This picture was taken of my daughter's horse, Penny, in 2019, behind my mother's house the day the orchard was opened to the three horses. It took us months to clear the brush and dead limbs. These trees are at least a hundred years old, originally a piece of my grandparents' farm they bought in 1948. When my daughters were looking for a safe, healthy place for their horses, my mom jumped and said to put the barn on her property. In 2019, Mom helped us clip and drag brush and dead limbs to extend the pasture. The place she and my dad built came fully alive again. We lived in a trailer on that hill when I was young. It got so miserably hot, we would take refuge in the orchard, under the trees in the shade. My grandfather tended the orchard then and it was covered in the softest grass, the trees healthy and very shady. Many years have passed since then. When my three daughters and I first dug into it, Mom called us crazy, but we did it, still have some to do, and will upkeep it annually now. The horses will help.
2020 hit. No one reading this now in 2021 needs an explanation for why that means anything. On a basic scale, in the rural mountains where I live (walking distance from Mom's), the pandemic wasn't initially too jarring. My business was shut down, since it was dependent on conventions and art fairs, but I'm able to survive with help from family and they are all essential workers. Then my Mom landed in the hospital because of a blood clot in her leg, late April, early May. I wasn't allowed to go with her. Later that night I got the call that they were sending her to Pittsburgh. They found cancer.
We couldn't be with her at all. A week or so later, when they sent her home, my middle daughter and I made the trip out. The almost two hour drive back, wasn't very comfortable for Mom. Neither was the list of tests ahead of her. They didn't know what kind of cancer or how far it spread. Tests kept getting set back or were forgotten. Communication with doctors wasn't easy. Mom saw specialists who couldn't give answers. In among that, after 28 years, my husband moved out in June.
I was lucky. Without my shows, I was able to be there for Mom, helping her with meals (her diet was limited due to stomach problems) and other things. That is, when she would let me, being so driven to never be a burden on anyone. I drove her to her appointments, often having to wait in the car. There was a short amount of time when I could see the doctor with her. They thought they pinpointed what type of cancer and where all it spread. A treatment option was planned. It began in September. Once a week I ran her down the mountain, about a half hour drive, and sat four or five hours in the parking lot, hoping all was okay. She stressed about my wellbeing, so I started writing a murder mystery for my website while I waited to help her feel it was not a waste of time for me.
The October 22 appointment, things went wrong. They said it was a little hiccup and that she just needed to rest. I took her home, but stayed with her even when she insisted I needed to go home. I knew something wasn't right. Things went downhill fast. Within a week, after another hospital visit, hospice was called. I took her home because I knew that's what she wanted. I was her full time caregiver, and within another couple days the strong vibrant person who raised me could do little more than look at us, smile, and blink. November 9, her suffering ended. Both Dad and Mom gone before either reached 70 years. And the big bad virus had no direct hand in any of it.
As a family, we're dealing as best we can, all the paperwork and ugly taken care of. The house and property stays in the family with my daughter so the horses aren't homeless. I will still enjoy the orchard and views, a part of the property that inspired my writing and art as a child and still inspire it today. I have my daughters close, all three amazingly beautiful adults. And I have my son-in-law and two grandkids. We are grateful for what remains, but we are also sad for what is gone.
So here I am, starting anew in pretty much all ways. The murder mystery I began for October did get sidelined. I still haven't completely finished it, but I will. Just as I will finish writing the novels I have in my mind, just as I will paint, sketch and sculpt. It will all begin again, hopefully with the spring. When grief lessens its shadow over my muse.
I'm learning to be patient and gentle with myself as I rise up again. And hopefully this year will let us all rise up, take a deep breath, and carry on to our best lives.