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The Night Keepers

White Trash in a Mink Coat/Blog     By: Patty Collins-King

The Night Keepers                                            October 13, 2017

It is so good to be alive in the fall and the once dreaded month of October is once again appreciated! I see colors now instead of death. I smell a fire instead of thinking I might be going towards that big one called hell. 🙁  And the coffee smells a little stronger when the air is a little crisper, don’t you think?

I used to be afraid of the dark. After momma was killed, I think a more accurate word would be petrified! I’ve gotten better about it and I can attribute some of that to a book my counselor told me to read by Barbara Brown Taylor called, Learning to Walk in the Dark. It’s a good read even if you aren’t afraid of the dark. I really wish I’d have known about that book when dealing with my crazy imagination and what-ifs with momma and can-sur! However, you can still walk through our house at night and you’d probably think it was daytime, but I just say hey, at this age, it doesn’t hurt to be cautious and take extra measures not to fall! 🙂

5th Wing~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Exhaustion made me sleep fitfully when dealing with the trauma of momma’s rape and murder and dream the most dreadful things that I never thought could possibly go through my mind consciously or unconsciously but, I have never—until can-sur—lay awake so alert! Nights are sooooo long when they give you an infusion and at the same time jack you up on steroids. That’s what I think but other survivors have said that they came home and slept like the dead. I however, am a medical mystery. If the doc says you’ll be sleepy, I get all jacked up. If the doc says you might be on edge, I doze.

Our animals, who I sometimes refer to as the helpless spirits that hold us together, know something is terribly wrong with that outline of a human that gives us treats! We rescued Izzy—aka—Sweet Kitty, which is/was a huge joke because she is/was not very nice, except to me. She’s gone now but my husband would run the other way when I trimmed her nails and she would growl! I kid you not. She would growl like a dog! I thought she came close to biting me or taking a whack at my face with her claws a few times but she didn’t dare. Sweet Kitty loved me and I learned this even more when I lay awake at nights after my surgery and treatments. I swear that cat had a calendar! Izzy was not allowed on the furniture so when we left the house we would put her in her boudoir—aka—the mud room. She would retreat to her boudoir even on her own; like when the dogs got rowdy. She had absolutely no tolerance for rough housing and nonsense!

When my family brought me home from the hospital, it was like we could sense Izzy creeping into the room before we could see her. She hopped up onto the nightstand and hunkered down on all fours to watch me. I knew she was there, and I also knew that Sweet Kitty gave everyone in the room the evil eye so that they wouldn’t make her move. However, they would not have been inclined to do so, because I think they were secretly afraid of what her next move might be. And so as I went in-an-out, I caught glimpses of Izzy. She would purr, lean over and smell my hair and place her paw very lightly on my forehead like she was checking for a fever. We were never quite sure of Sweet Kitty’s age when we rescued her, and we thought many times that ‘this is it’ for Izzy but, low and behold she would bounce back and claim one of her seven lives. I vaguely remember looking at her and wondering if I will be able to bounce back and get to at least reclaim part of mine. She looks at my husband and meow’s and it sounds like mawwwma. He scratches her head and leaves her alone and I think we both find peace in knowing that she will be one of our overnight watch guards.

While Izzy seems calm on her perch looking down, the dogs seem fretful. Grayce, the Old English sheepdog, whines and prances around the bedroom, and then gets in her bed and lies very still with her eyes open until they become too heavy. She is confused but most people know that Old English Sheepdogs are not the brightest breed, just the sweetest! Kallie, our rescue from the pound—she’s gone now too—sits in her bed staring at me and then carefully gets out and comes over to sniff and nudge my hand. She returns to her bed for a while but eventually gets up and repeats this ritual at least ten times throughout the night. As my family dozes off and on from exhaustion, Izzy is my steadfast keeper and she is by far the most calm and patient one. I feel her presence and I am not afraid of the dark! Of course I was heavily drugged—and that may have helped a little—but I think our three furry friends give my family a respite from them taking their eyes off of me and being afraid to leave me alone.

I want my life to be like Sweet Kitty. I want to sit quietly and be patient. I want to put my claws out only in self-defense. I want to know my friends and know my enemies and treat each, accordingly. I want to be the night keeper when I am needed.

