Land of the Free

A couple of nights ago, Cyris was in a ranch rodeo competition. I had never been to one, and wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I knew the basic premise: teams compete against one another in typical ranch activities. The fastest and most precise team over all the events wins.

When it was time to start, all twenty eight teams entered the arena for a grand entry. Four cowboys (mostly) per team. As the flag approached the arena, every cowboy hat came down and was perched over every heart. No one had to tell those riders to respect our flag. No one had to remind them to remove cover. No one ‘protested’ the colors.

I admit, I teared up. I had goose bumps up and down my arms. And when a nine year old local girl sang the anthem, I choked up. It wasn’t the best rendition. There were some off-key moments. But it never sounded better to me. That little girl sang with her heart.

What I don’t understand about the rioting and destruction and killing currently happening in this country is why people have targeted our flag. It represents the greatest opportunities, for anyone, in the world. I grew up reciting the pledge of allegiance in school. And singing the Star Spangled Banner at sporting events. I was taught to be proud of my country and who I am as a person. Not because my family is racist. Not because I think I’m better than anyone who isn’t white. But because this country is where I was born and where I have raised my boys and where I have lived a pretty good life.

I have listened to the anthem’s lyrics since the kneeling started. I don’t see or hear any racism in it. It talks about what the colors are for. It talks about how the flag wasn’t destroyed by rockets or fire. It talks about freedom and bravery. What in those lyrics are racist?

It is true that at the time of our country’s origins, blacks were enslaved. By a VERY FEW Americans, many of whom were also black. Plenty of white people fought against slavery and felt it immoral. What doesn’t make the history books is that white people have been enslaved throughout history. So have Asians. So have every color and nationality of people. Slavery was not new to the new American country. What is wrong? Of course it was. I don’t think a person living today would condone viewing another person as property, except for those who still buy and sell people in the sex trafficking rings.

The entire concept of this country having systemic racism or systemic police brutality is being propped up by the left and by the left-owned media as a way to ensure race division and hatred. Most black people I know condemn the actions of the Marxist organization responsible for most of the chaos happening in cities right now. Most people of color I know don’t believe there is a problem with racism in their daily lives. Most white people I know don’t care what color skin a person has, as long as they are decent people.

Which brings us to the issue with law enforcement. Not once in my life have I ever been harassed by the police. Not because I’m white. But because I don’t break the law! It’s a pretty simple concept: if you are doing something illegal, you have a chance of getting caught. And if you get caught and resist arrest or threaten an officer or reach for a weapon, expect to get thrown on the ground or shot. Professional athletes and ‘celebrities’ who are having vigils for thugs and career criminals are no better than those who are breaking the law. None of the recent folks shot by police were innocent in any way. The left’s attempt to paint them as victims is offensive to me as an intelligent person.  If those famous people wanted to really make a difference, they would educate black  men to follow the law, do what officers tell them to do, and live an honest life. I can’t feel sorry for a rapist who got shot while he was threatening officers with a knife and went to get a gun.

To me, it’s basic common sense. Don’t do something you shouldn’t, and you will be able to live life unfettered.  But as we all know by now, or should, there are puppet masters pulling strings behind every riot, every race war, every ‘injustice’. In time, that will all be revealed. It just baffles me the number of people willing to fall for those tactics.

For me, I will continue to live my life as I always have: my family comes first, then my country. I will continue to respect and honor the flag, and all those who fell to defend it and the freedoms we enjoy here. The very freedoms that allow protesters to burn that flag. The freedoms they don’t seem to appreciate very much.

I would challenge anyone who thinks America is an oppressive and racist country to pick any country they want, go there for one month, and live the way they would like. Without telling those governments. See how much freedom and liberty they enjoy.

And to young people who want this country to shift to a socialist government. Why? Again, go live in any country that you think has a better model and live there. You will soon discover you can’t find food or a decent place to live or a job that can support you. You will see just how high your taxes will be in order to get ‘free’ anything. The only ones who prosper under Socialism are the politicians, who are as corrupt as those in this country who have sucked off the taxpayers for decades.

You see, you can’t tax the rich to make up income for the poor. It doesn’t work. Those people who have used their talents and creativity to make new products and inventions should be rewarded for that. Why should they have to share their profits with people who refuse to work, with families who have lived off welfare for several generations, or with people who simply think they are entitled to what someone else has? Eventually, under a socialist design, people who have created things stop creating. They don’t want to share their hard work and their income. And pretty soon, governments run out of other people’s money and everyone is poor. Soon everyone expects a hand out.

But under a capitalist economy, the best design makes the most money. Those who create the best product are rewarded for their effort.  Everyone in this country who has the desire to make a life has the opportunity to do so. Don’t preach about white privilege, because it doesn’t exist. Blacks and other minorities are given scholarships, they don’t have to pass the same strict entrance exams into colleges, they are given preferential treatment for jobs, based solely on their skin color. I know many people who  were better qualified for jobs but lost them to POC, simply because of their color. I don’t know a single white person who was given anything in life. Everyone I know has worked, studied, educated themselves, and put in time and effort to achieve what they have in life.  Equal opportunity does not mean equal outcome. Each person has to invest something in their journey to come out with a satisfactory ending.

I will never apologize for being born white. I wouldn’t expect anyone of any race to apologize for something like that. I won’t apologize for slavery; my family was never involved in it. Just like most black people’s families never were either. There is only a small percentage of black people alive today who can trace their families back to slaves. And only a very small percentage of white people who ever owned slaves in this country.

