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Mychal Wilmes: As summer wanes, there’s much to be done

September 12, 2017 GMT

Humphrey Bogart — he being a mishmash beagle who goes wherever his nose leads him — is not much of a conversationalist.

I needed him to be one because Kathy spent an entire week at a conference in Dallas. I could have accompanied her, but there were a couple of reasons why I didn’t.

Dallas will forever be marred in my memory. On Nov. 22, 1963, bullets fired in Dallas brought an end to the blind innocence of the 1950s and helped usher in the violent 1960s.

And there is so much to be done now that the maple leaves have begun to wear their reds and oranges and squirrels scamper walnuts to their favorite hiding spots. Tomatoes are ripening at a pace that makes it difficult to keep up. Some have been frozen — an easy storage method but one that, for me, lacks the artistry of quart jars painted red.

Sixteen such jars are cooling on the kitchen table.

Bogart, who has been known to pluck tomatoes and peppers from the garden, is on the scented trail of a young cottontail who raced from the garden’s edge to the cover that weeds and prairie grass provide. The chase is Bogart’s only reward. To my knowledge he’s never caught a rabbit.

A farmer stops by to return his baler to my storage. We talk about the crops as we often do. The concern is his beans are green as grass and the corn needs more warmth to prod it to maturity. Gossip holds that a killing frost is expected at mid-month; others insist it will come late but be followed by heavy October snow.

We’ll be satisfied with what comes.

I watch the tractor rumble down the driveway and remember that I hadn’t taken the multi-colored pills that help since the stroke. Some are for blood pressure and others have unknown purposes. None have yet to remove the tingling that dulls the right hand and leg. It scares me a little when I think about it, but it’s not something that needs to be dwelled on.

The family gathers for a fall picnic.

My brother Stanley, who is in his 80s and dealing with cancer, insists that dying isn’t what scares him — it’s the process that one goes through before reaching the end that is frightening. He has the sort of solid faith that comes with age. He mentioned it matter-of-factly during a recent family gathering before a euchre card game. He’s a good player, and I don’t pay enough attention to be one. I fail to inkle correctly and we get bucked. He instructs without anger, and I promise to play along better.

The games continue until it’s time to leave. I wish more time had been spent talking about the way things were when the small houses was crammed with siblings who tried to best each other in the fields and barns and hastily prayed together before Mother brought the mashed potatoes, fried chicken and gravy to the table. Four of us no longer sit at table.

Faith allows that we will be together again.

The dog barks and a coyote howl carries through the cool air. I fall asleep in the rocker and a dream makes me a child once again. My brother and I take the small sled to the wood pile and fill it. Mother makes hot chocolate on the stove and fills a plate with chocolate chip cookies that are best dunked. I wake up before I get a taste. The fridge has little to offer. Low-fat yogurt won’t satisfy in the midnight hour. The pantry yields an open package of stale potato chips.

I settle for the yogurt and struggle to fall asleep because immediate and eternal thoughts clutter my brain.