Yes! I want my life to be like Sweet Kitty—rescue me and I will help save you!

And of course…I want to break the Rules!!! 🙂

Dream Big, Smile Often,

Love, Patty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Jessica Comes to the Rescue

White Trash in a Mink Coat/Blog     By: Patty Collins-King

Baby Jessica Comes to the Rescue                  September 13, 2017

I use to love this time of year, and then I use to hate this time of year, and now I am starting to love this time of year again! I know it’s only September, but right after momma was killed in October, September seemed like a month that would whisper ‘It’s Coming!’ The dreaded anniversary of October 18th. Then later, ‘It’s Coming!’ the dreaded anniversary of your can-sur diagnosis. It took years until I could find all of the beauty in the fall again after momma, but I’m happy to say that I bounced back easier after my October news, refusing to let the bad in life take so much of the good. Yes! I did that—BUT it has not been easy!

4th Wing~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Before momma was killed on Sunday the 18, 1987, there was a tragedy happening in Texas that our family followed closely on the news and I remember praying very hard every time there was an update. (I should have been praying more but with a 5 month and 22 month old I didn’t know if I was coming or going half of the time.) I do however distinctly remember fretting something awful over Baby Jessica! She had fallen down the well on Wednesday the 14th, and even though she was rescued on Friday the 16th,   with everyone being extremely excited by this news, the ‘could haves’ about her rescue really got to me. And then… Sunday morning would unfortunately come with our dreaded family news!

The following Wednesday a black limo comes to retrieve us to take the drive to Churchville. We are going to lay momma to rest before the church service in Harrisonburg. To my knowledge, and according to my grandmothers’ comments, we are the only ones in our generation since the 1900’s that have had NO open casket and had the burial before the funeral. Tongues were waggin’ you can be sure of that, but we only heard bits and pieces since we got it second hand, so we let it go. The National Guard are lining our driveway because the murderer is still at large and I am amazed that they would take on this responsibility. I am also afraid for them but secretly wish that some of them were going to follow us on the 40 minute drive to the country that will take longer because of our slow speed. And I know that speed is somehow linked to disrespect, but I long for the ride to be over, and I press hard on the floorboard of the limo with my high heel to try and make some headway. I did NOT however, need to worry about the National Guard following us because the FBI peeps were at the cemetery undercover. Gulp!

Walking down the isle at the church service while hanging onto my husbands’ arm a quick thought flashes thru my mind of me walking down the same isle hanging onto daddy’s arm three years prior on our wedding day. It’s hard for me to get my breath and the preacher’s voice seems as though he is miles away. I am hearing him tell us that today the devil is winning but, that God has the last say, and I know that it is true but I cannot form the timeline in my head. I stare at the red carpet and the gold organ pipes and I contrast that the bright and shiny objects on a happy wedding day take on the feel of a gigantic tomb on the day of a funeral.

Everyone is invited back to our home after the funeral for food. People trickle out and once the house is emptied, except for us—our broken family—the news comes on and low and behold there is a timeline and an in-depth story on Baby Jessica! It was not only a good news-prayers answered story; it was a glimmer of hope even though bad things and good things were all swirling around at the same time. We stared at the TV. And I think we probably had more questions than answers but it didn’t matter…we were mesmerized by Baby Jessica and her will to survive! This was written on   Baby Jessica Biography.com

In the meantime, rescue workers pumped oxygen into the well and attempted to maintain constant communication with Baby Jessica, who moaned, wailed and for a while even sang nursery rhymes to pass the time. “After listening to her for so long, I could tell her moods,” a detective on the scene recalled. “At one point she was singing. At another point, when a jackhammer started up, she didn’t say any words but used kind of a huffy little voice. You could tell it was an angry voice. I would say 80 percent of the time she was either crying or making some kind of noise we could hear. When we weren’t calling words of encouragement, we’d tell her to sing for us. I’ll never forget her singing ‘Winnie the Pooh.'”

So I say thank you and SING on Baby Jessica!!! You were a glimmer of hope when so many of us felt that we had none.

