The Little Things

When you are 105 years old, it's the little things that get to you.

Emmaline never knew her father.  Her mother and grandfather raised her and her sister until Emmy was 8 and her mother married.  Their new father told them he was taking them all to a new town far from their South Carolina home.  Life would be better, he promised.

But it wasn't. Emmy and her sister, Sarah, never got to return to school. Instead they had to work- first in the fields and later, when they were older, as housekeepers.

Emmaline and Sarah were living in servants quarters, out of their mother's home, by the time Emmy was 14. 

Emmaline doesn't tell me this because she feels sorry for herself.  She worked hard because that was all she knew and she was good at cleaning. Doing a good job mattered. She was proud of her work.

Emmy's husband was a porter for a local department store.  Porters unloaded the crates of goods as they came in.  They starched and ironed the new clothes and linens before setting them out on the display floor.  Benny was good at his job, too.

Emmaline still talks about her last job as a school housekeeper, about how the principal always called her Miss Emmaline and treated her with respect.  "He told me I was the best one out of the three of us," she confides.

When Emmy smiles, I see the sweet, shy, little girl she must have once been.  Her wiry gray hair is pulled back in a ponytail.  The collar of her floral sprigged dress lies flat and neat against her schoolgirl cardigan.

I have been sent to see about her because her nurse and the aides on her hallway say she is spiteful and mean, that she lies and picks fights and is forever driving off roommates.

The nurse wrinkles her nose, shaking her head as she describes this torn-down terror who awaits my visit.  "You can't do nothing with her," the nurse scoffs. "She's just mean! She hit her aid yesterday.  All the girl did was go in to take her to the showers and she hauled off and whopped her! She may be 105 but she's got some strength in her."

I am always secretly happy to hear this. There's still fight left in my new patient. Perhaps I will always be an old hippy, marching on Washington, shouting "Up the Revolution!" or whatever it was we used to say...I digress.

The final straw resulting in Emmy's referral for a psychological evaluation is her apparent fixation with the curtain that divides her half of the room from her roommate's.

You probably already know why Emmaline was so put out but I'll tell you what she said anyway.

"It ain't nothin' but aggravation," she sniffed. "Look at that curtain. It ain't nothin' but wrinkles. At night they come in to change me and cut on the light.  All I see is them wrinkles. I think 'Oh, Lord, what must they think of me with these wrinkles?"  She looks across the room to the privacy curtain hanging around her roommate's far wall.  "Look at that.   They ain't no wrinkles in it. They just give me this old wrinkled one for spite. I'm 105 years old, been here nine years, don't got no family left and they don't think no better of me than that."

It takes three weeks to get her a new set of curtains. Three weeks of wheedling, coaxing, begging and story-telling.

That was two weeks ago. This week I come in and the nurse practically snarls at me.  "Well, that didn't do no good. She tried to hit her aide this morning.  Said her tray wasn't right! I tell you, she's just mean!"

When I walk in the room, Emmaline tells me I might not be able to stay. The maid is starting to mop the floor and I'll be in the way.  I stoop down beside her chair and tell Emmy I won't stay if I'm in the way but "I'm right good at scooting out of the way, Miss Emmaline. Besides, I hear you haven't been having such a good day and I just wanted to stop by and see how you are."

The first tear spills over her eyelid, her lower lip trembles and in her soft voice, Emmaline cries "I'm 105 years old and when that girl brings in the breakfast tray she just cut on the lights and puts the tray down like she hates me. She knows I need my milk and water close to me. When I'm up in a chair I can reach it, but when it's morning and I'm in the bed, I can't."

Emmaline stretches her arm out to show me and I realize she can't even extend her arm fully. She must shift her entire body as she moves in order to swing her poor arm toward the tray.

"Then she come to wash me and she cut off the heat cause she be hot, but she don't ask me how I am. She put that rag on me and sometimes she ain't careful how she handle me. She don't mean to be rough but she spills the water down on the pad under me and then she put my clothes on me while I'm lying down."

"So your clothes get wet and you're cold too," I murmur, laying my hand on her arm.

"I don't want to be no trouble," she says, her voice broken by hiccupping sobs.  "I know what they say about me. They say I'm cantankerous. I'm old and mean but really, I'm not a mean person. But what am I supposed to do? I can't be a doormat. They don't never ask you do you want to take a bath or do you want to turn the heat off."  Emmy's face crumples as she gives in to the wave of sadness she's been feeling all day.  "I'm a hundred and five years old and I just want the Lord to go on and take me! All my people are gone. I only got one friend from the church to look after me and now she got her daughter coming and she's working at the First Citizen's Bank. She don't got the time...I just want the Lord to let me go home!"

I stay there, patting her arm until the sobs subside. The next thing she mentions the aides don't have time to do, I do.  I pour mouthwash from the big economy sized bottle into the small, Emmy-sized bottle and carefully put everything I touch back in its place. I feel utterly useless.

