sickness

The Ferryman Silently Waits: An Allegory

So in response to my mother’s passing, this short story pop into my mind and needed to be written down. Hope you enjoy it.

The Ferryman Silently Waits

In the dark shadows of my heart, the Ferryman has come to collect his due. Staring at me from the shoreline, his faceless image reminds me that I still have not released her for this last passage. He is waiting for me to say goodbye to her, to send her broken bones across the river on his watery vessel. Frozen in my tracks I am unable to scream at him from my grassy hill, to tell him how much I hate his presence waiting on me. The Ferryman is always silent at the edge of the river, pacing, waiting, quietly. I try to ignore his presence drifting in and out of the shadows of the oak trees of my mind. I pray that he loads the ferry with someone else’s remains and crosses the river with them instead of her. My prayers go unanswered and he continues to wait and watch until I am prepared to pay his fee to release his ferry from the shore. His payment for crossing the river is the sacrifice that we all must pay. He gathers our tears. He collects the wailing of our hearts and mourning cries of our souls. His dark dirty hand collects our pain and suffering like gold coins as payment for the journey. Charon the ferryman needs this toll of pain and suffering to raise the veil on the foggy river, to deliver our loved ones to the other side.

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I refuse to bring her to the shore, refuse to load the casket on the wooden planks of the waiting pallet. I have not added the daisy chains to the deck of the ferry, nor the candles or candy for her voyage. It is not for me to release her into his care. It is not my place to send her to the other side. I dare the Ferryman to come up the shore and take her. I yell at him from the moss-covered hill. “She is still mine and you cannot have her.” In his dirty dungarees, he says nothing and only raises his hand as if the payment was already due. He knows that death has already come. The shrouded body of my mother is peaceful and beautiful. Like a spider, I have her cocooned her against the elements. She resides safely on the hilltop covered in moss and flowers. I have no strength to place her in the casket or load it on the wagon. I have no will to drive her down the hill to the river for the silent Ferryman.

cable ferry
The Ferryman does not care for me, he has no sympathy for the living, and his job is only to serve the dead. He does not have the means to bring death to the old, sick or those born too early. His only power is to transport his passenger from the land of the living to the land of the dead. My heart is broken and I fall on my knees in the flowers, pray. I pray for understanding, forgiveness and for love. I feel the heavyweight of my loss in my heart. I am not sure how to face another day without her.
A storm is brewing on the horizon. I watch, as the clouds turn gray and rise in heaping mounds. As the last member of her generation, she will join all the others that have gone on before her. The storm knows my mother is coming and wraps its icy breath around her. The Gail wind tries to raise her from her deathbed. A draft of wind moans through the trees and across the shore into the mist of the river. I know there is nothing more I can do for her in this world. As her shroud flaps wildly in the wind. The Ferryman watches the storm arrive and signals to me that it is time for the arrival of his passenger. I know that the fury of the storm will take her if I do not begin the painful parade to the river.
There is no escape from this journey. It is cruel to the spirts to delay their joyful reunion and I know that I am being selfish. I know that it is wrong to cause this suffering. However, suffering is a small price to pay to have one more glorious morning with her. I rise to my feet, lift the heavy remains of the woman who gave me life onto my shoulder. I lower her into the casket and place it on the wagon. I load the flowers, candles, and candy in the wagon until it is overflowing. I drive a team of grey, mute donkeys down to the shore. There I slowly lower her casket from the wagon onto the Ferryman’s pallet. With a faceless reach, he slowly pulls the rope attached to the pallet on to the planks of the wet ferry. The river rises to meet them as my tears shower down on the dark blue-gray water. I stand motionless, knee-deep in the cold water. Drained of all my strength, I stand watching as the Ferryman ties off the pallet and raises his pole to push the wooden vessel into deeper water. The Ferryman’s toll is paid, as I begin to shudder with tears. A shiny silver coin would have been much easier to part with then this wooden casket.
The Ferryman reaches hand over hand as he pulls the heavy rope that moves the flat bottom ferry into the current of the river. Slowly the mist turns to a white wall of thick fog. There is no noise except the sounds of rain hitting the river and the creaking of the saturated boards straining to keep the ferry afloat.
She is leaving me behind. She floats with a stranger to a new land. “Choran, do not leave her for the wolves”, I yell into the fog as the ferry disappears from my sight. All that is left is the sounds of the rain on the tree leaves and the creak of the wet wood in the distance. The Ferryman will ride with her through the passage, into the cove, where he will release her from all pain and memories.
Soaked and chilled to the bone I slowly slog back to the bank. My wet clothing weighing me down, I fall on my face in the soft slit of the shore. In the sand, I wish I could trade places with her, to stop my own pain and to find freedom in death. The cold finally drives me ashore back into the wagon where the team is waiting for me. Silently I promise to get them home to a warm, dry, barn. I spend the remainder of the night in front of the fire, warming my bones with a strong brandy until the storm passes.
The Ferryman never reappeared on the river near my farm. My mother’s remains never wash ashore downstream. I believe her trip was successful in reaching the cove and shore of Hades. I know that after the storm I found the sky more colorful and peaceful than I had ever before. The sun shone down on the flower-covered hill and the river returned to its gentle flow. I am sure that the Ferryman was paid that night and I will not see him again for many more days. Love comes at a price that no one is prepared to pay. However, I would not miss this adventure for anything in the world. To love and be loved is more valuable than any pain that the Ferryman can bring me.

