Ten on Tuesday: The Country

Last week I participated in Ten on Tuesday by writing what I love about the city (Philadelphia.)  This week I want to go back to my hometown and recall what I love about the country in south central Pennsylvania:  rolling hills,  beautiful farms,  orchards, a mountain view.  Much of it is still there,  but the changes have come:  farms are being replaced by housing developments,  my favorite bridge is closed,  the view from my parents’ back yard has been replaced by apartments.  Walmart moved in, a mall replaced beautiful farmland.

We didn’t live on a farm, but we were very close to several.  One of my favorites was just down the road — Frantz’s farm which raised beautiful Belgian horses and mules that loved to bray in the early daylight, and brown spotted cows that dotted the hills behind their barn.  The drive into town crossed a lovely stream,  and the trip to Blue Ridge Summit to take my piano lessons was up the mountains, across the Appalachian trail,  and into a tiny village center. We “went to town” three miles to grocery shop,  took Saturday night drives to nearby towns (5 or 10 miles away) to window-shop, and picnicked on top of the mountain at Pen Mar Park.

Some of my favorites:

Camp Penn – It started out as a CCC camp in World War II, then became the summer camp for our church.  My dad worked there clearing out copperheads and rattlesnakes in the early 1940’s. It’s on Old Forge Road, one of my favorite mountain drives anywhere.

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Farms completely surrounded our little town, Waynesboro.

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Welty’s Bridge across the Antietam Creek.  A painting of it hangs in our house.

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Mules/ Belgian horses / cows

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Peach orchards/ produce stands

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Walking along Lion’s Farm lane on an early summer morning.  I still wake up some summer days and want to take this walk.

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The Appalachian Trail crossing  Route 16 on the way to Blue Ridge Summit.
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(If you examine the map, I lived where the yellow line crosses  into Maryland from Pennsylvania.)

The beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains – our constant companion

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Pen Mar Park on the mountain (where my parents met at a dance in 1936)

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My home town United Methodist Church

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Ten on Tuesday: Favorite American Paintings

A couple of weeks ago, the Ten on Tuesday topic was favorite American paintings.  This made me do a lot of thinking,  looking pictures up on the Internet,  and …. well, making hard decisions. Should I choose the “best” or should I choose the paintings that speak to me?  I finally decided to choose the ones that are familiar,  they feel like old friends; I like to see them again and again.

Thomas Eakins – The Gross Clinic

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Andrew Wyeth – Christina’s World

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Mary Cassatt – Child with Cat

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John Sharman – At the End of the Porch

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Horace Pippin – Harmonizing

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Max Schmitt in a Single Scull

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Georgia O’Keefe – Petunias

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Grant Wood – American Gothic

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Edward Hopper – Nighthawks

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Norman Rockwell – Freedom from Want

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Ten on Tuesday: City

(This topic is a few weeks old, but I just want to be a part of it.)

What do I love about Philadelphia?  MORE than 10 things!  After all of these years living nearby, I still feel excitement when I get into my car to drive over or I step onto the train to go to the city.  And it just keeps getting better and better.

1. Philadelphia Orchestra

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2. Museum of Art

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3.  Barnes Institute

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4.  Rodin Museum

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5.  Rittenhouse Square

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6.  Parc Restaurant

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7. Mann Music Center in Fairmount Park

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8.  Boat rides on the Schuylkill River

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9.  Boathouse Row at Night

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10. All the history

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Five Minute Friday: Free

(It’s that time again :  Five Minute Friday.  Join Kate Motaung’s blogging  community and write freely for five minutes about the word “free.”  Then link it to her blog and read all of the others.)

FREE is a loaded word for me.  Yes, I could write about the free candy I got at CVS yesterday or the free (gift) ticket to Winterthur Museum or even the free pedicure that my friends gave me for my birthday.  But what weighs most heavily on my mind is my life as the wife of an Alzheimer’s patient.

I am not free.

