The Challenge

Once again, I feel challenged to put something out here, since “tinaoffthegrid.com” is renewed.  It was not available for a while, and I felt cheated, somehow, as though this might be the only place I am free to express.  However, looking back, I realize that I really do not have that much to say.  Why should I be so miffed to lose this spot in the ethers?  Is it not enough to wake up every morning?  What is the push to see my own thoughts on a page that can disappear as easily as a dream does in the early dawn when awakening from a deep sleep?  Do I feel so unimportant in my life that I need to put myself out here in search of reinforcement?  Am I so needy?  I must be.  Why else would my heart start upon seeing, just now, that I again have access to this site?

The summer came and went.  The seeds I planted came up and I had/have an overabundance of yellow squash, zucchini, and tomatoes.  I canned some of the green beans.  I ate a few meals consisting of only green beans, and now am letting the pods dry on the vine.  Canning is something I have let go doing, since the last bit I did, I did incorrectly, discovering a whole quart of tomatoes floating in the canning pot.  Before that happened, I managed to successfully can some whole tomatoes.  I feel like a failure this year, as far as being a gardener goes.  However, I will harvest the seeds for next year, one of these days, when I lose my aversion to ticks.  Before, I was not paranoid of ticks.  Today, I am taking an antibiotic to ward off the bacteria from tick bites, hoping it does not embed.  I have witnessed what the Lyme’s disease can do to a person.  Thus, it has been weeks since I have worked in the garden of weeds.  The tractor sits there, waiting for me to use it, but I am not strong enough to put the brush hog implement onto the back of it.  If I were, I would brush hog the overgrowth, till the soil, and plant the garlic.

A good thing happened though, at the end of August.  My son showed up for a visit, and he brought with him a few friends.  Their youthful energy took over my home.  My son lives in Wisconsin, so when he comes, it is cause for a celebration.  He came to town primarily to play music with his friend, Josh Harty, at the Roots Festival in Fayetteville.  Jennie, with whom Chris lives, came too, and Jess travels with Josh.  I meant to go to Fayetteville to hear them, meet up with them, and hang out with the girls while Chris and Josh played.  However, I expended so much energy cleaning house, I was too tired to make the long drive to town.  I begged off and looked for their arrival the next chance they might be free.

They finally came in about dusk, that last Sunday in August, after spending a few hours at a swimming hole on the way here.  I had food ready, so we ate, visited.  Outside the cabin, they built a fire in the small fire pit I built several years back, which I rarely use.  We sat around it, the boys taking turns playing their guitars and singing their songs.  Their individual songs, happy for the company, moved me.  At one point, about 10:30 P.M., the sound of a vehicle on our road came through the trees.  “Maybe that is Pope coming.  Maybe he will stop by.”  I said, yes, maybe.  He knows you are going to be here.  Chris believed Pope would come by.  I was a little skeptical, since Pope is gone most of a Sunday visiting an old friend, and when he comes home, usually around this time, he just goes home.  I was surprised to hear the vehicle pull up in my drive, and watched Chris walk out to meet him.  Several minutes passed, and I wondered aloud, “What is taking them so long?  Why don’t they just come on?”  At that moment, as I looked up, I saw not Pope, but my daughter, Eya.  My jaw fell open with complete amazement!  Eya, here, on her own, in a vehicle!  She drove from Austin to Arkansas, something she has not done in many years!  We hugged tightly, her face beaming with delight at my facial expression.  Sitting down, I realized the last time the three of us were here at my home together was back in 2000, when Chris graduated from Deer High School.

The kids talked about how difficult it was to keep the secret from me that Eya was on her way, particularly when they first arrived.  I was intent on sharing with them the book Eya created, full of photos of her wedding to Matthew in October 2011.  Now, here she was!  She had her ukulele with her.  She played and sang her own songs.  I got out my camera and took photos.  Chris fed the fire.  Jennie held her cat, Olive, who travels with them.  Jess and Josh sat quietly, enjoying the evening, as far as I could tell.

We agreed, around midnight, that we all needed to get some sleep.  Eya took the couch, Jess and Josh put their air mattresses on the floor, and Chris and Jennie got the extra bed upstairs.  I fell asleep so full of joy to have a full house, my kids home with me for a while.

The next day, Chris initiated the chore of repairing my dilapidated windows, which needed re-glazing.  I have sixteen of them, each with six panes of glass, on one side of the house.  The last few years during winter, as I spent much of my time trying to keep the cabin warm, I mused on how I would ever get the windows re-sealed.  Now, thanks to these people, it was happening!  They worked most of the afternoon and finished by four o’clock.  Chris and Jennie had to pack up and get back on the road to Wisconsin.  They left around five.  Josh and Jess had no need to leave, so they stayed.  Eya planned to go back to Fayetteville the next day, and I had to get up early to get to my job.  Jess made dinner that evening, and Pope came by.  He looked at Eya with a grin and said, “What made you come, guilt?”  Her back was to me, but I saw her nod affirmatively.  Smiling?

