I joined a homesteader Facebook group recently and it has been interesting to see what homesteaders talk about. Many of them are engaged in child rearing, trying to do it on the land. In many cases they are building or remodeling homes while getting their small farms going. One woman is even doing all this without a washing machine.
It’s wonderful to see the community on the blogs sharing recipes for DIY home cleaning products and I easily skip over all the entries on the best child carriers, front and back, and especially the somewhat obsessive posts about what it is good or not good for children to eat.
Here on our farm, we’re on the opposite end of the life cycle. The need for care for Steve’s mother and father switched quite suddenly into high gear two weeks ago and it’s been quite a journey. In twelve days the family has moved from providing 24-hour care at their home to visiting his dad in a hospital setting and now to moving him into a Catholic nursing home in nearby Albany, Minnesota.
Steve’s dad has been experiencing symptoms of dementia for two years, but he has still had no problem living at home with assistance from the children on the weekends. His mother also has some symptoms, although never as pronounced as his dad. Two weeks ago, though, his dad’s cognition suddenly went down precipitously. He no longer recognized his wife or knew where he was. And he remained more or less in a state of confusion. He also started wandering to his parents’ former home, about 15 blocks away. This is what necessitated the constant family presence.
What has been amazing to see through this all is how he has coped. I must believe his grounding in family and place and particularly in Catholicism has allowed him to face this crisis with as much grace as he has.
To be there with his mom and dad last Monday and attend daily Mass at the nursing home next door to their house (which unfortunately does not have memory care or a secure area) was quite moving to me. The community, many in wheelchairs, all sing and participate! The priest, a resident at the home and a classmate of Steve’s dad from the Catholic grade school in town, moves around with a walker from altar to ambo but gave a thoughtful homily on the Beatitudes. For that hour, Steve’s dad was fully engaged and calm.
At every step, his dad has been graceful, kind, and accepting. When things have been very difficult– a hospital stay to try to identify medications that could help– he has retreated to happy days and happy spaces– believing he was in his college dorm room or arranging high school basketball tournaments. When visiting him, he comes back to us and is much his old self.
For us, there have been the drives through the June landscape. Seeing the effects of rain on the fields and where the farmers have marked them for drainage tiles (with discussion of the ill effects of agricultural run-off). The winding back roads that take us past an dilapidated dairy co-
operative in a tiny town, a mark of early farmer cooperation where they aggregated their milk for better and more profitable distribution. Corn and cows and lakes. Storm clouds and sunsets.
Steve’s dad is now at a place where he can walk around any time he likes in an extensive series of courtyards, one with a lovely statue of Mary. The view from his room is of a large brick church, much like the one he left behind in his home town. We stopped in there first to see the gorgeous ornamental altars and the stations of the cross, which are in German. Between our farm and this place is the college he loved so dearly, where all of his eight children went to school. We can check him out to visit both of th
ese places, and my hope is he’ll be out here to see the greenhouse completed.
For me, a large part of this “homesteader” identity is finding myself in a place. For good. Attentive to the life of the place. To see and find ways to be with the young and the old. It has been a great blessing to me to not be working full time and be able to participate in this transition for Steve’s dad.
On the way out of the home yesterday, we ran into our neighbor Maurice (pronounced Morris) Palmersheim. He is 91 years old and was unloading his concertina from the back of his car. He comes to the home once a month to play music with the Tuberty brothers. He let us know he is featured in this week’s paper and will be marshal of the 4th of July parade this year.
The priests out there in Albany are two men from St. John’s Abbey. One was my pastor in Cold Spring and worked on my annulment so I could get remarried seven years ago. The depth of community I’ve been able to achieve here in a decade is amazing to me.
So there it is. Homesteading. Steady in your home.