I do like Nebraska and the plains states. I don’t care much for those who don’t when they opt to despoil the countryside and roadways with their castaway bottles and assorted trash.
If there is one thing (among many) I want the kids to be, it is caring stewards of whatever is left of their environment. It is well and good to have a big picture view of smokestacks and global issues, but on a day in, day out basis it is up to them as individuals to care for their little corners of the world. Last week’s letter has a veiled reference to such social responsibility.
December 28, 2010
Ellen/Reid: It’s lucky that we were able to travel at all after Christmas. By sheer luck I asked a gate agent if there was room on a connector to Atlanta. There was, and she stuck me in first class no less. If I’d gone on to Cincinnati as I was perfectly comfortable doing, I would’ve met Ohio’s residency requirement by now. Although I walked in the door about 2:00 a.m., it beat sleeping in some airport or a fleabag hotel. Ellen, it was good you and Tim got to head west.
It was a good enough time in Grand Island. Got to spend a lot of time with your grandmother. The trips to see her were really snippets of time predicated on her ability to have guests; a half hour here, two hours there. She just seems in a much better spot, physically and mentally, then she would’ve been had she stayed in Omaha. But even so, she has slipped markedly. Her mobility has all but collapsed. Even last July she would zip around Lakeside. Now, it’s everything she can do to stand and mosey behind her walker. The tooth thing really threw her for a loop. Your uncle says he thought she might die from the infection. She cannot feed herself and, like your grandfather, she’s just not eating very much. All her food is minced almost to puree status. It’s hard to watch but she seems so even and happy.
Her memory is as you would expect. I think she has purposefully shied away from what happened this summer. She burst into tears several times as she criticized herself for forgetting her husband had passed away. She asked me several times if her brother, my uncle Henry, was still with us. I assured her he was but not a minute or two later she would ask me again. It is just the degenerative nature of her disease. It was humbling, and a little numbing, to watch her go through this although when you look at the other women at her care center, she is in much, much better shape. It is a hell of a thing to lose your mind. It was sad to know that for most of their lives, these women had been wives and mothers and lived active, involved existences. Now, they are simply running out the string. Your uncle thinks that mom might have a year or so. It’s not for me to hazard a guess.
The rest of the time was fine, too. I tried to be a good guest. I made my bed and said the food was good. The high points, beyond having some time with your uncle, were my walks in the country. A quarter mile from their house and you’re in the sticks. I really liked that. There’s something about walking along a gravel road. There was no noise beyond the wind whipping through cedars and the incessant tooting of the mile-long Union Pacific coal trains not far to the north. Trains trudging east are laden with Wyoming coal, those headed west are empty and moving fast. I watched for deer and wildlife and came across a field where, not 25 yards from me, were at least 100 wild turkeys foraging on spilt corn. Because this part of Nebraska is in the Platte River flyway, there were lots of “V” formations of thousands of honking geese and ducks. These are the wild birds, not the semi-tame Canadians that live year-round on golf courses and shit on the fairways. A couple of times I walked into the adjacent corn fields trying to kick up a pheasant (unsuccessfully) in the weeds along the fencerows. The only downer were dozens of plastic bottles and containers tossed aside by half-wit rural bozos. I half-threatened to take a garbage bag with me to clean up their recyclable mess. I wished, too, I’d been about 30 miles due north where the Sand Hills begin. Now that would be a walk on the wild side. When I was much younger and in running shape, I gave some serious thought about running the length of the state from southeast to northwest. It would be a wonderful walk now. The Sand Hills are special to me.
This morning I am in the office. It is nearly barren of people and I’m trying to get some work done in relative peace. Nice not to get inundated with endless piles of e-mail. That can wait until next week. And thanks for the incredible calendar. It will replace the golf version on my cube wall.