Publisher's note: Please join me in welcoming Author Michele Rhem, who presents us with her poignant memoirs of the Rabbit Patch, where her diaries weave tales of a simpler, expressive life lost to many, but gathered together in her most familiar environs -
the Rabbit Patch.
I did as I said I would . . . and went to bed earlier than usual on Sunday. The phone rang at an unlikely hour, and a sense of dread filled me, instantly. Mama was frantic and all I knew was, that something was wrong with daddy. By the time, I got there, an ambulance was in the yard.
It was a long night. Tests were run. Daddy had an infection and was running a very high temperature. It caused him to shake violently, which was deeply disturbing and downright fearful for Mama and I. Then his blood pressure dropped dangerously low and wouldn't budge. Daddy was admitted to the intensive care unit, around four am.
In a few days, Daddys' condition improved. Yesterday, he was moved to another floor, for recovery. His strength is greatly diminished and he still has a "Parkinsons like" condition to battle with. He is a different kind of warrior , these days. It is heartbreaking to watch him struggle as it must be for all children of ailing parents. Sometimes, I find myself remembering who he was and a sense of loss washes over me - and then I realise, he is every bit as gallant today as ever. His movement is slow and calculated. He speaks in a hush. Everything takes more effort, from the simplest of tasks, but he continues with that familiar determination. He has always been a quiet man, and gone about his business without commotion nor the need for fanfare.
I watch Mama tending to him and able to interrupt his needs with precision. Daddy watches her going and comings from room to room, with a look of sheer adoration. If she tarries too long, he inquires about her where abouts.
As a child, I took my parents relationship for granted. They toiled together, as one decade passed after another. A roof was over our heads and supper was always on the table. New winter coats and Sunday dresses and school shoes, birthday cakes and Easter baskets marked the seasons, til we had all grown and flown from our delightful nest, my parents had built in their youth. Mama pinched pennies and Daddy worked overtime and sadly, I never gave this a second thought. Now, every hour is magnified and stirs my heart, for they toil together now, still, with an admirable fortitude and devotion, more and more rare these days.
Everyday, I am humbled, watching the days unfold. To be the child of such a union, fills my heart with gratitude.
Daddy came home, one day-I think it was Wednesday. The confines of a hospital warp my senses. There is little difference between day and night, nor from one day to the next. I made it my business to walk outside each day, in an attempt to "steady the course". On top of that, it is Christmas and I feared it was the next day several times. I could not concentrate on gifts to be bought nor fancy dishes to concoct. I am sure that I work at a place, where grace abounds, for they only offer assistance and encouragement, when I call in. It is another blessing and not taken lightly.
Once Daddy was home, he improved by the moment. An old western replaced the political turmoil and mindless talk shows that were shown at the hospital, day and night. (I was glad that I had carried a good book.) Home cooked food and rest without interruption, are quite restorative for the spirit. . . so is a dog. "Casper", Daddys' snow white and naughty samoyed, was as glad to see Daddy home as the rest of us.
After a few days, when the "dust had settled" and a big pot of soup and pan fried apples were made , I left to go to Elizabeth City. Brant and Sydney were coming with little Ryan and so it was quite an occasion for us. We had all sorts of plans and all of them were good.
On Saturday morning, we somehow had breakfast, "dolled the children up" and headed downtown for a visit with Santa. . .before noon. Ryan could have cared less. He is a mild tempered child and very content. Brynn was unsure about the situation, for she is shy by nature . . . Lyla had a list with three items on it.
We went to a coffee shop afterwards. Since the bookstore was just across the street, I did a little Christmas shopping. Christmas is the only time of the year, that I like to shop. We keep the holiday simple and have never gone overboard, anyway. When my own children were little, they received three gifts each year. It was in sort, a commemoration of the visit of the magi. Extravagance spoils the spirit of Christmas for me. I can scarce expect Lyla to think a moment about the manger in a stable if there are toys galore scattered about the room-no more than I myself could. Whether it is Christmas or not, I do not want her happiness to depend on what she has in possessions, for that is quickly a very deep pit and produces a hollow life.
On Sunday, after breakfast, the children were changed into their matching Christmas pajamas, hair combed and set under the Christmas tree, like the precious gifts they are. Ryan could have cared less, Brynn was unsure and Lyla was on her best behavior . . .because of that list.
I made a pot of potato soup for lunch, at the request of Brant. I put in a very few carrots and a lot of mushrooms. The broth was a golden buttery concoction, thickened with heavy cream. Lyla and I made strawberry brownies after that, for Jenny and Sydney love them.
Before we knew it, Brant and Sydney were packing up for the trip home. I was fixing egg rolls for them and filling containers with the soup, brownies and macaroni and cheese, left from supper, the night before. I consoled myself, with the thought of seeing them next weekend for our Christmas gathering at Mama and Daddys'.
Now, I will make my journey back -over the three rivers , passing the winter trees and twinkling lights in the homes along the highway. The day is clear with a muted light, quite typical for December, in these parts. On the way home, I will go over my newest collection of memories. Brant dancing to Bing Crosby, with Brynn, Will promising baby Ryan that he will always be there for him, Sydney sitting with Ryan, by the fire-just the two of them-Lyla performing a dance to the Nutcracker Suite and Jenny . . . our sweet hostess, tying up every loose end, tending to the needs of others tirelessly . . . and standing with Ryan by the Christmas tree, every chance she got.