When you are 105 years old, it's the little things that matter.


The Weekend Wasn't All Poo This Weekend



I did see more than poop this weekend. This house sits atop a hill off Prillaman Switch Road and while I pass it on my way to and from the cabin, I'd never stopped to take a picture until today.


It's for sale. The ad I saw online said "beautiful home with great view!"  While I agree it's a great view, I do think this house is more of a fixer-upper.  But I do love it.



Before I left the cabin, I strolled down along the pond. It was even colder today and the top of the water is frozen over.



I walked over to the old cabin and snapped a picture of the view from the porch.


It's part of the reason I use to justify my belief that the cabin is worth saving.


It's not much to look at now...but with a little bit of work, it could be a lovely guest cottage.

This would be the spa bath...A big clawfoot tub would overlook that view of the woods above.


And we'd need to re-wire...


But what a view...



Okay, so maybe it's only in my imagination.



Alright, Now Who Did This?!


So, I'm out walking across the lane, along the path leading up toward the mountain top when I started coming across some animal tracks.  In light of the scat attack out by the woodpile, I thought this might bring further enlightenment to the quest for certainty.

But the more tracks I followed, the more I found. And they were right large.


So, if any of you out there have any idea what any of these are, please let me know! I'm beginning to think Big Foot is hosting an animal convention outside.







This was the first one I found and I was just sure it was Coyote, but after looking at charts, pictures and graphs online I now think bobcat looks very much like coyote. In fact, they're all beginning to run together!




The Things We Do...


He's a sweet boy, really he is.  And now that he's a senior citizen, he's downright civilized. 

If this is true, why then do I feel the need to periodically take him out onto the sun porch and do this to him?



Wish You Were Here...or Hairy Wasn't



If you'd been here a few moments ago, the scent of roasting chicken would've infused the warm cabin kitchen when you stepped across the threshold.

I would've said, "Oh, good! You're just in time for supper!" And insisted you stay to eat.

As you warmed your hands in front of the toasty wood stove, you'd look around and see the dog sleeping on the ottoman by my chair and think, all is truly well with the world tonight.


If you'd been here tonight you, too, could've heard the loud ker-thunking sound outside my kitchen window as the Visitor from Last Night returned!

Once again the Hairy Pooper eluded my attempts to capture him with the scant blade of yellow light my flashlight provided. But don't worry- tomorrow's another day.  Perhaps more fuzzy poo-poos await our morning trip to the woodpile.

Shoot! The fire's low and I need another log...Hope Hairy didn't smell the chicken...

Who Scat That?



Pardon the graphic detail but inquiring minds just have to know...who scat that?

It's frigid here in my neck of southwest Virginia but thanks to a killer woodstove, the dog and I are right cozy.  We haven't ventured out much and reserve our trips for tooling around to the side of the house to grab another load of wood for the fire.

In fact, so hurried were our trips in this below zero windchill, we weren't entirely careful about how we grabbed the logs or whether or not we rearranged the pile in perfect balance.

So last night when it sounded like all hell was breaking loose outside by the woodpile, Maggie and I barely looked up from our warm nest in the overstuffed armchair.  I figured a few logs had come tumbling down, knocking against the side of the house as they fell.

Maggie, who'd already been fooled one too many times into barking at crackling wood in the stove, merely lifted her head, pricked her ears half-heartedly and then fell back asleep.

This morning, when she finally convinced me to take her out for a quick explore, we found the above pictured pile of hairy poop.

There are entire websites devoted to the identification of animal leavings and some even invite the curious to send in their photos, so of course I did.  I'm thinking it looks like coyote but we'll see what the experts at the University of Poop have to say when they write back.

Until then, I'm wishing I had one of those motion-activated trail cameras with an infrared flash so I could catch the little feller in the act.

It is a little creepy to think something that leaves a calling card like the one pictured could've been lurking just outside the circle of light surrounding the house, waiting for his golden moment, while I had my back to him and was innocently gathering wood for the fire.  Makes me kind of feel like Little Red Riding Hood skipping off to Grandma's...

What poop by yonder kitchen window drops...

sorry, couldn't help myself!


Reality Check



It's back to school and work for those of us who've been off on holiday break for the past almost-two weeks. 


Holidays and vacations are like living in an alternate reality- your perception of time changes, you stay up late, wake up late and eat crazy foods that at all other times of the year are forbidden.


Days are filled with games, wanderings, weird cleaning and organizing fits.







Lights and decorations come down from the attic, go up everywhere and then get repackaged and re-attic-ed- usually accompanied by a lot of grumbling and under-the-breath comments.


Today's return to harsh reality is suitably accompanied by fog and rain- mourning weather. I will miss the cocoon of family and warm, snuggly throws.