Dream Big, Smile Often,

Love, Patty

 

 

 

 

Angels Flying Close

White Trash in a Mink Coat/Blog     By: Patty Collins-King

Angels Flying Close                  August 13, 2017

One thing—among many—that I have learned is that girlfriends are girls and friends BUT, they are life lines too! We hold hands when we’re little, give hugs for many reasons when we’re older and hold onto each other’s arms for support when we’re really really old. We raise other girlfriends! We go thru some of the same things and ask…Am I crazy? Yes. Yes we are! And it’s not all bad because when we get to that crazy place for whatever reason…we get to talk about it! 🙂

3rd Wing~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I stare at three of the angels sitting on my desk. One is a wooden carved angel with her arms spread and three birds perching, two on one arm and one on the other. One of my girlfriends gave it to me for my fiftieth birthday to remind me to spread my wings and fly, and my heart flutters when I see it. Another angel is very tiny, on her knees and in prayer form, and she reminds me to be humble and grateful. My girlfriend gave her to me when her son was in Iraq because we tied a yellow ribbon around our maple tree in the front yard, and left a blue light shining in the dining room window. (He’s Home!!!) The third angel was given to me from a girlfriend who most likely had no idea that I like angels! She is a stately silver metal candle holder, waiving her wand and pulling up on her dress—such confidence she shows that I think she may take flight at any moment! I look at these angels every day on my desk along with the Erma Bombeck sign that says… “When I stand before God at the end of my life I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left and could say, I USED EVERYTHING YOU GAVE ME.” 

A few days into ABCD, after breast can-sur diagnosis, I remember a desperate helpless feeling came over me while my daughter and I were sitting at the kitchen table. When she told me to remember that I had my faith—we all did, albeit an iffy and shaky one at this point—and I told her that maybe I didn’t have enough, she threw words back at me that I had thrown at her and her brother many times, reminding me that it only had to be the size of a mustard seed. I broke down and said that I may not even have that anymore, and she replied, “Momma you do have that and so much more.” And I believed her. Yes, I believed her!

BUT THEN…as luck would have it, I had some problems speaking, like SURPRISE!—I sounded like a stroke victim! I heard my voice and I saw my families’ faces and we must have mirrored each other because I started hyperventilating while one grabbed a lunch paper bag, one jumped on their laptop and one called the my family emergency number for my doctor. I hear what they are saying, “breath in, breath out” but I do not hear that as clear as one of them telling me that I have to go immediately the next morning for a CT scan—embolism, dangerous stuff —might have to go back into surgery.  🙁

I am a train wreck so I try to breath and calm down enough to think of my gifts. Two of which are laying on the table beside me. One, a prayer square that was sent to me by one of my favorite people—which was not an accident—she was new in town and went to a random church who happened to be selling them that morning! Two, a little vial of holy water from the Catholic Church in New York that was sent to me by two of my favorite people—which was not an accident—for the mail came just in time! Seriously!!! I don’t know that anyone knows this up until now, but I prayed and I sprinkled some of that holy water over me, secretly, very secretly, ‘cause I really don’t want my husband to know just how crazy I am at this point, and I sleep with that prayer square over my once cancerous breast that was long gone and I pray, and I mean harder than I have ever prayed, except for the momma thing—please God bring her back—that all would be A-okay and that I would not be shuttled in for surgery the next morning. Well I thought God might like crazy just a little when He answered my prayer the next morning!!! I am thinking hard about my holy water and prayer square, and thanking Him so much for having mercy on me and not putting me through more medical torture than I thought I could endure! I’m also thinking about the Erma Bombeck saying… I USED EVERYTHING YOU GAVE ME! I don’t think that’s exactly what she had in mind but hey, that prayer square and holy water were gifts from people I love and sent just in time so I darn well put them to good use! Thank you, thank you to my three kind, beautiful, caring young women who gave me gifts that keep on giving! Now that’s a lifeline if I’ve ever seen one! 😀

 

Dream Big, Smile Often,

Love, Patty

 

 

The Coat With No Color

White Trash in a Mink Coat/Blog     By: Patty Collins-King

The Coat With No Color       July 13, 2017

 

As usual—I really need the biggest EYE ROLL ever! I got ahead of myself, so now I am going to tell you why my blog is called White Trash in a Mink Coat.  🙂

This picture was one we created later. We didn’t take a lot of pictures when I was sick and the few we did take… well I trashed those on ONE FINE DAY, but that’s another story!

