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A Passion For Onions. Saturday January 3, 2015

My brother is an onion farmer.

At this time of year his barns are full of onions in great golden heaps; papery skins slithering like the reptilian scales of some mythical beast; so that one would not be surprised to see the blink of a jewelled eye and to realise that Smaug had deserted his mountain lair for the flat and fertile fenland of Cambridgeshire.

A few days ago I collected a bag of onions from my brother (c'mon, I'm not going to actually pay for onions from a supermarket when I can get them for free, am I?) He lifted out a sample of his crop with tender pride, exhibiting the glowing finish on the deep amber skin; the regular orb shape, so perfect that it could be used to decorate next year's Christmas Tree; the weight of it, a hefty nine ounces.

My brother grows damn fine onions.

Give him half a chance and he'll tell you about drilling them (that's sowing to you and me), fertilizing them, spraying them for weeds, irrigating them, irrigating them and yes, irrigating them (onions use a lot of water: my brother dug his own reservoir for the purpose) and harvesting them. Oh, and storing them and the rat problem he's had this year. He'll tell you about the man who comes to buy them and the prices he's been offered.

All this could be boring, but it's not.

It's not boring because when somebody is as passionate as my brother is, their enthusiasm is contagious. When he relates the story of the cyclone which ripped up all his freshly drilled seed, your heart is in your mouth. The tale of the rats is more gripping than the Pied Piper of Hamlyn; even if their end is rather more prosaic than merely dancing off in the wake of an eccentrically dressed flautist.

But my brother wasn't always an onion farmer.

Oh, he was always a farmer. There was the farm; he was the only boy: what else was he to do? But my late uncle was a cattle man. His passion was dairy shorthorns. Other uncles (although our father died young we're rich in uncles) grow celery, barley, sugar beet, potatoes. My brother tried for many years to grow potatoes too, without success. He farmed out of duty to the family, not for joy in his heart.

I forget how he discovered onions. He may have tried linseed, or celery or flax first. But then came the onions; and the passion and pride and (never to be sneered at) profit.

He didn't run away to sea. He didn't disappoint the family by selling up the farm and going to be a missionary in Africa (although if the Lord calls...) He just kept trying a different crop on the same land, with the same family commitments. He still found his passion.

And I forgot to say, the onions taste pretty good too. Have you ever tried roasted onions?

A Moodscope member

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Di Murphey Sat, Jan 3rd 2015 @ 4:54am

Oh, my dearest Mary ~
The things you do to my heart with your wonderful & enlightening stories of your brother. They come at a time when my own brother lies dying, three thousand miles from me in severe weather which is unnavigable. I cannot get to him to hold him and be with him as I would like.

I got to hear his voice today due to the kindness of a nursing home attendant. It was pure joy even though I could not understand him.

My heart is in shards of pointed pieces, some sharp, some softened by time & understanding.

He is a Korean/Viet Nam Army Veteran. He is an animal (all kinds) lover. He is six feet five inches of pure athletic joy. Yet he bought into someone elses idea of who he is. It made his life quite difficult.

Yet then he would come for a stay, and we would begin our silly childhood plays ~ and laughter abounded. Really embarrassing laughter. Laughter where one has to sit down doubled-over and screaming in glee.

I already miss him. He, also, discovered his onions. They were animals. And, he too, found his passion.

I love your story of your brother. It is filled with truth and authenticity. I thank you.
Di Murphey

Anonymous Sat, Jan 3rd 2015 @ 8:04am

How incredibly difficult Di. I understand the importance of being must feel like a washing machine inside xxx. I'm so pleased you and he were able to have time together on the phone. There will be things you want him to hear and to have a chance for him to hear your voice and for you to know he has heard you is important and will bring comfort now and later. To be held back by weather is hugely frustrating, I wonder if you might be allowed a daily call? Even just a few minutes? It would give you both such a lot. You will be in my thoughts throughout. Sending you, and your brother, much love from the room above the garage xxx.

Hopeful One Sat, Jan 3rd 2015 @ 8:13am

Hi Di- Hugs and sorry to hear about your loss.Is Facebook an option?It is not affected by weather or distance.