 

 

Categories: Death, Ferry boat, Ferryman, fiction, Ohio River, short story, sickness, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Halloween visit to the haunted Lunatic Asylum

Visiting the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is my favorite place to explore as an artist and photographer.So when a friend explained a desire to see the huge building in person this Halloween, I was over joyed to share my love with them. So Oct 29th we spent the day exploring and learning about one of West Virginia’s most unusual places. The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, constructed between 1858 and 1881, is the largest hand-cut stone masonry building in North America, and is purportedly the second largest in the world, next to the Kremlin. With the VIP tour tickets in hand, we spent our morning learning about the treatment and care of our mentally ill and how it has changed over the last 140 years. We also took this unique opportunity to photograph something that is in various stages of restoration and decay. The TALA was closed in 1994 due to the deterioration of the facility and changes in the laws about care of those who suffer from mental illness. At that time the State of West Virginia had no plan for the future of the building  and the 300 acres of farm land that they now had owned in the center of a sleepy farm town.cropped-fall-afternoon-on-the-lawn-of-the-trans-allegheny-lunatic-asylum-west-wv-2016.jpg

The Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum fell into deep disrepair over the next 9 years leaving the community of Weston, West Virginia to wonder what the future would hold for their Georgian style monument. Would the building be sold off one huge block at a time, would a developer take control  of the land and building and turn it into something that would help the small town or would the TALA just fall apart from neglect. In 2003 Lewis County got its answer as  Morgantown asbestos demolition contractor  Joe Jordan bought the nationally listed historic building for 1.5 million dollars. It was the start of a new beginning for the building and the town.

As a local resident for many years, I have always heard the ghost stories told about the Asylum. I always wanted to get inside to see for myself if it was as spooky and mysterious as reported. Over the years I have been inside some of the buildings, but this trip I was astounded at the amount of work that the Jordan family has committed to doing. Here is just a sample of  images that show what kind of shape the building was in 2007 and in some cases still is today.

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Drop cloth on the floor of the plaster repair shop TALA.

 

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Sunlight on a solitary confinement room at the TALA.

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Washing sink in the kitchen food prep area of the hospital. This seems to be one of the first sinks in this area the newer ones are stainless steel.

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Creepy reflections appear in a widow at the medication dispensary area of the Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.

The woman on the left is a lady as part of our tour group… the older woman on the right without a body remains a mystery. I also have several photos with orbs in them and some believe that the orbs are images of spirits that are in the room.

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Lilly’s room at the TALA where at times ghostly things happen with the toys offered to her.

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Single desk in a common area of the TALA with bared windows and chipping paint.

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Metal bed frame imprinted into the tile floor of one of the patient rooms.