2nd Wing~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Midway through chemo we got hit with some extremely cold weather. On a Monday morning my husband asked me, “What coat will keep you the warmest?” and I said, “Don’t have one.” I couldn’t seem to get warm no matter what. I was on display in jeans with a flannel shirt un-tucked and loosely hanging over my chest so as to not touch my scars and expanders where we were reconstructing new breast. My high heels always matched my flannel shirt or one of my chemo scarves that I layered, but the heels matched one or the other and that was that! My daughter helped me cluster all of my outfits together in my closet. Why was it important to match everything and wear heels? Defiance, plain and simple!

I smiled pitifully—I was pitiful pearl as we used to say—and adjusted my black chemo scarf and the bandanna that covered it. “Momma’s mink, it’s upstairs.” My husband ran up to retrieve it and when he put it on me the dang thing was so heavy it almost brought me to my knees. I looked down at my flannel shirt, jeans and heels and told my husband, “Only me, in the west end of Richmond could look like white trash in a mink coat!” And there you have it! I had only worn the coat a few times in the twenty years or so that I had inherited it. Having always been an animal lover, and learning at a later age about the mink industry, I had mixed feelings about the coat. But I can tell you now—those animals were already dead, it was cold, and momma’s mink with her name sewn into the lining in cursive font was exactly what I needed!!! It wasn’t Dolly Parton’s ‘Coat of Many Colors’, but hey, I thought that I could see similarities in the meaning.

My husband is a patient man but he always tried to scurry me out to the truck quickly on chemo morning. He had a great fear that I would dig in my heels, turn and wobble back into the house. He knew how sick I was on this particular morning and he knew if he could just get me in the truck and sitting down that I’d go. On the ride with the heat blaring he held my hand and squeezed it often. There was no talking during the ride on chemo morning. What could we have said anyway? I wasn’t cold now—my body flipped on me like a light switch—but my knees still knocked together so I tried to picture the little pink Xanax pills running around in my body with magic wands, tapping and calming each nerve ending. Tap, tap, tap!

“Good morning,” the receptionist would say as we walked through the office door—yeah right! My husband got me out of the coat and into a chair and then went to the window to sign us in and give over our co-pay.

They would open the other door and call my name and I would dread that line of square curtain cubicles even though the blood sticking women were so nice. “Let’s see, finger or arm?” she would say while opening my folder. I would chant in my head, finger, finger, finger but I did not always get my way. There were weeks when I would get stuck every single day as my husband dragged me back and forth—and they wondered why I was anemic? Seriously, they were taking blood faster than I could make it! Next we would scoot down the hall to the next waiting room, my husband carrying my coat and handbag because everything was too heavy for me. While we sat and waited, I leaned my head against my husbands’ shoulder and he laced our hands together over momma’s name scrolled in the lining of the mink. I knew then that her question would be the same as mine, “How in the hell did we get here?” My husband and I asked that question quite often.

My name was called again. “Come on hon, don’t you look cute,” (See! It pays to match) smiled the chemo nurse as she led us back into the infusion room. I swear I wanted to scratch that word off of the door with a vengeance and, the only thing that kept me from doing it was chemo brain causing me to forget the razor blade!!! “You look pale hon, you aren’t gonna faint on me are you?” “I don’t think so,” I said, but that is usually what I told my husband right before my knees buckled and I hit the ground. I didn’t have the energy to explain so my husband just said, “You can’t trust her ma’am.”

After four or five hours—I always just prayed ‘til it was over so I couldn’t keep up—my husband gently adjusted my shirt up around my neck, careful not disturb my port-a-cath which might cause me to think about fainting again. He slowly tucked in my arms and hauled me back into the warmth of momma’s mink. I always wanted to walk briskly down the hall, out into the office where the next victims were waiting, and out to the truck, and I did walk briskly too, but it was only in my mind!

My big treat on chemo morning was 7-Eleven coffee. I craved it! I had to have it! Get out of the way people, my man’s coming in to get the big cup! And then I was chatty after that. I gulped and chatted all the way home and my husband never said a word! They put something in my drip that jacked me up and I couldn’t wait to add fuel to the fire with that caffeine ‘cause it felt good—like I was alive!!! And I knew that I’d feel good for a few hours and then while home in my purple and lime green flannel pajamas with my purple suede heels I would lay on that sofa and slowly deflate, just like a balloon. My dignity was gone and it would go even more as the evening wore on, but I damn sure wanted to go down fighting and in style. It may sound insignificant to some of you and if it does, well, I just can’t be responsible for your lack of style! 🙂

Dream Big, Smile Often!

