Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Cow's Tale

For some time now, my siblings and I have been wrestling with the idea of selling mother's cows. With her move to my house in upcoming months, it would not be feasible to keep them. My mother has always been a lover of all animals, but not as much as she became after marrying her second husband Yates.

Yates had lived on a farm all his life, so when they wed, the cows and farm were already in place. Through the years, mother began to think of her cows as "family," naming the calves at birth and nursing those whose mother was unfortunate enough to not survive the birthing process.

I recall such an incident with one little bull who Mother and Yates named Toro. Every day, they would give Toro his feedings through a bottle which closely resembled one like "Shrek" might have drank out of. With mother and Yates' good care, Toro grew and grew until he was ripe for market. Mother struggled with giving him up, but eventually, she would agree. After all, this was the whole idea of a cattle farm. Even though it hurt to let him go, she said her goodbyes and off he went. For days, she would cry at the thought of her baby, Toro becoming someone's Saturday night barbecue. It was around that time that mother gave up eating red meat altogether. To this day, we have to sneak beef into her food, but even with dementia, mother can usually point it out.

Another cow that was special to mother and Yates, was a heifer named "Babysitter." Yates gave her this because she had been on the farm so long and had cared for so many little stray calves who had become motherless for some reason or other. Mother had asked Yates many times before his death as to what would be done with "Babysitter" when she got really old. His instructions were that she was to remain with the farm until she died.

With "Babysitter" remaining on the farm, the decision was made to sell the rest of the cattle except for two other heifers which would keep "Babysitter" company. With no bulls in sight, these three would live the rest of their days in mother's pastures.

What a sad decision it was to sell the cows, but all the while knowing that it was the right decision. Becoming a middle aged child, has brought along with it, many responsibilities that I have not been prepared for. The awesome task of caring for aged parents is one of the things I had never really given much thought about. I suppose I just thought they would live until it was time to die and then go on to Heaven. Not once did I think about me and others filling the role as a "caregiver." Dementia or no Dementia, it is a trying time in life which no doubt is inevitable for all of us. One thing for certain, we all have parents and will soon have to make decisions for them that we had rather not make.

When the day finally arrived, mother's long time farm helper Donald, was consulted as to just how we would go about this deed, without making mother the wiser. We decided that he would gather the cows up for market just like he had done every year and when mother inquired as to what was happening, we would just say that "Donald is just taking them to the market, mother."

It was a Wednesday, and we had planned for him to take the first load off when I would have mother away for her weekly hair appointment. The timing got off somehow and I arrived to drive her to the salon. Upon arrival, I noticed that Donald and helper were down loading up the cows. As I exited my car, mother awaited me at the garage door with a puzzled look on her face. We could hear noises of metal clanking and banging, cows bellowing and mooing as they were loading up. "What's going on down there?" she asked. With the answer as planned, I replied, "now mother, you know that Donald takes off some cattle every year, and this year is no different." With one look at mother's face, we both broke into tears. She heads on into the house, sobbing and talking about how she can never get use to them being sold, knowing that they would be killed. I have to say, I was really caught off guard with my feelings and would catch myself days later, in tears as I relived this scenario.

It's been several months now since this grim deed has taken place. Mother has not once mentioned where her cows have gone. Once again, Dementia has come to the rescue.

Every time I come up mother's drive, I can spy her three cows. Looking at "Babysitter," I remember her days on mother and Yates' farm as that faithful mother and caretaker of the little ones. I am comforted to know that she will remain here until she moves on to greener pastures.

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