I will treat every person I know with the same respect and dignity. But I always have. I couldn’t care less about a person’s color or nationality or anything else, until those things are thrown in my face and tried to be used against me for something ridiculous as what is going on right now in this country.  I would say that if you truly think this country is evil and oppressive and white American people are to blame for every ill ever befallen you, then leave. Find a country that is palatable to you. And never come back. Renounce your citizenship and go live somewhere else, rather than destroy my country, which I love.

The other night was a great reminder for me as to how much I appreciate living where I do. I can’t imagine ever burning the American flag, or standing on it, or otherwise denigrating it in any way. It is a symbol of hope and sacrifice for all people. After all, why would so many people want to live here if this country oppresses so many? We aren’t perfect, but I can’t think of any other place I’d rather live.

I keep seeing that line of cowboys paying respect to the flag of the country which affords them the privilege of participating in a ranch rodeo. Over one hundred people, horse back, with hats over their hearts. Professional athletes, those in the entertainment fields, and politicians should take note. This is what patriots look like.

The land of the free will always be what the flag means for me.

Under the Same Roof Once Again

As many of you know, my dad passed away in March unexpectedly. As a result, my mom was left with financial decisions, a house and property to take care of, bills to pay, and many more daily tasks that she had rarely, if ever, done by herself.

She moved in with Garris and me the first of June. Each of us has had to transition to the new living arrangement, and we have made progress. Mom downsized her possessions significantly while we were cleaning out her house. She threw away things that had been stored in boxes for 35 years! She pared down her kitchen supplies to what she truly needed and figured she would use. She got ride of ‘extra’ items that I already had.

Lots of things are stored in the barn, and the basement, and the garage. I told her that she didn’t have to get rid of anything; we would find room for everything she wanted and needed.

She condensed an entire house into two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a living room.  She and Dad were married 59 years, so there was a lot of memories accumulated in that house. She’s still unpacking and rearranging. We’ve added bookshelves, a larger medicine cabinet for her bathroom, and a rug for her hallway.

The set up works very well. She has a section of the upstairs for her private area, I have my bedroom and bath and a separate sitting area from her living room. And we share the dining room, kitchen, and laundry. Downstairs is still Garris’ room and and the large family room/tv room.

She was hesitant to hang pictures or do anything that would ‘mess up’ my house. It’s been hardest to convince her that this is her home now. She can do whatever she wants. Slowly, she is accepting that.

That’s not to say we haven’t had some prickly days along the way.  When she moved in, I told her that we each had to keep doing what we respectively wanted to do and that we wouldn’t spend 24 hours a day together. I told her that I didn’t have a regimented, set schedule like she was used to with my dad. They were up everyday by 5:30 and feeding horses soon after. I get up when I wake up most days. Around seven. And the horses are my first chore, but I don’t feel the need to rush out immediately to feed. There have been a few mornings, she was actually waiting by my bedroom door, with her jacket on, foot tapping, so I would get up and feed with her.

Like I told her, she needs to do her own thing. If she’s ready to feed, and I’m not, she can feed. I’ll do my horses when I get up. She is starting to accept this, and I think she actually prefers a little more wiggle room in her schedule.

The first few weeks, she followed me around like my shadow, and I had to find jobs for her to do, so I could do my ‘stuff’. She is just so used to having someone beside 24/7 that it’s hard for her to do things alone. In fact, she usually won’t go anywhere unless I am with her.  I was proud of her last week for driving into town (about ten miles) by herself to check the mail and pick up something from the grocery store.

She is still mastering filling up the gas tank, something else that Dad always did. We have gone from me showing her how to pump gas, from inserting her card, to choosing the right fuel, to getting the pump handle in and out of her pickup, to her doing each step by herself without hints from me. Funny enough, the first time she decided to do the whole thing by herself, the station we usually use was chocked full. So, we went to the other station in town. Their pumps have a completely different set up for the card reader – the magnetic strip has to be in a different position. She was so discouraged that she couldn’t do that all by herself that day. But she’s learning.

And I think she’s realizing that she’s stronger and more capable than she gives herself credit for. The hardest days are the ones when she’s missing Dad. There is nothing I can say or do to make those days better, aside from just giving her space or letting her talk. I don’t think that will ever fully go away. They were together 59 years, the last 20 of which they spent every single day together, as they were both retired.

My biggest goal in moving my mom in with us was to give her the opportunity to live the life she wants, as close to what she had before Dad died. I know we can’t replicate what she had, but I want her to have what she needs.

She also brought her two dogs and three horses, and I think they have adjusted very well to their new home.

Mom and Dad competed in reined cow horse events, in fact that is one of the things I want her to continue. I’ve driven her to her weekly lessons this summer and to her competitions. I don’t mind at all, and I know she would stop competing if I didn’t serve as her driver. I don’t know how many more years she will want to do this, but for as long as she does, I will support her efforts. God knows my folks supported my interests when I was growing up.

It feels like we’ve come full circle. Our relationship has shifted. I am in a more parental role now, and she has stepped back into more of a child role. She looks to me for guidance. She waits to see what I have planned for the day before she makes her plans. It isn’t uncomfortable; quite the contrary, it feels natural to be taking on more responsibility for her happiness and well being. And it feels organic for her to be here. She lived in Belgrade, and it took me about an hour to get to her place. I couldn’t be there quickly if she needed help. So, it just made sense for her to live here.

