It has been quite a few years since Mom and Dad joined Cowboy Church. Cowboy Church is ubiquitous all over the US, in rodeo arenas. I don't know when it really started, but I recall the one in Abilene, near our house. Arena functions were always going on during the weekend, and the parking lot would be lined with horse trailers. I went to church here with Mom and Dad a few times, and posted about it once or twice. Even though they have been unable to attend since Dad's auto accident in December and the steep continued decline since then, the pastor and members are faithful to visit and to pray for the family. The pastor came yesterday to the hospital, and Dad was in a lucid moment and could even accurately tell him what the doctor had said.
I think there is something about the simplicity of Cowboy Church (I am speaking of the one here, which is the only one I know from experience) that is appealing to many. Most of them are in simple tin pre-fab buildings, with simple furnishings and depend heavily upon the concept of relationship. Like any church, they are not perfect, and there are always issues with which to be dealt, but they are mostly common folk, working folk, and because they tend to draw people like my parents, people who have some pretty deeply rooted values about how things ought to be. Cowboys, ranchers, farmers, laborers. When things are good, they celebrate. When things are rough, they join together to help. It reminds me of the small rural communities in which my grandparents lived and that form a backbone of my idea of community and relationship.
Sis and I arose early, and she left for the hospital and I went out to feed. A gentle mist is everywhere, and slight sprinkle beginning. I decided to run on over to the church and check Bro's fuel gauge and Smart Reefer screen. (And yes, I think I am just liking to say "Smart Reefer" mostly). The diesel was running, all is well, and I sent a report to Bro. I stood there a few minutes, looking at the simple building, surrounded by the arena, a few industrial buildings, and listening to the quiet morning. The creak of Dad's windmill was the only other sound outside the diesel motor and my breathing. Time to slow down the whirlwind of things that occupy our minds and just appreciate the miraculousness of life, regardless of all the things we create to interfere with it.
Back at the house, I sat down to drink a cup of coffee. For a moment, I thought I needed to start the washing machine (still trying to catch up after days of things in turmoil since Thursday when Dad fell and no one being here long enough to do it) and realized that the laundry will be there in a minute, but this quiet moment to reflect would not. Writing often is my quiet reflection, a way of working out my thoughts and emotions. It has always been that way for me, from the time I was 8 and began to write, keep a diary or journal, and write fiction, poetry, and essays. As a young adolescent, I would slip into my closet with a shielded candle and write after everyone went to bed at night.
Dad fought wild dogs and looked for Tinka most of the night. They are weaning him off the morphine and have him on a pain medication that has caused hallucinations. The doctor said the pain management will be the most dangerous and difficult part in the next few months. Dad has seldom taken even an aspirin most of his life--partly due to a deep-rooted belief that one just toughs it out and gets on with it. In the midst of the excruciating pain Thursday in the Trauma Center, his comment was "Doug, it's pretty rough going."
Pretty rough going has been the norm around here the last year. November 9 marks the first year anniversary of the passing of Sis' husband from results, partly, of cancer caused by Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. He had not been gone long when Dad was in the accident, and then the Alzheimer's began, the aortal aneurysm, and the beginning decline. Up until the accident, Dad at 87 had still been lifting those sacks of horse feed and stacking them by himself--a task I cannot accomplish alone at many years younger. But then, Dad did that kind of work all his life.
As much meaning as my work has given me, and particularly in the last 10 years since I have been in Mississippi, I find immense meaning in what I am doing here in my family at the moment, and a part of me wishes I could be here all the time right now during the significant need. The steadiness of feeding and caring for animals and people who depend upon you, the steadiness of the day's routine from early morning til late night is comforting and healing. Sometimes, it makes the petty issues and struggles of some things recede into the background. There is an overwhelming desire to say "Just stop it!" to a lot of folks--at work, in Congress, in the corporations. I guess that is the good thing about a crisis: the dangerous opportunity to learn.