Learning To Love You More




Assignment #14
Write your life story in less than a day.

Ohio, USA



Although I choose not to divulge my real name, just know that what I tell you is absolutely true. Just for today, you can call me Anne Onymous; I would never harm my family by a few of the things that they don't know. My life has had more twists and turns than an English maze, and more ups and downs than an Otis Elevator. What a long strange trip it's been...
I was born the 14th of July, nineteen forty-nine; my brother, Ned, was born three years earlier. We were the children of poor rural dairy farmers who have farmed this land since the early 1870's. I continue to farm this today.
For my first few years, I did not get to see my parents much. They were always toiling in the barns or fields; always hard at work. My paternal grandmother lived on the other side of our two-family farm house with my great Aunt, Grandma's sister, Mattie, who was mentally challenged and was permanently stuck in the year she turned 12. Grandma and her sister took care of me daily while my parents tried to earn their living. Days started early and lasted until long after dark, and no day was done until our stock had their needs met first.
I do not remember much before the age of five, just that I was not afraid of any of the animals...even when I should have been. As I grew and watched, I could not wait until I could help them. Everyone worked together; many hands make light work, as Aunt Matty used to say. She may have been slow, but she always had a bible verse, or a quote memorized to chime in with.
When it was time for me to go to Kindergarten, I would not be able to go. My parents did not have the five dollar fee for me to get my sleeping mat, and extras. This made me very sad, for there were no other children close by. It is hard not to have playmates, and prolonging my entry into school felt painful. Another year alone.
All was not totally lost, that was the year that my father won a horse on a bet! A friend of his who raced horses at Thistledown Racetrack was going to put down this fine animal. Dad wrangled, and we got to keep the horse on our farm while we tried to heal this horses hooves. If he was successful, we could keep the race horse. This was the start of my lifelong love affair with horses; it was also the start of Anne breaking horses, over horses breaking Anne. This horse became my friend, my liberation, my substitute for real friends. Although, when you think about it, it was probably the best friend I could have had at the time. I was extremely shy from not knowing others, with the exception of my elders.
Grade school was an awakening. I did not know that other children could be so cruel. When you are poor, you do not think you are poor; it takes other peoples comments and jokes to make you realize it. I did not care that my family had little money, for we were richer than most by the standards of love alone. We grew with values, integrity, love, forgiveness, and understanding; and we learned that society was was growing too, but sadly, the growth seemed away from the values that we grew up to treasure.
Fourth grade brought unsettling surprises for me. It was the year that a cousin I had never met got kicked out of the city he lived in. My parents were asked to take him in and give him guidance and a dose of real life without gangs. In the 50's I was very naive, I did not know what gangs or gang members were, and did not know that I should beware; I know now that I should have!
Junior high? That was the year I earned the nickname 'horsey Annie' on the bus. My brother, they simply called: 'moooooo', like the bellowing of a calf. Although dairy barns are notorious for their odor, we showered after the morning chores before heading off to school. I learned that it wasn't only children in grade school who were cruel!
The year I entered high school, my cousin left for the service. I prayed they would make him change for the better; and I prayed he would never come to our peaceful little town again. High school was actually refreshing after that, and I had a lot of great friends. I was on lots of committees for our church, did extra curricular activities. It was a busy, busy, busy time. I'd get up at 5:30am, milk and feed cows, shower, and catch the bus. After school, it was: come home, change clothes, clean the barns, do field work, eat supper, milk the cows, study, shower and go to bed. During this time, I also had four years of voice lessons, and organ lessons and did solos and sermonettes at our local church.
After high school, I entered nursing school. This was the career that my family chose for me. Did I have a choice you ask? The answer is no. I protested that I wanted a business major; but, the elders didn't think I'd do well at that. "After all, once a woman gets married, she usually gives up her career," they reasoned, nursing knowledge will help you forever; there was no argument. So, that summer after graduation, I got a full-time job as a shipping clerk to earn money for a car, and for nursing school. After work, it was back to, well...some more work. Lazy days are far and few between on a farm.
I worked first at hospitals as an LPN, gaining as much knowledge as I could, and in five years, when I hit the top of my pay scale there, I became a Charge Nurse at a nursing home. I fit there well, as I love and respect all elders whether they're mine or not. I was offerred a full-paid scholarship to become a hospital Administrator: the very type of job that I had been told I would not be smart enough for by my family. I was very flattered, but I declined...when your family says you're not that smart, you lose faith in yourself and abilities. It was many years before I realized that hey, maybe I WAS indeed that smart, but it was too late for the offer by then.
I had to take a hiatus to help run the farm and milk cows when my father lost his arm in a corn picker accident. That was one horrible summer. The community gathered to try to help my mother and I with the milking and other chores. It was difficult for us and for our volunteer helpers. Not everyone knows that cows get used to their keepers, and will hold their milk when they get tensed. Now we had less money too as the milk production rates kept going down. Hospital bills were enormous and he had not been able to afford insurance. The hardest part was his depression and frustration. It's not easy to drive a cattle truck and shift with only one hand. Everything had to be learned anew, only now he had to do it left-handed. I became his comic foil, trying to keep his moods up; the hardest thing for me was watching him silently cry.
A few years later, at twenty-five, I married. Life was going along much better. Lots of happy days, others pain and miseries subsided. It looked like I was going to get my own little life after all. I still helped at the farm after work, or made emergency calls to help with the vet or crops and things.