We’ve had to negotiate household chores. I do most of the cooking, which I’m happy to do. She typically does the dishes at night and keeps the floors swept. We each take care of our own rooms and our own animals. When something comes up, we discuss how to accomplish the task, and it gets done.

For instance, I’ve been doing most of the shopping the past few weeks, mainly because of the Covid nonsense. She usually goes into the post office for mail if I drive and drop her off. I do the heavy lifting, like feed bags and hay bales. But she’s willing to jump in and do whatever I’m doing. Like taking the garbage tot he dump every couple of weeks. She’ll climb right in the back of the pickup with me and start throwing bags into the dumpster.

It is strange to be living under the same roof again. But we’re finding our comfort zones with the arrangement. Including Garris. As an in-going freshman, he isn’t home that much. But he enjoys have Grandma here, and he tries to spend some time with us each day. All three of my boys were insistent that she live here, and I think that made her feel wanted.

As we head into fall and cooler weather, we will have to figure out different ways to keep busy all day. She doesn’t watch tv or listen to music. She likes to read, but a person can do only so much of that. I know I will be at my keyboard most days, so I will have to start a list of projects that she can work on without me.

And I’d better get that dinner going . . . thanks for reading.

Who is That Un-Masked Mom

Okay, I’ve avoided the elephant in the room for months. Let’s talk about the Covid ‘pandemic’ currently ravaging our country toward Socialism.

I do believe there is a virus. And I do believe it’s killing people. But I don’t believe the numbers that are being tossed around by a biased media, who are fueled by a biased leftist Democratic party.

I don’t believe this virus is a pandemic. I don’t believe we should have had any kind of lockdown or quarantine whatsoever (think South Dakota). I don’t believe that every person entering the hospital is dying from Covid. In fact, there is more proof every day that hospitals are skewing the numbers in order to get more money from some federal ‘bank’ of funds. Not sure how that works.

What I do know is we had a strong economy. We had a strong country. And manipulation by lawmakers and media whipped up a frenzy that now has half of Americans afraid to go out of their homes without covering their faces. And some of those are tattling on their neighbors.

I will not wear a mask. Not because of my rights being violated (which they are). But because they don’t do a damn thing to prevent any kind of virus. It says so on the boxes where they are made! And anyone foolish enough to think some pretty pink daisy print mask is doing anything but getting soggy from the wearer’s own breath and saliva needs to take a quick course in virology and prevention.

Masks have nothing to do with protecting anyone’s health. They are a form of control, to see how many in our population are going to be compliant with some random mandate. Unfortunately, many in our population unquestionably complied with this ridiculous control tactic.

And then let’s talk numbers. Who do you believe? Hospitals? The CDC? The WHO? Some doctor who is another puppet for the left? If this virus was as deadly as some would like us to think, half our population would already by dead. Current U.S. numbers, as of August 18, 2020, according to the CDC:  (so take with a grain of salt)

5,422,242  total cases

169, 870 deaths

The current population of the United States is 328.24 million. So break this down to total cases as a percentage of the population:

Total cases equal 1.65 % of the population

Total deaths equal .05% of the population, and  3.13% of total cases

 

Now that is if you believe all those numbers are correct (I don’t). I don’t think all the people counted in the Covid deaths actually died from that virus. I think a lot of us have had this without ever knowing, because most of us couldn’t care less whether it was Covid or a cold. So that would put the death rate even lower, but we will never know.

So, essentially, the left have run this country into the ground over a virus that has a survival rate of over 99%.

I’ve heard from people that I wouldn’t be so calloused if it were my mom or grandma or son in the hospital with this. Maybe. But I lost my dad in March, following a stroke. My mom and I spent three weeks in the ICU with him in Denver, just before Covid really took off. We both feel that we were probably exposed to it. And honestly, if we get it, we get it. She is 81 and has lived life the way she wanted. She’s not going to give in to something she doesn’t feel is Constitutional.

I know many others in the most susceptible population: the elderly. And most that I know have said the same thing: it’s asinine to shut down a country and force people to ‘social distance’ to protect a segment that is closer to death than not. And before you start reaching for your keyboard to write me the best come back you can think of: I’m not suggesting those elderly are not important. Of course they are. But we don’t do this during flu season. Or for heart disease. Or cancer. We can’t isolate ourselves and expect to live a normal life.

In the big picture, a .05% death rate is pretty damned acceptable

The CDC has openly admitted to fudging the death rates of Covid. Doctors are putting ‘death by Covid’ on death certificates, when they really don’t have a true cause of death. So, we will never know the true number of deaths, because it’s all a trick with shiny mirrors and sleight of hand.

How does anyone take any of these numbers seriously? And why would anyone agree to walk around wearing a flimsy face mask?

I only go shopping when I need to. And I don’t wear a mask. I walk into the store. So far, not one business has stopped me from entering without a mask. I’m not going to cause a scene or get a business in trouble. If they do stop me, I’ll leave. That simple. But I’m not going to be manipulated into doing something I don’t believe in. And many employees are fed up too.

They are getting headaches, break outs. Some have told me they have fainted. I am claustrophobic and could not wear a mask eight hours a day.

