In the north, the trees were beginning to take on the same pale gold as the faded corn that stood beneath their leaves. Down south in the region known locally as "Kentuckiana," farmlands full of cows and old, yellow soy with its dark, brittle edges rested upon stone bluffs that had escaped the pressing and scraping of glaciers. It was here, across the broad brown Ohio River, that my MawMaw rested in the cardiac care unit.
Though her perm had faded and the hospital gown was definitely not in her preferred blue, she persisted in wearing her favorite shade of bright pink lipstick. She had dozed off, but she snapped to when we entered; she seemed a little smaller than I remembered her being, but the fuss about lying down in a bed was quite the same as ever. She did not break her leg after all, though the source of her extreme discomfort remained unknown. She was not in a mood to listen to anyone, and stubbornly insisted that we could not understand the pain she was in, that she had seventy-seven years of perfect health, and the Good Lord would take her when He wanted her to go.
She had been switched to different medication to control her irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure, and since these did not make her feel ill, she chose to take them. This was all she would do, however. Whenever the more long-term solution of a pacemaker was brought up, an old fear of surgery echoed in her soul, and she returned to blind religious fatalism, relying upon the Good Lord and his Good Timing. A nurse pointed out that she was a Good Christian Woman too, and the Good Lord had put doctors on this Good Earth, so what was the problem? There was no problem, my MawMaw said, she just wasn't going to do it.
We found fliers for her, we tried to explain that medical procedures today are a far cry from what they were twenty or thirty years ago. A pacemaker was almost nothing nowadays, it was not even the size of her medicine cup, it was outpatient, there was almost zero invasiveness involved, no ether. They used intravenous drugs to knock you out. It seemed we were making no headway, but when asked what she would do if the doctors told her that she could either die tomorrow or have a pacemaker put in and live twenty years more, she seemed to hesitate for just a moment before invoking the Good Lord once again. I got the impression that she wanted to live, but she did not know how, or that perhaps pride prevented her from going back on her previous decision.
I do not know when the end will come. She is stubborn, so she may tick on for years more without a pacemaker ... or her stubbornness may cause her to die. All we can do is attempt to improve life for her in the ways that she will permit.
I debated long and hard whether or not to bring my camera. Was this the right time? Would I kick myself if I did not bring it? What if this is the end?
Favorites: hoosier06.jpg, hoosier09.jpg, hoosier10.jpg. In all, I took 150 pictures, but only 10 passed the initial cut. What attracted me to hoosier01.jpg was not the demise of the passenger railroad, but actually the way the sunrise was reflecting in the one window. For being taken through the thick pane of an Amtrak train by someone who had been awake for far too long, it is not too horribly lousy. hoosier05.jpg reminds me of spaghetti.
The "hoosier" in the filenames is actually a misnomer, as at least half of these were shot in the state of Kentucky. In order to be a Hoosier, you must have been born or currently reside in the state of Indiana (the birth qualification must be the preferred one, as I have never heard someone who came from elsewhere voluntarily use the term). Ketchup must either flow through your veins or be your most commonly requested condiment. My low tolerance for the scent of tobacco smoke seems indicate that I was always destined for a different state.
hoosier09.jpg is one of my favorite sandstone formations down on the Ohio's banks. Sometimes she seems a lion to me, and sometimes an old, old lady ... but there's no reason why she can't be both at once. She ages in reverse; rain washes her wrinkles down her face, turning them back into the sand she formed herself from. Someday, she will be gone, and she will start anew, somewhere else, wherever her pieces are.
Geology has always fascinated me. The reason I never pursued the profession is similar to why I dropped all plans to become a meteorologist: I preferred to wonder. I found that mathematical calculations, while intriguing, held no candle to stories of history, and indeed removed a little of nature's magic for me. I chose then, and still do, to wax on about my emotional draw to land and forces that I would never be able to survive.
It turned out to be the right decision to bring my camera with me, for an incredibly rare sighting of my Uncle Robert occurred. He fled the hospital before we arrived on Friday, and made no appearance on Saturday. On Sunday, my mother had just about given up getting into contact with him, and I approached his house while she taped a note to the door. Without warning, it opened, and he peered out at us.
- With MawMaw. Despite being in the hospital, MawMaw looks better than I do. Thanks to a night of sleep snatched on a couch, I appear mostly conscious. After attempting to snooze on the train and in the car, that too-short loveseat was heaven.
- With Uncle Robert. It will probably be years before we see him again!
- With my Mother. That's 1937, not 1987. The next major flood was in 1993, I think.
- With Paul. This is why we're related.
- How do I get close up photos? I look like a dork, of course.
- Day three without a shower ... ugh, I'm so unbearably slimy!
I began to reflect once again on when I really decided to leave Soy Capital. When I was younger, I never imagined leaving. I was incapable of seeing myself in anything other than the immediate present, though I often held onto memories and grudges others had long forgotten. I found the age of twenty-three impossible to envision, and living outside the Midwest was only a vague dream, about as likely as me ascending to the throne of England. Sometimes it seemed I would always stay the way I was, where I was.
In high school, I developed a driving desire to be "elsewhere." This came to a peak when I attended the National Young Leaders Conference in Washington D.C. I will never forget the horrible humidity, or the intense physical discomfort I experienced while standing before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the August sunshine while wearing a smart but smothering black dress. As the guard kept to his twenty-one steps with amazing precision, sweat rolled so slowly, so annoyingly slowly down my back and between my breasts. Yet neither that nor the news of the abysmally high murder rate in our nation's capital daunted my newfound love for the East Coast. I found the rolling countryside gorgeous, the architecture captivating.
I knew I wanted to come back, though the where and when of it was still vague. I realized that I wanted to live somewhere different. I wanted to experience something new, to see something other than the flat yards I had grown up in and the flat fields I had seen so often.