How to Live All Your Life

Pencil sketch of Roscoe Holdaway by Kathleen Holdaway Swain done in 1941 when she was twelve.Kathleen's Pencil Sketch of Roscoe 1941On her last visit with her father, she tried to spend a lot of time with him, knowing it was unlikely she’d see him again.  Overwhelmed with the demands of a large family, she often felt her life was not her own.  Most afternoons, she struggled to get both little ones to nap at the same time and used that precious time to catch up on her laundry and whatever she couldn’t get done with them underfoot.  She’d come to visit with the intention of staying two weeks, but extended her visit to a third week, trying to get a lifetime of visits in before she lost him.
Up since five-thirty with a teething baby, she finally got both little ones down for a nap after lunch.  Though she yearned for a nap herself, she joined her father on the porch.  Watching from the open door, she memorized him before going out, think how frail he looked in his wool coat and old felt hat humped over in his straight chair in the brutal, August of the afternoon.  He’d laid his paperback Western open-faced on the porch-floor.  Inferring he must be heartbroken, knowing he couldn’t live much longer, she took a seat beside him thinking he might have something to say.
“Kat,” he started.  “I’ve been watching those ants on the ground down there.  Look how they are so busy on their little trail.  Some are rushing forward to pick up a load, and some are headed back to the nest all loaded down.  Every once in a while, a few of them stop to talk then turn round and round in the trail before getting back in line. Isn’t that something?”
Surprised to hear of his pleasure in the ants, she realized he wasn’t sad at all, just absorbed in their activity. She sat with him till her little ones awoke and called her back to the ant trail of her life.
That was the last time she spent alone with him.

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Do These Things Happen to Anyone Else?

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Mother makes use of my cozy guest room frequently  Last night she awoke me complaining the bed was crawling with ants.  Sure enough, she had half-a-dozen bites.  We shook out her nightgown, treated her bites, made her a new bed down on the sofa in the living room, but I felt just terrible about it.  I’ve always made a point to keep the room just to her tastes, freshly aired and dusted, with nice linens, and a handmade quilt.  Having her jarred from sleep by ant bites was horrible.  When I got her settled, I turned the covers back and found dozens of big and small black ants, moving in trails across the expanse of the covers.  I sprayed the bed and floor with insect killer before I went back to bed.

This morning when I went in to strip the bed, I found the source of the problem.  When I opened the door late yesterday to ready Mother’s bed, Buzzy, my American Eskimo Dog came along to help.  He frequently hides treats.  Delighted to find new territory, he retrieved an old piece of cornbread he’d apparently just dug up from its hiding place in the yard.  Unbeknownst to us, he slipped it up under the pillow in preparation for Mother’s visit.  It attracted ants beautifully.  The bed was fully loaded for Mother.