I’ve heard from some friends (and family) that I’m selfish and should think of others and wear a mask. I don’t think I’m selfish at all. I’m not scared of this virus. The people who are truly scared to catch it should stay home and stay away from people. They shouldn’t be out in the stores at 11 o’clock in the morning. They shouldn’t be at the post office. They shouldn’t be with neighbors or family, if they are that frightened of Covid

It isn’t my responsibility to protect them from their fear. Because where do we draw the line after this fiasco? Enough people want everyone else to stop eating meat, so we destroy an entire industry? Some want a cashless society because they don’t like handling paper, so we eliminate cash and force people to use cards and be tracked by every purchase?  Should we force everyone to wear a helmet ‘just in case’ they fall down and hit their head?

 

And then let’s dissect the testing procedure. How may stories have you heard about people going in for a test, filling out paperwork, then leaving before the test because the wait was too long? And then getting informed that they tested positive! How well do you trust those numbers? I don’t, not one iota.

 

In the end, for me, Covid is an inconvenience. I feel it’s been manufactured, manipulated, and skewed to control our economy, our people, and our election. There have simply been too many sketchy variables: mask or no mask? Social distancing if you’re trying to shop or go to church, but not necessary if you’re rioting and murdering; Test or not? Untested vaccine being shoved down our throats for a ‘cure’?

That virus is pretty darn clever: it knows the difference between a big box store and a small business. You’re fine shopping at a mass conglomerate, but the small businesses have to shut down, with many becoming permanently shuttered. You can’t stand next to someone in line, but you can still go out to eat, especially if you utilize the fast food places and ignore local restaurants. You can’t have a funeral for loved ones, but the lawmakers can pack a church to honor some disgusting drug dealer who died as the result of his own misdeeds. I just can’t believe people are still buying into the shifting stories and rules.

It boils down to this: if a mask works, then those who want to wear one should be just fine. I shouldn’t be forced into wearing one that I don’t feel is necessary. I am frankly more dismayed over the behavior of American citizens in response to this circus. My biggest fear is that we have truly lost the American way of life. In fact, people seem to be giving it away without a second thought.

Not me. I like my little piece of the world. I love my country. And I will protect my freedom with everything I’ve got.

 

 

 

Rest in Peace

August 8, 2020

 

We had Dad’s Celebration of Life today. It was a beautiful Saturday, sunny, with just a light breeze blowing. The Tobacco Roots served a backdrop for his last celebration.

We won’t get to have birthdays with him any more. No more Father’s Days. No more Christmases or Thanksgivings to share. So, I wanted the day to be perfect.

I spent the last two months, along with my mom, working on this service. From writing the biographical information to figuring out music to putting together a slide show to loop all day. We spent days cleaning and landscaping and grooming, until it was about as good as it was going to get.

And I cooked and baked and planned.

The day was about as perfect as one could be. Did everything go according to plan? No.

I didn’t think about needing a special cord to plug my phone into the speakers. So, I didn’t have the background music I had spent hours preparing. Because it was outside, the mic picked up the wind and noise and it didn’t work to put my phone to the mic. It was too late to burn a CD. And I almost cried.

Some of the people who told me they were coming to the service didn’t show up. So, we started about a half hour later than scheduled.

I forgot to bring a copy of a poem I had been working on to the service, so I had to sprint to the house and print another copy as quickly as I could.

But the important things worked. Two of my sons helped read parts of the service. All three of my boys did a special ‘Final Ride’ with Grandpa. And Mom was presented with a gorgeous picture of Dad from last year’s reined cow horse events.

Although the crowd was smaller than I had anticipated, those who did show up were the ones who truly wanted to be there. As I told everyone, Dad would have loved that day: a bunch of people he could chat with and a house full of food.

Dad was not a perfect person, or an angel, and I didn’t try to put him on a pedestal. But I did share some of the lighter memories I treasure of him. Because that is what I want to remember. Not the fights or the yelling from my childhood. Not the frustration of growing up with someone who was incredibly smart and incredibly old-fashioned.

I want to remember the night he and Mom took me dancing to a dive of a bar, where a high school girl friend and I could dance with all the cowboys. I want to remember how he always had a few extra dollars to slip me when I went out with my friends. Or how he made sure my car had gas and insurance and decent tires.

The day wasn’t perfect but it had perfect moments. Like when my youngest broke down reading his grandpa’s bio. Maybe that sounds odd for a mom to be happy for her son to cry. But he hadn’t shown much emotion, so I was happy that a newly celebrated 18 year-old could show that he cared for his grandpa.

Or when my three boys led four horses into the arena, one for each of the and one for Grandpa, who couldn’t ride with them any longer. His saddle had backwards-facing boots, and Cyris led his horse while Sylvis and Garris flanked, one on each side.

When Cyris reached over and grabbed Grandma’s hand because she was crying.

When I felt peace settle over me. I wasn’t ready for my dad to die. I don’t think anyone ever is. But I didn’t want him to go out the way he did. We all expected him to have a bad horse wreck, which is probably how he would have preferred things.

But I believe he was watching us from above and that he approved of what we offered as his celebration. It was a simple, outdoor potluck where folks could share memories and stories of ‘Edgar’ moments. We didn’t have a stuffy, religious ceremony. He wasn’t a church person. I like to think that he was with us in spirit.

And now, we can begin to heal from his traumatic passing. Mom has moved in with us, so we can focus more on her and what she needs. I think Dad would prefer that. He was a caretaker, and never liked having undue attention on himself.