Love, patty

 

I Can’t Stop The Music

White Trash in a Mink Coat/Blog     By: Patty Collins-King

I Can’t Stop The Music       June 13, 2017

Patty Collins-King

I am going to tell you a story. It’s about can-sur (remember I won’t spell it and give it merit) and a horrific death. It’s about grieving and healing and not healing. It’s about finding new strength, happiness and a new normal—which is anything but! Writing about can-sur and a horrific death is hard, but doable. I think I can do it because I am older now! And I have lived through both and I have died through both. So while this is my story to tell, I just bet that other people have lived through worse—and I’m sorry—but we need to talk about it.

White Trash in a Mink Coat is a story that I could not put into chapters. A chapter is a main division of a book and division is the action of separating things into parts. Since I feel that this story cannot be separated into parts on many occasions, let’s call each “chapter” a wing! I love it!!! Let’s call each “chapter” a wing because we know that we can soar with wings or that they can be broken!

I still want to dedicate this blog though, like a book…For my precious momma, who even in death always came to me when I called out her name and wanted to live. But—who kept silent when I called out her name and wanted to die. I’m glad I always, always said I love you momma. And kissed her, I always kissed her. That’s important!          

1st Wing~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I realize I started writing because I so enjoyed watching other people and thinking about their situations, not judging, just observing. Daddy always said I could– I thought he said maulk– but I think it’s amok anyone, but I didn’t do it for meanness, I did it just because I was so darn good at it. The imagination is a gift from God and a curse. Doesn’t everyone have a dream? Truthfully, I have always had so many that I just bounced around with my dreams—every single one of them having to do with creativity except for one. We give up way to easily. I gave up way to easily but I’m gonna say my dreams fizzled—not died—just fizzled, and I gave them few thoughts once I met and married my husband and had children. I’m grateful for the fizzle now for I could not have handled it any other way.  But now I can tell that that fizzle feels a small breeze and I think it will get so strong that it will become a flame! I hope so. I also hope that I don’t get burned. 🙁

What is it about the month of October? I once thought that losing my granddaddy—momma’s daddy—on Halloween would probably be the most sad and scariest day of my life. Wrong! Momma was raped and murdered in October and then I thought that would be the most sad and scariest day of my life. Wrong! I was diagnosed with triple negative breast can-sur in October and I thought that that was my breaking point. Three strikes—you’re out!

I had a dream and trust me when I tell you that it was nothing like Martin Luther’s. In my dream a 1960’s milkman comes in the Chemo truck to pick me up. This is part of the email that I send to one of my best friends.

Dear…

Bad news-last night in my dreams the 1960’s milkman from TV came to pick me up in the Chemo truck.

Good news-I saw the 13th miner rescued and as you know, 13 is my favorite number.

Bad news-In another dream my husband and I were going to a church function but it wasn’t our church and the man at the front door was giving flu shots to children while drinking a tall Budweiser! My husband broke down crying and I said that I would handle it. There was a curtain hanging across the door so I crawled under it to go find a church elder and then… just as I was standing up and adjusting my dress, a lady—one of my friends from church—came up behind me and swished the curtain back and  just walked thru. I said oh, that would have been easier!

And I signed that email …I am signing to you… Dancin’ Backwards in High Heels.

P.S. that’s the title of my new book or maybe…White Trash in a Mint Coat!                                          I can’t decide but it’s not life threatening!!!

That was 7 years ago. My best friend lost a family member and as we headed to the funeral I somehow could not stop thinking that my own funeral would possibly be next. At the church I walked towards an old neighbor of ours in my black suit with my long hair flowing and before I could tell the man who I was he grunted and said, “You look jus like your daddy.” I smiled even though I wanted to have a melt down and thought of losing my long hair to chemo and said, “Oh sir, you have no idea!” My daddy is as bald as Yul Brynner and I kid you not! Who’s crazy now?  😀

Dream Big, Smile Often!

Love, patty