This article was printed, in part, in the Summer/Fall 2015 issue of DIALOGUE Magazine, which publishes information of interest to people who are blind and visually impaired.
The weekend we decided
to visit my mother just happened to be the same time they were having the Hope
The old one-room
schoolhouse, now a community center, stands less than two miles up the road
from the farm where I grew up. The school was formed in the mid 1800s, starting
in the home of some of the students. It closed in 1955.
attended the school up to eighth grade. My Aunt Alice, who later married my
father’s brother, was my mother’s teacher for at least three grades. My grandmother
on my mother’s side was one of the high school students the only year high
school was offered, in 1926.
My mother still
lives on the farm where I grew up, so Sunday morning, my husband Murray, my son
Ping-Hwei, Mom, and I load up and make the less than five minute drive to the
school house to help set up.
I sit and knit
as Mom and the other ladies from the quilting group, who meet weekly at the
school house, start getting things ready for the potluck lunch. Outside, others
set up tables and chairs. It’s a beautiful early October day.
Mom tells me one
of the other ladies in the quilting group remembers me taking notes in Braille
at church when I was young. “I sometimes had a hard time staying awake,” she
tells me. “So I just watched you. I wondered ‘How can she do that?’”
I don’t remember
taking notes at church. I think I hope I
used the slate and stylus. Surely I didn’t take a Braille writer there and
clunk on it while the minister preached.
Brinkmann, I haven’t seen you in over forty-five years.” My cousin Daniel comes
in and puts an arm around my shoulders. “And I don’t look any better, and
neither do you.”
It’s not been
forty-five years, but we haven’t seen each other much in the 35 years since I
left for college.
I hear Uncle Steven
outside and decide to go out and sit with him. “I’ll probably be the oldest one
here today,” he tells me.
Steven will be
eighty-three on Valentine’s Day. He has a great deal of trouble with his legs,
from strokes and diabetes. He still drives a tractor though, which his wife—my Aunt
Ruth—and sisters—Mom included—wish he didn’t.
Daniel comes to
sit by us, and Steven tells him about a truck he wants to buy. “I probably
don’t need to buy it though, do I?” he asks Daniel.
A big part of
today is fundraising to keep the schoolhouse running as a community center.
Quilts are being auctioned off, made by the ladies’ quilting group to help
support the center. I hear several people encouraging others to bid, “to
support the ladies.” Murray tells me, “It’s kind of circular."
Daniel says to
Steven, “I’m going to spend a lot of money today, and have it all billed to
you. You ever heard of a rich uncle?”
“It’s not me.”
Daniel drives a
delivery van to the next state every night. He starts to tell a story about an
afternoon recently when he was trying to take a nap, and a guy from work calls
Julia, Daniel’s wife,
stops by us to say hi to Steven.
“Julia,” Steven tells
her, “I’ve got nine cats in my barn right now. When this is done today, I want
you all to stop by and get them.”
She says, “I
don’t need nine more cats.”
“How about if
you take the mother?” Steven says. “It would really help me if you’d take the
“No, I just got
my fifth cat. I don’t need any more cats.”
Daniel says, “I
was just starting to tell them that story, but you go ahead. You can tell it
better than me.”
Julia says she
was hanging clothes not too long ago, and her phone rang in her pocket. “It was
a number I didn’t know, and I usually don’t answer if I don’t know who it is,
but I did this time.”
It was a guy
from Daniel’s company. “I think ‘Why would he be calling me?’”
Chuck, told her that at a business on the road nearby, they had a kitten outside,
in a box with a lid, and they were going to be closing for the day soon.
“He kept saying
that, that there was a lid on the box. I told him, ‘Daniel will be mad,’ and he
said, ‘Yeah, he’s mad at me.’”
So she drove to
the business he’d mentioned, and there were two guys standing outside, and she asked,
“Do you have a cat here?” One of the men said, “Wait a minute,” and turned
toward the door.
“A minute later,
a lady came out carrying a box with the sweetest little gray and white kitten.
She said ‘I gave it a bath.’ Well, it was all clean and fixed up, and it was so
cute, so I took it home. And while I was getting supper ready, I was planning
“When Daniel got
up, I said, ‘You’re going to be mad.’ He said, ‘I know all about it.’ It turns
out Chuck had called him while he was trying to sleep to get my phone number. He
knew all about me getting a cat.”
up behind me and squeezes my shoulders, then sits in the chair beside me.
“You’re wearing those funny orange shoes again.” My brother Rodney.
“Murray got them
for me.” I smile at my brother. “He knows orange is my favorite color.”
they’re neon orange.
Steven tells us
about when he was in the Korean War, about how he and two other local guys went
in together. “We were separated during the War, then we met up again on the
ship home. And we all had made it.”
He says there
was a protest when they got back to the United States. “People were throwing
eggs and tomatoes at us. We thought we’d probably be better off just turning
around and going back to Korea.”
working on knitting a sash for a bathrobe. It’s like a fat cord, snaking out of
a tiny knitting loom. Several people ask me what I’m working on when they stop
by. After watching me for a while, Steven says, “Kathy, I’m just amazed.”
At one time, I
would have been irritated by someone thinking it’s “amazing”, just because I’m
blind, that I can do something fairly normal. Not today. Maybe I’m getting old.
Now, I just think how nice it’s been to sit and talk with my uncle.
Murray and I
walk around and talk to more people. A lady I don’t know asks, “Are you Lila
Mae Brinkmann’s daughter?” When Murray tells Jake we live in Cleveland, he
says, “Oh, the Cleveland Browns.” I say, “No, the only sports team Murray cares
about is the St. Louis Cardinals.” Jake says, “Well, that’s good.”
I don’t really
remember Jake, but I remember his dad, George. George used to come by our place
to buy eggs from Mom. I always stood around when he came, with my hand out,
because he would give my brothers and me a dime when he paid for the eggs.
Melissa, an active member of the quilting group, had a stroke two weeks ago.
Mom told me Melissa has been giving directions from her hospital bed about
things that needed to be done to get ready for the reunion. She has made
arrangements to be called when a certain quilt comes up on the auction, because
she wants to bid on it.
Randy, a local
minister, called out to everyone, “I’m going to call Melissa now. I want
everybody to get as close as you can, and when I say to, you all yell ‘Hi, Melissa,
we love you.’”
quilts, there are a variety of items on silent auction—tools, restaurant gift
certificates, crocheted hot pads (Mom made those), bookmarks made by counted
cross-stitch, coolers and lunch boxes. Murray tells me that one restaurant
certificate for five dollars has a bid of twenty-five dollars written down for
There’s also what
looks like a toy tractor to me, but Mom says it’s a replica of a tractor from
the early 1950s. Murray says it’s for old farmers to set out in their homes to
get attention. I want it for my desk, because I grew up on a farm.
on it for me, but somebody else wins it, paying fifty dollars.
We leave before
the auction starts, to start back for Cleveland. But I am smiling.
Growing up, I
often did not feel much a part of this community. Being disabled, I carried a
large chip on my shoulder. I convinced myself people never really accepted me as
one of them. As normal. I wonder now if I didn’t hold myself apart, deny myself
Today was a
treasure. I thank God for giving me another chance to share time with these
delightful, fascinating people. And it is my hope that I’ll have more
opportunities in the future.
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