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Sunlight streams through a cobweb covered window looking out on another portion of the TALA.

 

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Doors and windows and grotesque faces on the back of the civil war section of the building of the TALA.

Our tour took us up the three  floors of the main building and from the civil war era to almost modern times with in the building. Each tour that Greg gives is slightly different and geared for the group he leads.Some portions of the main building have been restored had wonderful time period furnishings and made visitors understand what the buildings intended purpose was in the 1800’s.

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Tour guide Greg showing off some of the furniture that is original to the TALA.

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What a room at the TALA could look like for those who were well-behaved.

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Common room area niche with “tea time” table setting on first floor wing

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The first item to be restored was the clock tower and clocks the color that was chosen for the trim of the tower is a color match from the 1800’s.

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My friend Alex Smits in the reflection of a mantel mirror in the restored administrators office at the TALA.

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Second floor nurses quarters unmarried nurses were allowed to live at the TALA and these are were they would have visited and relaxed in the common areas.

The VIP tour lasts around 90 to 95 minutes and covers every area inside the large stone building from the entry area to the scary electro-shock therapy rooms and solitary confinement rooms. It showed what the building was meant to be and also showed visitors what really happened in the days of over crowding when a one person room would have three or four living in small 10 x 10 cells that reminded me of prison cells rather than recovery rooms.

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Observation window in the wall of the shock therapy room.

Alex and I both felt a mixture of fascination and horror while on the tour when we found out the many ways Dr.’s tried to “help” the people who found themselves committed here. I have often been disappointed in our fellow-man but when a person realizes the reasons that were used to place people in facilities like this one… if makes the hair stand up on the back of you neck.

REASONS FOR ADMISSION
WEST VIRGINIA HOSPITAL FOR THE INSANE (WESTON)
OCTOBER 22, 1864 to DECEMBER 12, 1889Amenorrhea
Asthma
Bad company
Bad habits & political excitement
Bad whiskey
Bite of a rattle snake
Bloody flux
Brain fever
Business nerves
Carbonic acid gas
Carbuncle
Cerebral softening
Cold
Congetion of brain
Constitutional
Crime
Death of sons in the war
Decoyed into the army
Deranged masturbation
Desertion by husband
Diptheria
Disappointed affection
Disappointed love
Disappointment
Dissipation of nervesDissolute habits
Dog bite
Domestic affliction
Domestic trouble
Douby about mother’s ancestors
Dropsy
Effusion on the brain
Egotism
Epileptic fits
Excessive sexual abuse
Excitement as officer
Explosion of shell nearby
Exposure & hereditary
Exposure & quackery
Exposure in army
Fall from horse
False confinement
Feebleness of intellect
Fell from horse
Female disease
Fever
Fever & loss of law suit
Fever & nerved
Fighting fire
Fits & desertion of husband

Gastritis
Gathering in the head
Greediness
Grief
Gunshot wound
Hard study
Hereditary predisposition
Ill treatment by husband
Imaginary female trouble
Immoral life
Imprisonment
Indigestion
Intemperance
Interferance
Jealousy
Jealousy & religion
Kick of horse
Kicked in the head by a horse
Laziness
Liver and social disease
Loss of arm
Marriage of son
Masturbation & syphillis
Masturbation for 30 years
Medicine to prevent conception

Menstrual deranged
Mental excitement
Milk fever
Moral sanity
Novel reading
Nymphomania
Opium habit
Over action on the mind
Over heat
Over study of religion
Over taxing mental powers.
Parents were cousins
Pecuniary losses: worms
Periodical fits
Political excitement
Politics
Puerperal
Religious enthusiasm
Religious excitement
Remorse
Rumor of husband’s murder or desertion
Salvation army
Scarlatina
Seduction
Seduction & dissappointment

Self abuse
Severe labor
Sexual abuse and stimulants
Sexual derangement
Shooting of daughter
Smallpox
Snuff
Snuff eating for two years
Softening of the brain
Spinal irritation
Sun stroke
Sunstroke
Superstition
Supressed masturbation
Supression of menses
Tabacco & masturbation: hysteria
The war
Time of life
Trouble
Uterine derangement
Venerial excesses
Vicious vices in early life
Women
Women trouble
Young lady & fear

Sources: http://www.trans-alleghenylunaticasylum.com/main/history3.html

In most cases we would all be committed and institutionalized for the rest of our lives here if they still fallowed these reasons. Thank goodness we have modern medications and treatments.Yet, our tour guide repeatedly told us that several patients at the Asylum cried and became distraught when they closed down the building and had to be move. Some patients had lived inside the gates of the TALA their whole lives and were not stable enough to understand why they had to leave.