So, rest in peace, old cowboy. Ride those heavenly horses. Just check in with us from time to time.

Love you Dad.

Life, Interrupted

August 14, 2020

 

Just a quick note to readers, to explain my absence from this blog for the past few months. My dad died the middle of March, and since then, my life has consisted of a role reversal for me.

I have taken over the ‘parent’ role in the relationship with my mom. During their marriage, my dad took care of all the finances, did most of the shopping in recent years, and was the decision maker. When he died, he left Mom with a lot of questions and a lot of worry.

From his death to the first of June, we cleaned out their house, moved everything fifty miles to mine, and started preparing for her to sell the property. (fourteen acres outside of Belgrade)

On June 1, she moved in with Garris and me. She simply couldn’t function alone.  I didn’t want her trying to take care of horses, and a piece of property, by herself at the age of 81. By moving here, she can continue the type of lifestyle she had, at least as close as possible.

Since then, we have focused on putting together a service for Dad, mostly for closure, but also because so many of his friends asked when and where. We opted for a small outside ceremony at my house. We kept it non-religious, included his horses and grandsons, and invited folks for pot luck. It was the day he would have loved.

I finally feel like I have time again to devote to these blogs, and am working on a memoir, plus several picture books.

Life marches on, the saying goes, but my life was interrupted to care for two people who have always had my best interests at heart. Be patient as I find my groove again. I look forward to sharing more with you as the days try to get back to normal.

The Real Death Bed Experience

The past four months have been a whirlwind of turmoil in my life. In mid-February, my dad had an unexpected heart attack. He was driven by ambulance from Bozeman to Billings for a triple bypass surgery. At the age of 85, it was risky. But so was letting it go untreated.

We were able to go see him after the surgery, and he looked so small! He had tubes and wires hooked up everywhere. But his vitals looked good, and his color had already improved.

The surgery went well, he recovered well, and when he was discharged, he stayed in Billings for an additional week. My brother wanted my folks to stay with him and his wife, and I thought he would take care of them. Unfortunately, there was constant chaos in the house. There was no atmosphere conducive to healing, a fact I didn’t know until later.

A week after the surgery, the day before I was going to pick my folks up and drive them home, he had a massive stroke. He was flown to Denver, where most of the clot was removed from his brain. He had some lingering effects: a slight facial droop, some paralysis on his left side, slurred speech.

I flew to Denver the morning following the stroke, and when I saw him, I was relieved that he looked as good as he did. Mom was a wreck, as expected, but my best friend from high school had taken time away from her life to be with Mom until I could get there. She shuttled me, and my kids, to and from the airport. She offered us a place to stay, although she understood that she lived too far from the hospital for us to take her up on that.

Over the next few days, we hit every high and low imaginable. Dad rallied. Then he got pneumonia. He was put on oxygen. Then he was down to just a nose tube. They discovered a DVT in his left calf, so that eliminated physical therapy. They were planning on getting him out of ICU, then he was back on oxygen. More than once, I expected a late night phone call, telling me that he had passed on.

The short version: he fought with everything he had to make it home to Montana. His body just couldn’t overcome all the ailments and trauma that was inflicted on it. He died on March 15, 2020, with Mom and myself present.

I had never watched a person die before. It isn’t like the movies. There wasn’t a big death bed confession. There wasn’t an end-of-life speech. There wasn’t a revelation or catharsis. Once the cannula was removed from his nose, and morphine administered, his organs slowly shut down. It wasn’t an immediate death. It took about two hours for him to pass. But I don’t think he had any pain.

And to be honest, I don’t think his mind was present for any of it. I think he had started dying several days previously, and this was the final stage of it. When my mom stepped out to make a phone call, I told Dad that I would watch over her, make sure she was safe. I would have her move in with us and make sure she ate and paid the bills.

I thanked him for being a good dad and a good grandpa for my boys. I told him he could rest now. His job on earth was done. He didn’t respond. I only hope he heard me. On some level understood what I was telling him. I hope it brought him some peace in his passing.

At the end, it was my mom and me holding his hands as he breathed his last breath. His eyes were cloudy already, his skin muted and gray. The body left in the bed was not my dad. He was gone. Then began the process of getting him back to Montana.

My dad was not a religious person. He didn’t attend church or pray. But he had his own form of spirituality, mostly found on the backs of horses he had loved in his life. Whatever a person believes in, I have to think he is in heaven now, finding those horses he loved, and looking down to make sure we are all okay.

Garris just competed at the high school state finals. He had a so-so year, and honestly, I didn’t expect him to perform at his normal level. He hasn’t practiced or ridden his horses since fall. Most of the spring rodeos were cancelled. And his heart just didn’t seem to be in competition. But somehow, he qualified for Nationals. He roped all six calves, between the Wednesday night jackpot and the three gos of the rodeo.

I have a feeling my dad was sitting in the saddle with him, helping that rope go where it needed to and making sure Garris’ feet stepped down sure and strong. I’d like to think he was in the mix. It makes me feel closer to my dad to believe that he is still a part of our lives, and still helping the boys achieve their goals.

I only wish he could have been spared the pain and indignity of what he went through the last month of his life. My solace is that at the end of his life, he knew I loved him. I didn’t leave anything unsaid with my dad, and for that, I am grateful.

Because of this experience, I have made a more concerted effort to find the good in each day, work toward my goals, and to avoid fights with my youngest son. It is surreal to think I can’t call my dad to ask his advice on things or just chat about horses. I’ve reached for my phone multiple times since his passing.