Hopeful One Sat, Jan 3rd 2015 @ 8:16am

Hi Mary- great post.By focusing on things outside of ourselves opens up the world and it becomes infinitely more interesting I think

The Entertrainer Sat, Jan 3rd 2015 @ 9:01am

Oh Mary, I think that is one of the most powerful metaphors I have ever read... and you know you write so well.
Di, my whole heart goes out to you - big, long hug xx

Fionna O Sat, Jan 3rd 2015 @ 11:13am

Mary...I LOVE your posts and this one puts an entirely different spin on the saying "knowing your onions". You can tell your brother from me that he helps to make thousands of women (& men) happy every day. Can't imagine life without onions as I live them raw, baked, fried slowly and fast, with and without spices...even caramelised . Di..Cyber hugs ..what a painful time.

Anonymous Sat, Jan 3rd 2015 @ 11:51am

Thank you again Mary, for a wonderful blog...I live in Cambridgeshire...I'll buy his onions! Would rather get them from him than Tessie Cohen's or Marks Expensive!!

Di, so very sad you cannot get to hold your dear brother. This past year and a half I have lost my Mum-in-law, My dear, lovely Mum and New Year's Eve lost my husbands cousin. I was so grateful to be with two of them when they died and to have hugged our cousin. You must keep asking if you can speak with him, as suggested above, daily. I am sure his carers won't mind and he will find great comfort from you being close to his ear, even if you can't physically be there. Big hugs surround you and prayers and hugs for him too. x x x x x Karen x x x x x

Di Murphey Sat, Jan 3rd 2015 @ 1:34pm

Dearest RATG ~
Thank you for your kindnesses. Yes, they are going to allow me daily calls ~ it is a bit tricky due to some HIPPA laws about privacy. I just have to hope a caring attendant answers the phone.

Di Murphey Sat, Jan 3rd 2015 @ 1:37pm

Oh, you dear Hopeful One ~
Always giving loving ideas. My brother cannot do Facebook or Skype. His moments of clarity are gone. I am told that sound is the last sense to go ~ and so I sang him his favorite song "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream". I could hear his breath change and he began to moan, trying to tell me something. It was heavenly to make this connection.

Di Murphey Sat, Jan 3rd 2015 @ 1:39pm

Isn't it so inspiring! Mary's writing voice is stellar, as is yours, our magnificent Entertainer.

Di Murphey Sat, Jan 3rd 2015 @ 1:40pm

Dearest Fionna ~
Thank you for your gentle sentiments. I m feeling all the hugs right now!

Di Murphey Sat, Jan 3rd 2015 @ 1:44pm

Dear Anonymous Karen ~
What a splendid sharing you have given all of us. I am profoundly sorry for your losses, yet so glad that you got to be with them as they passed. It is such a personal choice and I commend your bravery. Many would choose distance. I want to curl up beside my sweet brother and hold him as he goes onward.

Mary Blackhurst Hill Sat, Jan 3rd 2015 @ 8:21pm

Hello Di,

I am so sorry I haven't replied before now: I have been out all day. Oh Di, I feel for you being so far away from the brother you love while he is leaving this world. My thoughts are with you and I'm pleased that my story of my brother reminded you of yours in a good way. Hugs and the warmest of wishes, my dear.

Anonymous Sun, Jan 4th 2015 @ 8:15am

Hi Di, is there a possibility to Skype via his carer? My dad had a massive stroke in Africa a few weeks ago and his doctor out there who was amazing, allowed us to Skype so that we could see dad. He even took his laptop into the air ambulance so we could see dad was all set for his journey, deeply sedated and ventilated and hooked up to all manner of other kit, and we spoke with the doctors who were bringing him home. It gave us a touch of reassurance at a very stressful time and connection.

Mary, finding your passion is important, I have passion for the thing I do, I love it, but I also like to try new things and in doing so I have found other passions, some of which are on hold because of time constraints, it can be frustrating not to be able to follow them, but I also like to know they are there waiting for me.

Di Murphey Mon, Jan 5th 2015 @ 12:32am

Dearest Anonymous ~
Please forgive my delay in answering you. It sounds as though your father has great care. And what a reassuring measure to have his care team keep you informed via Skype.

I have looked into your idea and because of our HIPPA laws (he is in Oregon & I am in Florida) it is fraught with complexities and the understaffing of the nursing home he is in. Additionally, he stays mostly unconscious and sedated. At times he ceases to breathe. I will keep trying. I think they are afraid Skype might scare him. Not sure.

When I called today the staff sounded very tense. I want them to give my brother as much care as they can handle without my neediness taking over. I am allowed to call each day now and this gives me great solace.

Many thanks for your ideas. May you & your family have blessings heaped upon you with your father.

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