No matter how you feel about the TALA it is an interesting tour and a very educational one. I left the building with mixed feelings, I felt shame and heart-break for the people who lived here, fascination for the history and architecture, scared in some of the rooms and by the detailed information given about procedures and treatments. I felt sadness while looking at the art of the patients. I did not include many of my photos because the drawings and painting evoke such strong emotions that I felt as if I was sharing something very personal and did not have the right to.

In the end I had a great time, I got spend time with someone I really enjoy, and got to take photos of a historic old creepy building.. what a wonderful Halloween I had.

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Civil War, Halloween, Lewis County, museums, Photos, sickness, Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, Travel, wellness | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

My Rock Through Sickness and Health

If life is a river as Robert Redford narrates in his movie ” The River Runs Through It”…. then my husband is the river boulder that we all fly fish from.

rocks covered in moss by the river in Ten Mile. WV

rocks covered in moss by the river in Ten Mile. WV

As my life takes another unexpected turn I am so glad he is always so strong and steadfast.He is unmovable in his faith that we will get through any issue large or small. As I face another surgery, this one scheduled for Friday the 21st,to remove a cyst and ovary that have been causing me pain. I am so thankful to have someone to take over all the chores and child care for me. If all goes well you will be seeing several blog posts next week while I recover and try to catch up with all the stories I have been wanting to tell.

I did some traveling to my AmeriCorps Stakeholders meeting and that is a two-fold story. The first is about the work AmeriCorps is doing in that small town and the Second is about mummies… I know when you think of West Virginia you always include mummies, why wouldn’t you.

I also have a story about the 75th year of the city of Buckhannon’s Strawberry Festival where little Christopher is part of the minor court and is the crown holder for the king. He is so excited to ride on the official float in the Grand Parade.The fair lasts a week and we will get to take part in a lot of the events.Cute kid photos are on the way and fair food photos will be in the post for my friend Dan at No Facilities.

I have also wanted to write about the house and the bee projects and  how this surgery is derailing both of them. I am not sure if the bee project will gain ground this year and the door should be ordered next month if nothing else goes wrong.We finally got a quote that we feel comfortable with and a door that we both like!

Christopher Power and Kaylee Hall leaving coronation of Strawberry Queen 2016

Christopher Powers and Kaylee Hall leaving the Strawberry Queens Coronation 2016

It has been a long year for the whole family, both Tom and I having surgery and Christopher needing to have a tooth removed have sidetracked just about everything I had planned for spring. The only thing that is going the way I planned is the garden. I hope get a chance to write about the newest addition “Garlic” soon. It is already doing well this year in an old flower bed that was amended with all natural Bunny Poop.

So now everyone is up to date and I have many more stories to write over the next couple of weeks. So if you get tired of hearing from me the next two weeks,forgive me.  I will be back to my one blog post a week as soon as I return to work and get on my feet again.

As always thanks for stopping in it is always fun to share my stories with all of you,

Mountain MaMa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: AmeriCorps, Beekeeping, Buckhannon West Virginia, Bunny, Christopher, DIY projects, Fairs and Festivals, Healing, Marriage, sickness, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Undiscussed Complications Related to Strep Throat a warning to Parents

This spring has been a long battle for me. I have had some health issue on and off for 5 weeks. Things just started off with a simple spring cold and cough, you know the typical stuff. Then about three good days and was sick again with a sore throat fever and chills. Classic symptoms of Strep Throat and I thought I would wait to see my Dr for a couple of days before running in to get antibiotics. So I did, waiting about 4 days before giving into the swollen glad and body aches that I had on the heals of the sore throat. Note that Strep is almost never seen in adults or teens over 16. It is strange at 45 to hear the clinic P.A.  say yes, it was a real case of strep throat and I was actually quite sick. I never knew that there are complications that regularly occur from this bacterial infection. Most of them you would never ever know about until you Goggled the information.