Maybe it’s harder for me because Bo and I were always independent …. we enjoyed one another’s company immensely, but we also liked to do things by ourselves.  He had his golf, I had my dancing;  he loved the casino, I loved traveling; he liked to be alone,  I liked a lot of people around me.  Yet I think this made our marriage more healthy.

Now, however,  I am never “free” even though we have a caregiver living in our house.  I account for my time,  I always sleep at home,  I can’t do things on the spur of the moment.  Can’t just jump in the car and run an errand or have lunch with a friend.

But I am whining,  aren’t I?  It’s just that sometimes this is hard for me. But then I think of others ….

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Five-Minute Friday: The Gift

(It’s Friday and time for Kate Motang’s 5-minute topic.  Write, without stopping, for five minutes. I did,  but then I wrote 5 more and 5 more.)

It was two years ago that the best gift of all arrived on my doorstep.  I had been struggling with Bo and his Alzheimer’s alone for the past seven years — years that slid down the long exhausting slope toward Bo’s final stages, when I could no longer leave him alone in the house,  couldn’t go for groceries or have lunch with a friend, afraid that he would wander, would hurt himself,  would be afraid alone ….. ?  I didn’t know.

And then I found Jon,  a caregiver who would come to the house and take care of Bo — and of me.  A calm, mild-mannered young man with care in his eyes, in his voice, and in his hands.  I watched him with Bo and knew he was the right person.

But then his home burned, and he and his wife and two children,  7 and 10,  were homeless, living in a church until they could find somewhere to stay.  No insurance and stretched by two businesses,  they weren’t soon going to buy or re-build.

As Jon worked with Bo, and I came to know him,  the idea formed in my brain.  It was possible.  They could stay here in the basement until they found something else.  The basement is finished,  the house is large,  we could do this.  They could be comfortable; I would have company.

So one day when Jon and I were in the basement,  I said the words:  “You know, Jon.  I think we could do this.  You could move your family here for a few months.  We could make it work.”

He smiled and we began looking around,  figuring out what would be needed,  where each person could sleep.

Later,  his wife told me that Jon had joked with her, “I don’t know where you’re going to live, but I’ll be with Nancy and Bo.”

And so  they moved in,  followed by Rubbermaid bins full of their few saved belongings.    One box per person.  All of the children’s toys had been charred–  all of Victoria’s Barbie dolls,  all of Justin’s stuffed toys.  They brought donated towels, sheets and clothes.

We found a bed for the parents;  the children got a blow-up mattress ,  and there were already a table,  desk,  TV and chairs in the basement.  In my mind, I pictured taking turns cooking,  them eating at their table together,  Bo and me upstairs.  We could alternate bathrooms and share the back patio.

But that’s not how it worked.  We just naturally blended into a family right away.  As they moved away from their fast-food meals and  homework done in the ice cream store late at night,  we fell into a routine that has existed for almost two years now.  We cook and eat together, watch TV and play games together,  share the routines of cleaning, cooking,  using showers,  shopping.  Celebrate birthdays and holidays together.

The children accept Bo for himself, even when he takes food from their plate or when Jon has to change him or he does something very un-adultlike.  They are kind and accepting of whatever happens,  their manners and gentleness  always present.

I have a family,  Bo has care — great care — and this is the greatest gift I could have received.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Intricate

Couldn’t resist posting two photos. The other is on Fooddancer.

Love Locks on the Seine

Paris Love Locks on the Seine

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Five Minute Friday – “Break”

(Kate Motaung’s topic for five-mutes of uninterrupted writing today is “break.” Perhaps you’d like to join us too?)

You will not break me,  Alzheimer’s.  I will not give in to your demands and lose myself. You have broken Boris,  taken away his personality, memory and abilities until he is almost an empty shell beside me,  but I will fight you to the end of his life.

In the beginning, when it was almost impossible for either one of us to cope, you had the upper hand.  I would pace the house — even the street —  at night,  unable to eat or sleep or make sense of it all, holding onto the edge with my fingertips to keep from falling.

But I did not fall.  With time and the help of friends who stayed by me, I was able to hold on, and I am still standing my ground against you. I grieve as my life changes, but I am not broken.

 

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