Heading West

Writing prompts: today the Ragtag Daily Prompt was FIXER-UPPER and I was able to work it in with another writing challenge, the one I gave to Judy Dykstra-Brown last night. You’re welcome to try it too, if you like. The goal is to Use at least three words in a poem or story.

Judy has already written her poem in response (Click here to read it) and now here’s mine. I hope you can bear with this long tale. 🙂

Original image created by DarkMoon Art for Pixabay

HEADING WEST

Sunshine and blue skies. A glorious day to start on an adventure!

One of the scouts stuffs a couple of flasks in his saddlebag as I pass. He nods when he sees me observing him. “Strictly for medicinal purposes, ma’am.” Then he has the nerve to wink at me. I don’t know about that fellow. Altogether too forward. Heaven knows what kind of women he’s associated with ’til now.

I smile to myself as I reached my wagon. What I have in my luggage is strictly for medicinal purposes also: two medical books. Father would never hear of me studying formally, but from these I’ve learned a lot about human anatomy.

The scout probably sees me as a frightfully brash thing, attaching myself to this train like I have. My family thinks I’m mad. You should have heard the gasps when I announced that I’d bought a covered wagon, hired young Clancy Fitzhugh to drive it, and was heading west to assist old Dr James in his practice.

My brother Charles sputtered and eyed me suspiciously. Did he think I’d robbed a bank? Or was stealing some of his inheritance? And my sisters-in-law! “Foolishness! Far too daring! Out there among gunfighters and thieves. No respectable woman would ever…” and on and on. They see me at thirty-one as a spinster for life. A lost penny that will obligingly roll along from house to house. Well, I refuse to be dependent on them for the rest of my life.

It cheered me very much this morning to receive a letter from my good friend Sally. Won’t I have things to tell her when I get the chance? She’ll be astounded.

I miss her so much! We were good friends all through school, after all. Then a year after we graduated a young man from England stopped in our town on his tour of the American Midwest. He courted her and won her heart, married her and carried her back to England. Now she writes such interesting letters about her life over there – so different from anything we know! In her last letter she sent along a picture of a hedgehog that her son drew. She told me her children think they’re cute and put out treats to lure them into the garden.

Something catches my eye, a glitter by the front wheel of my wagon. Someone has lost a penny – and I’ve found it! I snatch it up and examine it, feeling lighter of heart. Surely this is a good sign?

Isn’t it amazing how things happen right at the time you need them? If I hadn’t happened to catch Mother sliding a small hearthstone into place one day, I’d never have known about the money she was squirreling away. Someone else would have gotten that windfall if I hadn’t discovered her secret.

“Your father will no doubt leave everything to your brothers in his will, with instructions to look after us,” she explained. “And knowing how careful your brothers are with money, even if they’ll let us have a little house of our own I can see us having to give account for every dollar we spend. I want us to have some money of our own when that day comes.”

Mother was right. Father was generous to her, but he’d will everything to the boys. I can just hear him saying, “Why would women need money when they have family to look after them?”

I knew Mother was good at lacework and sold some from time to time; now she told me she was setting aside some of the housekeeping money. She was looking ahead, but didn’t foresee they’d die together. Their deaths happened when our horse spooked and upset their carriage; Mother died instantly; Father lived only a few days.

My parents’ dear friend Dr James made a special trip back for the funeral. Some years back, hearing about an acute need for doctors, he’d gone out West to a small mining town in Montana to set up a practice and we hadn’t seen him since. Chatting with them I could feel he was happy about what he was doing, even patching up gamblers and gunslingers. The day after my parents’ funeral I shared my own dream with him, knowing he’d understand.

Ever since we lost my sister Millie I’ve had a burning desire to help other women make it through childbirth. Could Millie have been saved if she’d had a more competent midwife assisting her? Who can say? But since the day we buried Millie and her newborn girl, I’ve studied and assisted one of the local midwives, with the dream of saving other women’s lives.

He commended me, said my services would be most welcome in their area, especially since one of the midwives there had such a rough time with her last delivery she may never assist him again. I should consider joining him there.

“I’m sure you can could get a room with Mrs. Greggs will take you on as a boarder. In fact, I’ll even pay for your board for the first few months if you’ll do nursing for me. Mrs Greggs is an older widow, quite a respectable woman who swears by ginger tea as a cure-all and feeds me gingersnaps every time I stop in.”

I had to wonder if he stopped in quite often…

Three weeks after the funeral Charles came over to announce, “We’ve decided to put the house up for sale. This property is too valuable for you to live here alone. But you needn’t worry; you can live with one of us. Or we can buy you a small cottage.” I can still see him standing there, a glass of iced tea in his hand, handing me such a bleak future, with not so much as a “by your leave.”