My father and I then started a trail ride club called the 'over the hill gang'. Everyone, with the exception of me, was over 55. Most of them were much older than that! Everyone trailered their horses to our farm, and we'd all take off for the day. My job was leader. I rode ahead, trimmed grapevines and moved trees in our paths. I opened gates and went racing after cowboy hats that had blown off in the wind. I think I got to be leader because I was the only one young enough who didn't need a boost up into the saddle. It was just easier that way; but, I didn't mind.
My mother had just been diagnosed that year with Scleroderma. The old-timers used to say they always called it 'the disease that turns your body to stone.' It was very hard to watch her change and get weaker every day. I took over most of her duties on the farm as much as I could. That Christmas, we all decided to send Mom and Dad to Florida with my dearest Aunt and Uncle. My Aunt was an RN, and would be able to handle her care. How could we say no, it was her lifelong dream to go to Florida. The relatives there were ready and waiting.
Mother took a turn for the worse while on her coveted vacation and was admitted to the hospital. I felt terribly guilty for not being able to fly down there. Someone had to take care of all those cows, and our five horses. Alone in the barn day after her admission, the telephone rang. It was my gynecologist...I was pregnant with our first child. Happily, I grabbed my muck rake, and started cleaning horse stalls, thinking of baby names, and happier days. I could not wait to tell my Mother, she would be SO happy.
One of the horses had a nerve problem and fell down while I was working and all four stall partitions were knocked down with the horse. Horses were trapped like dominoes between the timber. I worked feverishly to free them, while trying to be ever so careful not to get hurt. They were rearing and throwing their bodies. I was really frightened to have to deal with this alone, and threw up a prayer for my safety. It was difficult to say the least, but I did not get harmed. I turned the animals out into the pasture to let them buck it out of their system and went to rest on a bale of hay. The phone rang again. I was thankful that it hadn't rang while I was busy; but, my thankfullness would be short lived...my mother had just passed.
My husband and I raised our two girls. They both loved animals, and especially the horses. Life was good, but still very busy. It was too hard to drive to Dad's farm twice a day for milking and such. So, he devised a plan where we would rent our herd to the local Amish in another town, not far away. We trucked them back and forth for quite a few years...just believe me when I say, there's a whole lot of tales there!
As my Father grew older, I continued helping. My families prophecy was right on...I would have to forsake my career at sometime in my life. I had my own nursing career right on the farm; we took care of our own. I had been 'nursing' since my Grandma's first stroke when I was nine...and being a child born to older parents, there were a lot of older relatives that needed care over the years.
Dad developed diabetes, had open heart surgery, and many, many ailments. He married for a second time to a woman who had no basic understanding of farms. Let's just say that I've never seen anyone chase cows in a pegnoir before. I'm not sure if it scared me or the cows more!
Three years after they were married, the farmhouse got hit by lightning and burnt to the ground. He was out of town, and our town's fire chief. When I found out the homestead was on fire, I had already had two sets of firemen drop their kids off for me to watch until they were done. It was the only time I had to find a babysitter for the babysitter. I could see flames from three miles away.
Two years before my Father passed, my first husband and I divorced. I still helped on the farm and did what I could. I had no money, no alimony and no food. No roof over my head to call my own. My Father was very ill, I could not tell him I was having my own problems. I could not get food stamps because I had a nursing license; and I could not reactivate my license until I went back to college to refresh on all the new meds and proceedures. Door after door was closed to me. I finally got a job at a bar cooking for two dollars an hour. (This was only in 1995!) It was extremely rough. I can make you a great salad, though, from natures bounty, and you won't get poisoned. Hunger makes you creative!
I had a truck and a car, both badly in need of repair. I then had a job working with a child psychologist as a receptionist. The Doc used to watch me every evening in the parking lot, snow blowing like crazy, with the hood up. One thing about growing up on a farm is that you can repair your own vehicles, or at least keep them going till you get home. Farming teaches you a lot of things that the average person doesn't have reason to learn.
During the same period of time, my Father's sister had become ill. She invited me to come and live with her so that she wouldn't have to go to assisted living. She lived next door to our family farm; she had grown up there too, and had married a neighbor in the 40's. Life was finally mellowing out for a while.
When I moved, I took a job with our local Visiting Nurse and made house calls. At times, my Father and Aunt would be in two different hospitals at the same time. My Father got sicker and sicker. During his last hospital stay, my supervisor would let me go across to the hospital to see my Dad before starting out on my hospice and care calls. They couldn't remove him from the ER for four days; there were too many machines to move with him, and he was too fragile. My step mother wouldn't let him 'go', so they hooked him up to dialysis. He was brain dead, and didn't know any of us. How I summoned up the courage to see this and then be a beacon of hope for others and their families in their own dying, I will never know. Just proves that when you pray to God for strength, he will give it to you, some way shape or form.
His loving sister followed him to their final reward six months later. You would think that this is the end of my tale, but it is not. I still live on our farm; but since the death of my Father, my step Mother sold all of the equipment. I have to let others farm it now. Three years ago I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. I had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. I have made medical history as being the only 100# woman to get either of the two uterine cancers that I had simultaneously. I fit none of the profile or markers for either and I am a test subject in the face of them not knowing how much radiation, or chemo to administer for my size along with having two cancers at once. If I was like everyone else that's had these two types, I'd weigh 300 plus pounds. I have had internal radiation burns, 'chemo brain' (fog from massive chemo doses),and have lymphedema from lymphnode removal, amongst other things.
I will only be 56 this Thursday! I am cancer free, and I am a survivor, if nothing else. Sometimes I feel like I have lived more than one lifetime. When all is said and done, despite all the heartache and pain, I'm glad that God and my family made me a strong enough person to survive this life I've been given. It's been one heck of a trip so far, I hope I get a quieter ride to the end of the line!