Mom has moved in with us, and although we are all adjusting, it was the only solution for her. She couldn’t live alone. She went from her parents’ home to her married home. She has never lived by herself. She has never paid the bills or balanced a check book. She has never gassed up her own vehicle. And losing Dad was the hardest experience she has lived through.

Moving in with us was the only way she would be able to continue living her life, as close to what she’s used to. She still rides horses, and at 81, she still plans to show this summer in reined cow horse events. I have the space and the room for her. All three of my boys want her here, even though two are out of the house. My youngest has one year of high school left.

As we maneuver through the maze of moving boxes, we laugh about things Dad did or said, and we are finding a way to have closure through this. She will never fully be ‘over’ his death, and I don’t expect her to. But right now, she is broken hearted and hurting. Hopefully, she can start to heal a little bit. And realize that Dad is still with us, living on in our thoughts and hearts.

An Unexpected Death

My dad died in mid-March. It has been a much harder thing for me to write about than I had envisioned. I have started a memoir about the experience, which is bringing out a lot of buried emotions. I can’t seem to ‘get’ to the level I need to in order to write every day. In my head, I know what I want to say. But when I sit down to write/type, my mind goes blank and I suffer the worst writer’s block I’ve ever had.

His death was unexpected. He has always been one of the healthiest people I’ve known. At 85, he was still showing horses and shoeing his own. He was up every day by 5:30. He ate healthy, three meals a day. He weighed the same as he did the day he got married. So, when he had a heart attack, it shocked us all. When we were told he had a 90% blockage in one artery, I was flummoxed. He had triple bypass, and he came out of that with great results.

One week after that surgery, he had a massive stroke and was flown out of state to Denver, where most of that clot was removed successfully. I thought he would make a full recovery and be back to his life within a few months. Unfortunately, things snowballed. He lost the ability to swallow. He got pneumonia. He had a DVT in his left leg, the one affected by the stroke. He was put on oxygen. He started bleeding internally, and the ulcer repair only helped for about a day. He started bleeding in his stool, and his body just started shutting down.

Up until the day before he died, his mind was sharp, like it had always been. He was worried about everyone else. I know he was scared, but he didn’t say anything directly. What he did say was that he didn’t want to be abandoned.

In the weeks since his passing, I have thought more and more about the man he was, and I’ve realized I didn’t know him. Not the total person. Sadly, he didn’t talk about his early life. He didn’t share with us the hard childhood he had as the oldest of three boys. He didn’t talk about his high school days. He didn’t tell us that in college, at one point, he led the nation in the steer wrestling event in college rodeo. He didn’t talk about his Army service, even though he won a good conduct award and served as a company clerk. He didn’t talk about his dreams or goals.

And that, more than his death, brings tears to my eyes. Yes, I miss my dad. I always will. But he lived a long life. And I had a good relationship with him. But I can’t ask him details about things I just discovered. Who are in the old pictures with him? What back story is behind the newspaper clippings? Why did he forego his dream of becoming a veterinarian? Why didn’t he pursue ranching, like his college term papers suggested he wanted to do?

I feel great sadness when I think of his disappointments and his dead dreams.

Perhaps that is why is has been so hard to write about his death. It makes me look at my life and the failures I’ve had and the disappointments I’ve endured, from an abusive marriage to a worthless degree. I will never achieve certain things in my life that I once dreamed of; it’s simply not in the realm of possibilities at the age of 52. And I wonder if my dad is looking down at my life and feeling disappointed in me.

I have made a renewed commitment to myself, to reach some of the dreams that are still possible. To live each day with grace and joy. To find the positive in all situations. And to savor the people in my life, whom I love. I don’t ever want to regret words I’ve said, or those left unsaid. The first thing I said to Garris when I got home was that he and I cannot fight any more. We have had some doozies over school, and I just can’t do it with him. I don’t want that to define our mother-son relationship. He agreed. And I think we are both trying harder to be better communicators.

So, if anything positive came out of my dad’s death, it is that I want the rest of my life to mean and count for something. I don’t want my kids to find out things about my life only after I’m gone. I have started scanning photos and clippings, making sure to label people and events. I am talking more with my kids, even with difficult subjects. Confrontation has always been hard for me, and I normally avoid it at all costs. But I have learned that that is what kept me in a toxic relationship for years longer than I should have stayed.

To honor the life of my dad, I have vowed to live my life on my terms. Right now, that includes moving my mom into the house with us, and that is a story for another day.

Personal and Private Struggles

I have been a bit delinquent the last few months with my blog. The last six months have given me a lot of turmoil and struggles that have required my full attention. Some of these will make their way into future blogs. Some will not as they involve some of the people that I love. I don’t feel it’s my place to share their personal issues.

I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve posted and at least that long since I’ve sat down to write something fun. We begin the start of another rodeo season this weekend. We head to Lewistown where Garris will compete in reined cowhorse on Friday and then the rodeo on Saturday and Sunday. I feel like we just started the summer and yet we are easing into fall

Garris decided he wants to use Fritz for calf roping this fall. Since Cyris is done with competitively calf roping, at least for a while, there was no reason why Garris couldn’t take his horse. He’s had some good practices so we’ll see this weekend if they’re going to click when it’s competition time.

