tried to restrain my thrill with cautiousness, for in my experience with veterans over the years, they've been promised so much, with so little to come of it, I didn't want to over-promise and under-deliver.
"What do we have to do?"
"Let's get going with the online application. We can save it until you return with your DD214 and VA rating documents. I'll scan them and we'll send them in with the application."
As he powerchaired up the sidewalk, I was impressed that the encounter with Joe and interaction with the Independence Fund had gone so easy.
"Who is this guy? I wondered. I prayed, "God, if this can work out for this veteran, just this once, please make it so."
Joe appeared the next day with his paperwork. We completed the application, and I clicked SEND.
With that done, Joe began to tell me a little about himself.
He was a drummer in bands that played up and down the West Coast. The frequency of his mentioning his mother revealed he had been very close to her.
He was a Marine and was in Vietnam 1967-1968. "I was at Khe Sahn," he said, looking down, then away.
I was somewhat familiar with that look, that gesture. Two words can invoke such time travel, though the veteran is sitting across the table from me.
Khe Sahn. I was 10 years old at the time. Oblivious to what the Vietnam War was about. But Joe's faraway look spoke volumes. When my Vietnam veteran husband Richard would meet another Vietnam veteran and a certain Southeast Asia location was mentioned, they both would drop their shoulders, look down, each palming a cigarette and talk in low voices. I would back up, giving them the space they needed for something I knew nothing about. I didn't belong in that. I cared. But I didn't belong. I was only to wait.
I still have not looked up the battle of Khe Sahn. Because this effort about the Track Chair and now the shed, is not about what happened back then. It's about welcoming someone home at a different time, a different place, and it being okay. Today.
At least it is for me.
(To be continued...)
To donate to Joe's shed, visit gofundme.com/keep-joe-rolling.
A 50-something woman comes home to a place she's never been before.