The next morning I went to work, finished the assignment in record time, and raced back home, hoping to spend some quality time with my daughter.  When I got back, Josh was up on my roof, cleaning my chimney, and Eya and Jess were down below, watching, standing by to assist with whatever he might need.  I changed out of my office work clothes and went outside, as well.  Josh finished the job and Eya and Jess dumped two buckets full of soot out in the forest.  I was elated to know I could light a fire when the chilly weather comes, free of fear of a flue fire.  I could not thank him enough, but I tried.

Jess and Josh packed up their things and we said our goodbyes.  They were heading to Georgia to spend a few days with her family before getting on a flight to Switzerland from whence they would begin their tour of Europe, Josh performing and Jess along as helpmate and companion.

Eya was also packing up, although she did not have much to gather.  She asked me, “Is there anything you would like me to take out of your house, to help eliminate some of the clutter?”  I balked.  My house was looking good, but not in her estimation.  She said, “I can see you’ve been trying to work on your house.  I wish you would just leave for a little while and let me fix it!  You would be so much happier!”  I felt my defenses rising.  Why did she assume I am not happy?  She was ready to leave.  After hugging her, she left saying, “I’m going to stop by Pope’s and say hello, and see what he’s done to his place.”  Watch out, I said.  You will get hung up there.  “I know how to extricate myself from him,” was her response.  She did not look back.  I was suddenly quite sad, feeling betrayed that she would go spend time with Pope while I was here, ready to have some time alone with her.  It seemed as though she could not leave fast enough.

I spent the next hour giving my dog a bath.  He had seed ticks; bathing him was a difficult job, although he was good about it.  Once done, I called Pope on the phone.  He answered.  I asked, “Is Eya still there?”  Yes, he answered.  “I am pissed!” I said, and hung up.  I fumed for the next two hours.  Then I called Eya.  She was in five o’clock traffic, in Fayetteville.  My temper got the better of me, and I ended up yelling at her about how I could see her only interest in me is to change me, and that she should just forget about ever coming back to visit me.  Have a great life, I said.  I hung up.  I trembled with bitterness, and later, wept at my lack of self-restraint.

When I tried to call her, the phone went straight to voicemail.  That is it, I realized.  I completely alienated my daughter, and now I would never have to fear her criticism or judgment.  In fact, I probably would not see her again, ever, which, in some ways, might be a blessing for the both of us!  I never heard her express approval for the life I live.  I could not meet her standards.  I made every blunder possible in the raising of her, and her anger with me was not something she let go.  I spent the next several days fathoming how my future looked.  No relationship with my beloved Eya, both of us freed from any sort of obligation.  I hoped she might see it thus.

I remembered how once I asked my own mother to set me free from any obligation to be in touch, for just a few years, so I could see how it felt.  My words made her cry.  Now I felt my insensitivity and selfishness coming back on me.  So it goes.  “The sins of the father..”  I thought about how this seemed to be something that happens in our family.  Daughters lose the bond with their mothers.  When my mother’s mother died, my mother went about saying, “I just don’t know how I feel!”  She went to the funeral, and that was it.  I decided that this might be a good thing.  Eya could let go any need to feel responsible for me.  She could release feeling guilt.  She could make her decisions in her own life without considering me.  Good.

The same would go for me.  I could decide to better my life as I can, without worrying about meeting anyone else’s expectations or standards.  I could decide how I live and even, perhaps, how I die.

It is no wonder I am so alone.  If I call another selfish, it is because I very much know the meaning of the word.  The challenge is not judging me or anyone else for so being.  We have only ourselves.  There is no other truly responsible for us.  We each have to decide how we approach our living and our dying.  Some are carefree, or so they seem.  Some live without rules.  They make their own way and learn to love their own choices.  Some see only the external appearance of things, and some, as I, cannot imagine how they wish to live, and are lost in their own muddled thinking, if one can call it that.  In the end, it really does not matter.  Joy happens in ones heart for a little while, and then a day comes when it is less and less with you.  Time passes, and we ride the wave of time, mostly blind, sometimes afraid, and sometimes empty of feeling.  Then the weather changes and we respond, maybe, if we still have any spirit left in our bones.

The weather is changing.  I know I have loved, and I know I have also succumbed to the perversion of anger.  I cannot do both at the same time.  The challenge is being in this moment free of any of it, those emotions that happen because of “thoughts.”  When my body starts to decline, such as I experience these days, I wonder at this challenge to create my life with my thoughts.  Can I really create my own health, my well-being?  Can I really wake up in the morning and feel free, know my blessings?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  Whatever happens, being here is a challenge, for everyone.  I notice the weather is changing.  Here comes the fall.

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