Oh, yes, they said they’d see I was cared for if I stayed here, but I know how that would go. The thought of being shuffled from one home to another, an obligation, an unpaid servant, underfoot too often. Or in a little fixer-upper cottage, dependent on them to do the repairs. Once he left I pulled Mother’s savings from the niche in the hearth and counted it, breathing a sigh of thanks for her foresight.

I’m striking out on my own, come what may. The wagon-master’s shouting and the teams are all shaking their reins impatiently. Time to head West!

Great Things To Come

I few days ago I wrote an article about mental health issues. More humane care has been provided and sufferers have been treated in various ways through the 1900s, with questionable success. Writer/poet/blogger Frank Prem, in his younger days, worked at an Australian asylum and has written a number of poems to capture the lives and feelings of the afflicted.

Now he’s excited to be launching his compilation of these poems. He says The New Asylum should be live on Amazon November 1st and you can pre-order it now. In mid-November he’s doing a local book launch — here are the details — and here’s the book cover:

The New Asylum: a memoir of psychiatry (Poetry Memoir Book 3) by [Prem, Frank]

His other poetry books, SMALL TOWN KID and DEVIL IN THE WIND, have gotten great reviews. You can read my review of this second book HERE.

Devil In The Wind: Voices from the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires (Poetry Anthology Book 2) by [Prem, Frank]

Senior Moments

she stops mid-bite
did you see me take my pill?
senior moments
🙂

It happened again this morning. I’ve been on antibiotics for almost two weeks; four days on the first one and eight on the second. So I go to the kitchen and prepare my breakfast, intending to take my pill — which is to be taken with food. Trouble is, after I’m done eating I can’t remember if I really did take the pill — or did I just intend to take it?

Does this ever happen to you?

My mother-in-law took a sleeping pill and a glass of water to bed with her every night, saying that if she couldn’t sleep, the pill would be there. But she was mortally afraid of taking more than one, so she developed a great system for keeping track — one that I need to get into myself.

She had the pill ready in a pill bottle before-hand, sitting upright beside her mug. If she took the pill, she laid the bottle on its side. Thus she could see at a glance if she’d already had the pill and wouldn’t take another. In the morning she’d prepare her pill for the next night. Very rarely did she ever actually take the pill, but she could rest easy knowing it was there if she needed it.

I’m so fuzzy when it comes to short-term prescribed pills, so am trying to train myself to leave my pill bottle upside down on the table after I take the thing. that way I can see at a glance whether I’ve taken it and can put the bottle away later. If I could get myself into this habit now, I should be prepared for when senior moments take over most of my days — if they haven’t already. 😉

Bubble packs are a great invention, too, and those little sectioned plastic pill holders. I keep my thyroid med in one of those, have done so for years, so I can see easily if I’ve taken today’s pill.

Differing Opinions

Fandango’s challenge word this morning is CONTRAST

I offer this poem as my response:

THE DOCTOR
by Edgar Guest

I don’t see why Pa likes him so,
and seems so glad to have him come;
he jabs my ribs and wants to know
if here and there it’s hurting some.

He holds my wrist, ‘cause there are things
in there which always jump and jerk;
then, with a telephone he brings,
he listens to my breather work.

He taps my back and pinches me,
then hangs a mirror on his head
and looks into my throat to see
what makes it hurt and if it’s red.

Then on his knee he starts to write
and says to Mother, with a smile:
“This ought to fix him up all right.
We’ll cure him in a little while.”

I don’t see why Pa likes him so.
Whenever I don’t want to play
he says, “The boy is sick, I know!
Let’s get the doctor right away.”

And when he comes, Pa shakes his hand,
and hustles him upstairs to me,
and seems contented just to stand
inside the room where he can see.

Then Pa says every time he goes,
“That’s money I am glad to pay;
it’s worth it, when a fellow knows
his pal will soon be up to play.”

But maybe if my Pa were me,
and had to take his pills and all,
he wouldn’t be so glad to see
the doctor come to make a call.

From the book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

“It’s Over”

Fandango’s prompt word for today is OVER. As I took a second look at it just now to see if the word would nudge me into a blog post, a memory popped up. So here’s my response:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“It’s over,” I’d tell myself. Over and over I repeated those words, fighting the feelings, the sensations running through my system.

When I was 27 I found a hard, walnut-sized lump in one breast. A shocker. I thought my life was OVER — too soon! Five minutes later I’d made an appointment with my GP.  Within a week I was facing surgery for breast cancer.

Being so young, I recovered fairly fast afterward. I was booked for a trip to the Cancer Clinic at London’s Victoria Hospital. (London, Ontario, that is) I was given three different oral chemo drugs and the oncologist set up a schedule for chemo-therapy.

Every Monday morning I had to report for blood tests, then was taken to a small room where I sat and had that stuff pumped into my veins. As time went on the veins got more uncooperative and would collapse when the nurse tried to insert the needle. She tried 3 or 4 sites at times. Now THAT got painful!

