Death is always close on a farm…

…at least that is what it feels like this week.  Rosie Girl, the 33 year old horse we took in four years ago was fine on Tuesday night.  Sure, her legs were a bit stiff at times, and after we took her in we discovered she had Cushings, but we got that under control thanks to some fairly expensive meds, no snacks (well, lettuce on occasion…the neighbors may have slipped her an apple or carrot or two, but Rosie never told me, so I can’t be sure), and alfalfa pellet mash since her teeth were in a state where chewing was not her strong suit.  Still, when she realized I was heading to the barn for feeding time, she could outrun the donkeys who are young whippersnappers in comparison.  (We took then in a year after Rosie Girl when they were about five, we think.) In any case, I gave her a good brushing while she ate her mash on Tuesday night, let her back out with the boys (they like to sneak into her stall and steal her mash if they can), and headed off into the house for a standard Tuesday night round of avoiding both laundry and writing.

In the morning, I turn on the car to warm up before I go feed the beasties.  I had heard the donkeys braying earlier in the morning than normal, but since they do not hesitate to call for more food whenever the mood strikes, I did not rush my morning schedule.  When I went to the barn, Rosie Girl was not there.  I called.  She does not like to let the boys out of her sight, so it was odd that she was not within hearing.  I figured she was just slow, and went about getting the boys their hay.  Still no Rosie.  I went through her stall into the field and scanned the darkness to see if I saw her.  No luck.  I fed the cats.

I was going to be late to work.

I started for the car, but switched directions and headed back into the house for the flashlight.  I went back to the barn and scanned the fields again with the flashlight.  I already knew she was gone.  I hoped that maybe she was just napping somewhere.  Or caught her leg in a fence and needed help out.  I still knew.  I really was going to be late for work.  I jumped in the car and drove down the hill.  I was going to stop and scan the lower fields on the way out.  Maybe she just found an escape route and took a walk up the road.  She could have gotten into the neighbor’s yard.  They tempt her with apples after all.

Before I pulled the car to a stop in front of the folks house, I could see that my plan for recovering my rogue lady up the road were as futile as I knew they would be.  I could see the dark shape of our Rosie Girl just inside the lower field fence.  Near the neighbor’s yard.  Not close to the apple tree though.  I called her name.  I knew there would not be a reply, but at 6 AM, without a sweater on, when the perfectly fine old horse who was sassing the donkeys the night before is found lying in a dark mound of flesh which used to be a horse, one is willing to try ridiculous things just in case they work.

I started toward the gate.  I was late for work.  I had work clothes on.  I looked at my shoes.  I growled.  I ran to the parents house.  Since I never stop on the way to work, my entrance was more shocking than it would have been at other times.  “I think Rosie’s dead. I have to go to work.”  As you can imagine, my announcement did not really help ease the reaction from my sudden early AM entrance.  Mom said words.  She coughed.  Dad said something too.  I did what I like to do in moments where I am likely to bawl like a baby whose pacifier is taken away for no good reason: I left.

On the way to work I cursed myself seven times over.  I should have gone into the field.  I needed to turn around.  Dad had to get to work too.  Mom can’t walk into the field.  What if she was just napping?  Some horses look dead when they nap.  I’ve seen them.  Right?  The problem with being a teacher is that one can’t just not show up.  I kept driving to school.  I had to figure out lesson plans someone else could teach.  Then I could go home. Call the vet.  Save the horse.  Curl up in a ball and cry.  Yeah.  That seemed like the best plan.

At school I texted my teaching partner to ask if she could take my classes in the AM so I could get home.  I didn’t get a reply.  I texted home to ask if Rosie Girl was really gone.  She was.  There was nothing I could do at home to make things better.  Although curling up and crying sounded better than teaching, I got myself together.  If anyone asked about the red eyes, allergies would be the answer.  Safer that way.  I headed into the morning meeting braced to ignore the farm reality and just get to work.

That resolve lasted until the principal announced that another teacher’s dad had died suddenly and unexpectedly the night before.  One of the other teachers got up to go get a paper towel for herself.  She was subtle.  My teaching partner tried to ask me about something else.  Curling up under the table wasn’t an option, so I said, “My horse died.”  Cue the tears.

My horse died.  My mom is dying.  A chicken died two months ago.  The vultures ate the baby calf in the neighbor’s field.  Don’t even ask me about the skunks.

My teaching partner asked why I was there.  “I texted you.  I’m fine.  Too late to get a sub.”  She checked her messages.  There was my text.  Then she had to ask what happened.  I tend to offer too much detail sometimes.  Details make me weepy.  Weeping in a staff meeting leads to a runny nose.  Why is there no Kleenex in the library?

That started off Wednesday.

I know I should be grateful that she was old and went quickly.  Isn’t that the way we all want to go?  One day we are here, the next morning, gone?  I am grateful that she hadn’t shown signs of suffering.  That there wasn’t something else I could have done if only I had known.  But that’s the problem.  What if there was something else I could have done?

Mom’s been fighting an upper respiratory infection, a sore throat that caused her not to eat for five days, and the feeling that being trapped in her chair for two weeks is really cutting into the few days, weeks, months she has left.  She does an amazing job of keeping positive for someone who has been fighting to live for over 20 years, but when she sighs and says, “You know, when a person gets to this point, it’s not the cancer that kills them.  Secondary infections…”

“I know, mom.  I know.”

That was later Wednesday.

I sometimes do a terrible job of listening to my mom.  Mostly because I do not want to hear.  I think if I do not listen that maybe none of her reality will be real.  Then I think that I better kick myself in the arse and listen.

Today, we had the first hard frost.  It murdered my red begonia.  I forgot to check the weather.  That whole death thing is close on a farm.


Amy of Hummingbird Hill View All →

I’m just someone trying to figure out how to juggle ten acres, work, a mama with stage four cancer, and a whole lot of grumpy. This blog started out as “Grumpy Gal’s Guide to Gratitude,” but since all I really keep typing about is the garden, I figured I might as well own it! So, thanks for joining me as I try and figure out how the heck to kick myself in the booty and get on with life.

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