It’s been a couple of years since I have hauled horses for Garris time, so I’m  a little out of practice. We’ve been getting the trailer ready and figuring out exactly what we’re going to do for the weekend.

Garris is borrowing a horse for the reined cowhorse event. The horse is a stud, and his owner was gracious enough to let us use him, but the catch was that the trainer has to go along. Tye has been giving  Garris lessons for a couple of years. It’s been a bit inconsistent, but I think Garris is seeing he needs to get a lesson in once a week if he is going to be successful in this event.

We will be taking two trailers, and it does seem a bit odd to be having someone else go along with us, but it will be good for Garris. Tye will probably yell at him from the fence if he’s doing something wrong which is okay.  Sometimes that’s what Garris needs.

After the past several months of making life-altering decisions, it’s nice to get back into a routine that I’ve had for about ten years – the routine of rodeo season. Sometimes I cuss it because it’s so long. Sometimes I dread it, because I get bleacher butt. But in the end, I rejoice in this life.

Especially this year, as I go into rodeo season with just one boy competing. Cyris graduated in May and finished out his college rodeo career at the same time.  This fall, Garris is going solo as the only Robertson boy to compete. I know how fleeting the next two years are going to feel, so my goal for the next eight weeks is to enjoy every moment at every rodeo. Soak in the weekends and commit them to memory.

For a lot of years, I went into each season knowing there were many more to come. But now I realize that every season is special and needs to be cherished.

My oldest son stopped competing abruptly after his sophomore season. I thought I had two more years to watch him, and I actually grieved his decision. I understood it – he wanted to focus on school. But it made me incredibly sad that he was just . . . done.

And Cy has struggled the past couple of years. He is burned out and doesn’t plan to rodeo for awhile. I think once he’s away from it, he’ll miss aspects of it and return. But for now, he’s content working on his ranch and going to some jackpots here and there.

And last spring, Garris had to sit out the rodeo season, because he didn’t keep his grades at an acceptable level. It was hard on him to watch his friends go to state and nationals and have to sit at home. And it was hard on me, knowing he could have been in the run for one of those coveted national spots.

So, I don’t have any guarantees. I don’t know what’s going to happen, so I will try to relax more and just enjoy being a rodeo mom for as long as I get to.

 

 

Flag Flying Proud American

It’s no secret that I am a solid Conservative. I grew up in a house where family values were more important than current trends. Where the flag was respected and revered. And where hard work and honesty were expected.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended Cy’s last home town rodeo in Dillon. The University of Montana Western hosted its annual college rodeo. Of course, before the start of each performance, there was the presentation of flags. In the rodeo world, sponsor flags precede the state and national flag. I’ve been involved in these types of opening ceremonies for most of my life. And every time, I tear up when the red, white, and blue of Old Glory makes its way into the arena. I can’t help it. When I look at the stars and stripes and listen to the national anthem, I can’t help but think about everything this country offers. Everything it stands for. And I’m filled with pride to be an American. I was fortunate to be born in this country. There is no other place I’d rather be.

I know I’ve posted previously about my feelings regarding the flag controversy that started in the NFL. From the outset, I felt that type of protest had no place in that forum and that the person starting it had no clue about any kind of injustice. Nor did he fully realize the extent to which he was offending a large segment of our population. I refuse to use his name; he doesn’t deserve another microsecond of fame based on his cowardly and selfish behavior.

There are several reasons his action bother me.

First, this man has never experienced any kind of social injustice. He was adopted into a white, upper class family, where he lived a luxurious lifestyle of privilege and fortune. For him to try and lecture me on hardship is an affront to my intelligence.

Second, he is a millionaire, as are all the other ‘men’ who have joined his protest. These spoiled, over paid athletes are hypocrites. They have fat bank accounts, luxury homes, sports cars, etc. and are crying out about how their skin color makes life unfair. Get real. They are playing a child’s game and making a fortune.

Third, if anyone wants to protest something, that is their right. But not on someone else’s dime. I was under the impression that athletes had to uphold certain ideals when playing for a professional team. I know if I protested during my work hours, I wouldn’t have a job.

Fourth, their kneeling is doing nothing positive. If these men truly believed in this ‘protest’ they would use their ample resources to actually make changes in their communities, and beyond. They would volunteer their time to local charities and outreach programs. They would use their fame to make positive steps in dealing with the issues they like to throw around as their basis for protesting. All they are doing by taking a knee is showing their ignorance and arrogance.

Fifth, protesting our national anthem has nothing to do with what they claim bothers them. Our flag represents so many key American ideals. It represents freed. It represents hope. It represents resilience. Is this country perfect? No. Is our society free from prejudice? No. And based on the obvious hatred and racial divide that is being fostered by left-leaning politicians, we will never be free from bias. But this country still offers more than any other in the world. These men who like to claim their African heritage as being more vital than their American birth should move to an African country. And then try to earn the kind of money their are in this country. Or try to protest the government. They might learn to appreciate what they’ve been allowed in America.  Some say the lyrics to the anthem are racist and offensive. I’ve read them. I don’t see it. And frankly, I’m tired of everything being twisted into some racial issue.

Sixth, taking a knee, for me, is a slap in the face to the military men and women who have serving and are currently serving. These people offer their lives in order for the rest of us to live as free human beings. Military personnel, police, first responders all deserve our respect. For the most part, they serve their fellow man with very little compensation, and in some areas, with zero respect. These men who started this disgusting behavior are directly responsible for the blatant attacks on military and police. And they should be ashamed of themselves. Of course there are corrupt officers. Just as there are corrupt football players who abuse drugs or beat the women in their lives. Seems to me, instead of lumping the majority of decent officers in with the small percentage of corrupt ones, these protesters are behaving in exact ways that they say they are against.

