Monday, March 2, 2015

Sands of Time and Doris

Old age in all its blessings and curses is catching up with a loved one in my life - Doris, my mother-in-law, who has become more like my mother in affection.  I wrote about Doris in a prior post entitled "Rosie the Riveter and Doris', link is listed below.  She just turned 93 years of age a few days ago and we celebrated her with balloons and birthday cake with fellow residents and caregivers who have become her family at the care facility where she lives. 

I write this today to honor her while she is still with us and would like to share a few photographs that Doris took 'back in the day'.  Some of these pictures are at least seventy years old that were found in a cedar chest in a house that was her home and sanctuary.  She was quite a photographer and over 600 negatives were stored away in this treasure box of memories.  These photos were taken during the time of 35mm cameras; a Brownie camera specifically that she used.  It was a simple camera with no elaborate accessories but she produced some outstanding shots because of her ability to frame a scene for a photograph.  The negatives were transferred into digital prints to be shared with family.    

The following pictures are just a few of the many that she took of her beloved Petrolia, a small ranching hamlet in Northern California.  The country where Petrolia is located is rugged and pristine. It is part of what is known as the 'Lost Coast' in Humboldt County.  This was the country that Doris was raised in and spent a good thirty years of her life before making a change. (Click on photos to enlarge)   

Petrolia suited Doris for she was a country gal who liked to ride a horse, hunt deer and herd sheep.  She did an occasional stint working at the local country store but her love was the outdoors.  As a single mom, she raised two sons during their early years in this unspoiled country. 

The photos below were taken of Doris as a young woman who enjoyed all that country life could offer.  Skilled with a rifle - a deer, coyote, fox or cougar did not have a chance if they were in her line of fire.  Despite her outdoor preference, Doris was still a lady.  If you look closely enough in the below photo, you can see the polish on her fingernails as she holds her fresh critter kill, which I gather had a menacing side.  Doris would shoot for meat or if wildlife were a threat to the immediate surroundings.  She did not kill for sport.  The other picture is of a young Doris with her horse.  Horses were her passion and she loved to ride the surrounding hills, which could be a challenge in itself.   

Doris eventually remarried and left the area, living in Canada and Alaska and raised a third son.  She returned to Petrolia in retirement years and pursued her enjoyment of horses. When she found it physically difficult to ride as she grew older, she'd keep a pet horse in her back yard to hand-feed and groom to her liking. After her husband passed away, the time came when Doris could no longer live by herself in her Petrolia home.  Decisions were made and she relocated to Oregon to be close to family who could see to her needs and oversee her care. 

It is usually tough for an elderly to leave their familiar place to live elsewhere.  Doris was no exception but in her resilience, knew this was something that had to be done, whether she liked it or not, to ensure her health care.  She has been with us for ten years now at an Assisted Living facility a short distance away.  Seeing Doris on a regular basis, we have come to know the staff and caregivers who have been wonderful with her throughout the days, weeks, months and years.  We have all witnessed her decline from walking to wheelchair confinement and the progression of dementia.  Throughout it all, she still manages to let people know 'who is in charge' with that last little piece of independence that she can still muster - through her tongue!  In other words, she'll still have the last say if she can.

Happy 93 years of age, Doris.  You have survived good and bad times, happiness and heartache, poverty and security.   You have been a scrapper - ready to take on injustice, particularly in a day that didn't have women's rights as they do today.  You have been a woman of strong will and determination.  You have been known to speak your mind in saying exactly what you think or feel that was born out of the independence gained from survival.  And yes, you still like to have your nails freshly painted and polished.

We have watched Doris decline during the past year and particularly, the last three months - it is as if she is giving up the fight and is getting weary of the experience of living.  As Doris would aptly say as only she can eloquently state, "I'm getting tired of this shit!"

Link to Rosie the Riveter and Doris....

We'll meet again at The Turn-Up Patch on Monday, March 16....

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