Over they years I have become a little leery about using to many antibiotics and steroids. I was happy to find that my P.A. did not force the issue of a steroid treatment on my first visit but just causally said he would let me call him back if I felt that I needed them without having another appointment fee. We also discussed that with my age he would expect my case to develop into a sinus infection. OK, great! At that point  he put me on a strong antibiotic to try to keep that from happening and to support the killing of the Streptococcus bacteria. I left the office feeling that this would be the end of all of my aliments. I was wrong!

After the 4 Th day of antibiotic treatment I was feeling really good. Spent some time with Tom outdoors hiking and mushroom hunting enjoying a wonderful day and spent a nice night playing with Christopher. The next morning was totally different.  I woke up to pressure in both ears and a terrible ringing in my right ear. The combination was very disturbing. The ringing lasted several days but over about 24 hours the pressure in my left ear released on its own with a nice Pop! So being a little slow to worry, I  weighted three more days before thinking that I needed the steroids . While these short days passed the symptoms got worse. My hearing was declining fast. The first morning was pressure and ringing but I could hear almost normally. By day 4 I had lost all of the hearing from that ear and the ringing had turned into a buzzing. The pressure was steady and very uncomfortable but not getting better.Things were looking like I was going to have to call and get the steroid medication whether I wanted it or not.

Ear

In the mean time a friend that I have known for about 15 years contacted me and asked me some serious questions about my situation and explained that  her daughter, went deaf in one ear at 17  from a strep infection. Her symptoms acted just like what I had written about in a Facebook post. Well that started me looking up all the information I could on Strep Throat and what her daughter has (idiopathic hearing loss) and what other causes we could find. Not only did I have strep throat just before this but I was also recovering from facial cold sore that I have been fighting with over 20 years.  All these factors added up to trouble. Karen explained that if her daughter had taken a steroids they think that they could have saved her hearing…but they waited to long. The period for treatment is less than a month and the hearing loss becomes permanent.  I also discovered the more common complications while looking up the ones for my problem… the list is LONG and SCARY.

Strep Throat complications included sinus infections, ear infections,enlarged and damage to the kidneys and middle ear problems, Rheumatic fever that damages the heart,to PANDAS- and O.C.D. ( obsessive compulsive disorder). Holy Crap  this is just part of the list. Just think of every kid you have ever known who has had this multiple times. I knew kids growing up that would get it every year or sometimes twice in a year. The risk of complications is real and as a woman who is too old to get strep, I was shocked at the amount of damage a sore throat can cause.

Lucky for me my friend encouraged me to call back to my Dr office and ask to get the steroids ASAP. I did call in for that prescription and began taking them the following morning. The wait was on and I was actually thinking that it would not work. I thought OK, at 45 I would be partly deaf and this was the price I was going to pay. I was wrong and I began to get relief over night.

The second day I picked up the phone and could hear a dial tone. The same one I could not hear the day before and I knew it was working. In about 48 hours the pressure was gone and almost all of my hearing had returned. I still have some issues with ringing but they are better than before. What I have experienced was an emotional roller coaster and has made me more aware of what our kids go through with just a minor cold. I would have never believed that 4 weeks of my life would be lost to a bacterial infection. That what we don’t know can really hurt our health and in this case my hearing. I don’t think it will ever be totally normal but I will take every song bird that I can can hear sing the rest of my life.

So when a child gets diagnosed with a simple case of Strep Throat for their sake take the time to really watch over them closely and make sure that if you see a rash, get complaints about ear pressure or pain, or issues with the stomach that you take it more seriously than before it could make the difference between them hearing your loving words or not hearing at all.

Categories: About me, child care, Healing, health, sickness, Strep Throat | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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