It’s pretty hard to describe how I felt after chemo. Not really weak, but like you had something inside you that you just didn’t WANT to feel or think about. Even back in Jan of 1981, when I started chemo, they had pretty good anti-nausea drugs but I didn’t push my luck by thinking about how I felt. I focused on, “This will very soon be over.”

For the first eight treatments the drugs (methotrexate, vincristine, and something called FV) were cold from the fridge, injected right into my vein. Definitely chills a person! Sometimes I read that expression in a tension-filled scene, “His blood ran cold.” I believe I know what that feels like a lot better than any story character. 🙂 And before long my head was cold, too, because my hair started falling out after the second treatment and was completely gone by the third.

Vincristine—extracted from a South African primrose, if I recall correctly—has some nasty side effects: it damages the nerve endings. I had to quit that after three treatments because my finger tips and toes were numb.

The second round, Adriamycin, lasted four weeks, again once a week. This drug was so damaging to the vein the nurse would inject it very slowly through an IV drip. Thankfully, though, it didn’t knock out my hair, which had started to grow again.

During those weeks different friends kindly drove me into the city and drove me home again. We went straight home, never tried to stop and pick up this or that. And all the way home I’d tell myself, “It’s over.”

At certain times of your life, OVER can be a most beautiful word.

 

The Sweet Life, Thanks To…

…A LOT OF CLEVER PEOPLE!

Good morning everyone. I’ve evicted Pookie from my office chair and taken his place to write a few lines in response to our daily prompt words. Since he’s notorious for jumping back into my chair again the moment I leave the room, I’d best stay put until I finish.

I was awake around 3:30 am this morning — at Pookie’s insistence — and staggered to the door to let him out. Most folks are unwilling to cope with a cat getting them up in the wee hours and I shouldn’t have to, either. New management aim: cats out at 11pm. They can embrace the night with all its wonders, like the scurrying of tiny critter feet. (I’ve observed that they love embracing tiny critter feet et al.)

Anyway, the sun was up already, just starting its long journey across our prairie sky, and the internet is always live, so I took a peek at a couple of sites offering one-word writing prompts for today. Fandango’s word in particular, kudos, opens up a lot of possibilities! My mind circled around the thought for a few minutes as I crawled back under the covers, then I zonked out for the rest of the night.

At a decent hour I got up again and made my way to the bathroom. Kudos to the inventors of indoor plumbing, shower heads, and toilet paper. (How many of you remember the old outhouse with tissue supplied by various mail-order companies? I do, and infinitely prefer the indulgence of today’s softer replacement.)

My thanks to whoever invented the spinning wheel and decided to try spinning cotton into a thread. (I think Eli Whitney fits in here somewhere.) I’m quite thankful to see the end of wool undies and stockings! Speaking of decent undergarments — bless your dear hearts, Wonderbra, Maidenform and other companies that have given us the comfort and support we ladies enjoy today. My mom told me once that all they had in her youth were home-sewed cotton bras that gave neither. And corsets have been abandoned. My undying gratitude for that!

Throw in a heap of accolades to the person who invented polyester. My lightweight dress for today is all cotton, but I’m thankful for all our poly-cotton dresses and shirts that don’t need to be ironed.

Which brings me to knits. Weaving threads into fabric is fairly self-evident, though looms were a real boost in their day. But I’ve wondered different times, whoever had the brilliant idea of winding threads around two sticks and looping them around somehow to create a fabric. Being a knitter myself, I can imagine how much trial and error that would have involved? That person likely got a lot of criticism for fiddling around and wasting time.

From simple home knitted garments, some brave soul went on to inventing a knitting machine, which now give us our T-shirts, sweaters, sportswear, and fleeces. Kudos also to Whitcomb L. Judson, an American inventor from Chicago who invented the interlocking mechanical teeth and constructed a workable zipper.

I wander into the kitchen and take my morning thyroid pill, which I’ve taken steadily for the past twenty-five years or so. Where would I be without that? We visited with a young couple on Sunday and the husband was telling us he’d come through a rough time when his arms swelled up, the muscles in his legs cramped painfully, he was cold, his hair was falling out. His doctor ran tests and discovered his body was really low on thyroid hormone. He started taking synthetic thyroid pills and his symptoms all cleared up in rapid time.

When I think of all the heath issues I’ve faced, I give thanks for the wonders of science and medicine that have combined to keep me alive so I can enjoy this morning. Antibiotics, anesthetics and surgeries, chemotherapy. Kudos to the inventor of multi-vitamin pills, too, which give so many people all over the world a healthier life. And could do so much more in poorer countries, if only funds were available to purchase them.

Now, with one last word of thanks to today’s Word-Prompters, I’ll end this session of awarding kudos. Have a great day everyone.

Daily Addiction : COPE
Fandango :  KUDOS
Ragtag community: INDUGENCE
Word of the day challenge : NOTORIOUS
Your daily word prompt :  EMBRACE
houseofbailey  : NATIVE