I have had a very difficult time writing since Sandy Hook. In fact I’ve hardly written at all. I feel terrible fear about being mentally ill in this country of ours where some law makers are proposing that lists of the mentally ill, even those of us who are not violent, should be given to our local law enforcement. Why are they even talking like that!? The privacy laws that protect us from anyone looking into our medical records are intact and all the drum beating about lists and guns is not going to change the law.
So, now, instead of writing something more about mental illness I’m going to talk about being in Wyoming with my old mother and my two sisters: it’s Mom’s 89th birthday and the three of us have gathered to help her celebrate. Our brother, Sandy, and his wife, came all the many many miles to southwestern Wyoming to visit our mother last week so now it’s just us girls and we love it!
Mom is not only turning 89 today but she is recovering from a horrible bout of shingles. The itchies attacked her head and one eye but she has bounced back, almost.
The eldest sister is Tina and she is playing backgammon with Mom. Glenn and I are sitting at the dining room table, our laptop’s open, the screens almost touching, back to back. We’re planning a feast for this evening.
There are 12 dogs in this crowd: Mom’s five, Tina’s three, Glenn has two but they’re not here, and my four. There are also two birds, Tina’s, an African Grey and a Green Cheek Conure who are sitting in their traveling cages. Tina has an intricate system for bringing her birds since they need cages that are large enough for them when they’re traveling. Here at Mom’s they stay on a counter in the kitchen that opens into the living room so we get to hear them talk. Kivu, the African Grey, talks proficiently and even conversationally. Amazing! It’s funny to hear Kivu call one of Tina’s dogs and the dog actually will come in and look around. Tina and Glenn just left for a walk and I heard Kivu say, “we’ll be back in a minute”!
It’s heart-achingly beautiful here. The Wyoming Range borders to the NW, the Wind River Range borders the E. A huge hayfield lies below Mom’s house while stepped hills slowly build up to the mountains. I remember when my son, Sander, was around three he told me he wanted to go to the purple mountains. We loaded up in the truck and drove up into the mountains. When we arrived and got out of the truck Sander burst into tears. “Why are you crying?” “Because it’s not purple!” Silly boy. He also loved ‘Harold and the Purple Crayon’. Now he’s 30 and I have no idea if he still loves purple. I’ll have to ask.
The air is clear and crisp. There will be snow on some of the mountains all summer long. We all step outside as darkness falls to look up at the billions of stars in the clear black sky. Coyotes howl at night and during the day there are huge flocks of red-winged blackbirds at my mother’s feeders; they fill the trees with wild bird conversation. I heard a Sandhill Crane this morning and stepped outside but couldn’t see it. Sometimes Great Blue Herons fly over this country giving their calls.
My mother’s home is a magical place. Our father passed a few years ago yet Mom insists on living here even if we all live far away. Tina is the closest and I’m sure she’d appreciate one of us being closer but it’s not to be.
As a family, we have hashed out many things around this table where I’m sitting, one of the more dramatic being that I had to be admitted into a hospital for my bipolar disorder. This table also heard the conversation surrounding my son, Calen, and when he had to go to the hospital for what we didn’t yet know was his schizoaffective disorder. Tears and laughter, quiet and yelling have all happened here. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for our family and what we have all gone through together.
Mom just got up from a nap and is feeding her dogs. I must feed mine next. Then cooking her birthday dinner needs to begin.