And seventh, I will not watch another NFL game. I won’t allow any games to be shown in my house. And that has expanded to NBA. Not that I follow any teams or hold up any players of either league as role models. But I would occasionally watch a game, especially during post season. These protesters have completely ruined the games for me. And the league commissioners, team owners, managers, etc. who have allowed this type of behavior are no better than the protesters themselves. When my core values, as an American, are essentially thrown to the ground, I will find other ways to entertain myself and occupy my time. I don’t need to watch a bunch of grown ‘men’ playing games and thinking they are above the rest of us. Eventually, these leagues will see the result in their pocketbooks. Because there are enough people who feel the same as I do.

So, even though I defend anyone’s right to protest and to disagree with my beliefs, I don’t defend the destruction or disrespect of our national symbol. I have the right to engage in my own form of protest. In the form of money and support. I won’t spend a dime supporting these men or their organizations.

I will stand up. I will put my hand over my heart. I will fly the flag with pride. And I will continue to cry when I see that flag being carried into an arena horseback. The alternative just isn’t acceptable for me.

Engagement Photos

I’m sure some of you will get sick of my posts about the upcoming wedding and what everyone is doing between now and August. But indulge me, as a mom. As I’ve said many times before, Cyris and Regan are just about the ideal couple.

They love each other, and that’s apparent in the way they interact. They help each other automatically; they are fiercely protective of each other and of their relationship; and they have common goals and ideals. For two people who are only 22 years old, they are mature and just make sense together.

A couple of weeks ago, I was hanging out at their house in between morning slack and evening performance of the Western rodeo. It was comfortable being there. Regan was in the living room, trying to get warmed up from our chilly morning. Cy was in the kitchen. There was only enough coffee for one person, so Cy warmed it up in his cup. He asked if Regan wanted some, and then started a new pot of coffee for her. (He wasn’t ignoring me; I don’t drink coffee.) It’s the simple gestures like those that make me confident about their future together.

They don’t argue a lot, at least not in front of me. They don’t keep a tally of what they do for each other and expect a reciprocal effort. They just take care of one another. They don’t complain about each other or talk about the other one in negative ways. And when they disagree, they have their spat, then they cool off and come back together, usually with a soft statement or question that lets them move past the argument.

For several years, their friends have called them ‘Ken and Barbie’. For a long time, I thought it was just because they are both very attractive people. But the more I’ve watched them together, I think it’s more than that. They fit. They are ‘the couple’ that other people want to be like. I will admit, I’m in that category.

I didn’t marry the right person for me. I tried to make it work, but there were just too many gaps in too many areas of life for my marriage to succeed. Someday, maybe I’ll be fortunate enough to find what the two of them have. Maybe ‘my person’ is out there somewhere, and someday we’ll find each other. For now, I’m content watching my boys get their lives started.

I’m so happy for my son that he found his person. They each have other friends. And they each do things independent of one another. But they are best when they’re together. It isn’t that they cling to each other or have to be constantly touching. But when they are together, they both brighten up and that makes everyone around them happier. They are just that type of couple.

Last weekend, they took engagement photos outside of Pony, on a ranch where Regan’s brother works. The trees were turning color, so the leaves were golden yellow and orange. The mountains provided a back drop. And they included some of their horses. I just went through all the proofs and I found myself smiling.

There is a great mix of serious and playful. Color and black and white. And the photos show the range of their relationship. In some, they are kissing. In others, they are holding hands and walking. They are even dancing in a few. Nothing looks forced or staged. And the photographer has posted that the session was fun and playful. And I think that describes these two. Together, they are themselves, and that came through in their pictures. They don’t try to be anything different from what they are. Too often, couples don’t feel safe enough to let each other see under the surface. Cy and Regan share that safety. It was tangible in those photos.

Nothing was fussy or overly fancy. They wore simple clothes. And they let their relationship be the focus of the pictures, not her hair or his old hat. It was obvious looking at these pictures that they love each other. That their love is most important to each of them. And I’m so glad to see that.

I will admit, I have been worried about my boys following my divorce. The divorce itself was ugly and prolonged. And the boys found out things that I would have rather they didn’t. I internalized a lot of negative aspects of my marriage, trying to shield them from certain behaviors directed toward me. And since the divorce was final, the relationship between their dad and me is acrimonious at best.

I’ve worried that they learned the wrong lessons from my marriage. But looking at the healthy relationship he and Regan have, Cyris has made some good choices. Maybe he learned from my missteps and my mistakes. Hopefully, he saw how to treat his future wife with respect and kindness, based on the difficulties I had to endure during my marriage. I worked hard while my boys were growing up to instill in them a sense of honor and a sense of chivalry. I want them all to be ‘old school’ gentlemen who take care of their partners. And to treat their future mates as partners, not as conquests.

Scrolling through the pictures again, I’m filled with the belief that Cyris got it right. He isn’t perfect. Neither is Regan. But together, they bring perfection out in one another. My hope for them is to have a long and happy marriage, blessed with children (someday) and the freedom and support of one another to chase their dreams and goals.

This mom is pretty sure they’re going be just fine.