As you guys well know at this point – I grew up in a farming family. I did an interview this past year and they asked me how I got into agriculture, well to get “in” it assumes you were at some point “out” of it – and I never was. I was quite literally born into it.
My grandfather took over his family’s farm as the youngest of four boys and he never left the nest. As his brothers went off to fight in World War II, he stayed behind to farm and care for his parents. As a young adult he doubled the acreage giving it the name “Twin Farms”. He joked and said if he wasn’t married by 30, he wasn’t getting married. So he married my grandmother at 30.
A few years later came my mother, and then my aunt. No sons for my Pa. Not that that bothered him much. He didn’t really allow social norms to affect him – ever. Whether it was fighting to get his daughter into agriculture classes in high school, or refusing to eat in restaurants that didn’t allow his black friends to eat with him – Pa just did what he felt was right.
A whopping giant of 5’6″ his personality made up for what his size lacked. He was the man you went to with problems, and he was always ready to have a little fun.
As a kid, you never doubted his love. There was never a time he didn’t want us around, and he was the world’s most creative baby-sitter. Off to the barn we’d go in the morning with him, and he’d put us on either side of his tamest Holstein cow and challenge us to who could milk the cow the fastest. When I was not more than a toddler – he’d send me out into the field to “check” cows while he sat on the porch with binoculars watching every move. I learned, and he kept me busy.
My grandfather has been gone for fifteen years. After a horrible battle with Parkinson’s he passed on my first day of college, and in the aftermath the emotion wasn’t what you might expect for most of us. Yeah, we missed him like hell. But Pa hadn’t been Pa for a long time – and he HATED it. Trapped in his own body, Pa didn’t want to be here anymore, and to be honest we didn’t want that for him either.
Sometimes dying isn’t the worst thing.
After he died, there was clearly this huge missing piece in our family – but I see him in my aunt’s determination, my mom’s kindness… I see him in me. And because of that, I’ve never felt alone. He’s always with me in these little ways I just can’t describe. And that’s the thing about losing our loved ones – they make huge impressions on us and they CHANGE us. They put little pieces of themselves inside each of us, and it’s their greatest legacy.
But sometimes – in the quiet times…. you still miss them fiercely.
When I met my husband. My wedding day. When our kids were born. When we bought our farm. All those big firsts he wasn’t here to hug me for.
This past year I had the privilege of representing our state’s farmers at the American Farm Bureau Convention in Austin, Texas. That alone would have tickled Pa. But I was there competing, and as I made it through each round of the contest, slowly advancing towards the top – he would have been cheering the loudest. And when I walked across that stage, winning the event – well… he would have been crying with insane amounts of pride. Because that’s what Pa did.
I miss him.
I tell stories about him all the time – to my children and my husband. I have pictures of him in Munchkin’s room. It still feels like I’m going to go home and walk right into his house and he’ll be there. It still feels like I’m going to walk into church and see him sitting where he always sat, so I can snuggle up next to him. All these years later, it’s like he never left.
And maybe that’s the special part.
Doesn’t matter how long he’s gone – he still feels HERE.