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Weeds: Tired of feeling angry

I’ve spent a lot of days on a tractor. Most are forgotten. Those are ones where the biggest concerns were picking a radio station and trying not to eat my 3 o’clock snack at 1 o’clock. Days I remember are ones when I got stuck or broke down.

Saturday was different. I was trying to finish up tillage after winter came in October. Now we were having summer in November.

A few issues with equipment meant I was cutting it close to finish before the rain, so some tension there. The kids and Pam had various stresses in their lives which became my stresses; that’s the way fathering and husbanding work. Beyond my field, the pandemic was growing more local than global. Plus, an election fog lay across America, the race for president undecided.

Then there was my sister Judy. Judy is 16 years older than me. She is severely disabled, has been from birth. Judy is non-verbal and deaf. She left the farm when I was a toddler. There are stories about us teaming up together to get in some trouble. Judy went to live part of her life in institutions such as they were at the time. For 30 years she has been at Ridgewood, a group home in Worthington where she received gracious and generous care.

Despite her handicaps, Judy was always warm-hearted and smiled readily. It was beautiful to see a person locked in a body that didn’t work as well as most share joy the way she did. In her innocence, our family often said her place in heaven was certain. She was always happy to see me. I joked with Pam that I wish other people were half as happy to see me.

Nobles County has had high numbers for COVID. About ten days ago, we got word that a couple of the staff at Judy’s home tested positive. A few days after that Judy had it. It began with a slight cough but got worse. A couple days later, she was hospitalized with what they called COVID pneumonia.

All these things were in my head Friday night, and I tossed and turned more than slept. Sleep being futile, I got up several hours before the sun did. Just as I settled at the table with coffee, my phone rang. I don’t get many calls at 4:30 a.m.

The call was to let me know that Judy was dying.

The 4:30 call wasn’t unexpected. Still, it was hard to hear. I waited a couple hours to call my sister JoAnn and to tell Pam. The hospital was not allowing visitors, a sign of these times. There wasn’t much to do, so as the sun began lighting the farm, I headed to the tractor.

I was coffee-ed up and tired at the same time. Emotions were knocking around in my head, running into each other. I started listening to news and music, flipping back and forth in my anxiousness.

I can talk on my phone in our tillage tractor. As it turned to day, I had a series of calls with Judy’s guardian, her doctor, and my sister. Judy’s doctor in Worthington was exceptionally thoughtful and considerate, which meant a lot right then. He sounded beat down. The doctor had treated nearly a thousand Covid cases since spring.

We found out the hospital was permitting one visitor for someone who was near death. Another round of calls followed. In the end, with our ages and surgery I’m having after harvest, we decided it was too risky for JoAnn or me to go. Judy’s doctor and guardian concurred that was the correct thing to do. Judy was not conscious and would not have recognized us.

Still, if this were anything like a normal time, we would of course have gone to spend some final moments with our sister. That would have seemed so right. This felt so wrong

None of this was handled lightly. I stopped the tractor for this last set of calls. When I hung up, I put my head down on the steering wheel. I confess to tearing up in that moment, my throat constricting. It just seemed like too much.

Right then, two things happened. As I lifted my head, a deer bounded across the field a couple hundred feet in front of me, a young doe. Maybe she was spooked by hunters somewhere. My eyes followed her beautiful lope as she bound to the east. It seemed like that meant something. Only, I didn’t know what. Regardless, it was a gift from nature, one that was appreciated.

Then I got couple pings on my cell phone, texts from friends. The presidential race was being called. I allowed myself a brief space in time to feel relief.

None of our country’s problems was solved by that announcement. But maybe, sometime in a few months, we can go one day without a Tweet insulting someone, attacking our allies, finding another way to mistreat destitute asylum seekers, or announcing a policy to benefit the rich or hurt the environment. One day, I just want one day. We haven’t had that in four years.

Animosity and enmity have been growing in our country for years. But it is not a coincidence that when the very top person is proudly obnoxious to everyone who does not adore him, things declined precipitously. I said to a friend, I was nostalgic for the hatred and acrimony of the Bush/Obama years. That was manageable.

Into this toxic culture, comes a health threat like none seen in a century. It is clear that it could have been handled better. It has been in most other countries. Decent, well-intentioned people who care about others, looking to scientists and medical experts, with intelligent leaders to organize our response, that should have been us.

No. Our nation’s leader attacked scientists and spoke “untruths,” which is a nice way of saying “lies.” We didn’t knit together; we frayed. It is like winter came, and half of us refuse to admit it’s winter and won’t wear coats just to prove it.

Thinking about this makes me angry. I’m tired of being angry. But my sister is dying of a virus that we were told is a hoax, under control, or will magically disappear.

I put the tractor back in 8th gear and dropped the disc ripper behind me. I will try to spend the rest of the day praying as much as possible and being angry as little as I can.

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