I grew up on a small farm about 20 miles from Portland, Oregon. It was in the rural countryside then. Since there were 7 children in my family we did not go on adventures far from the chores of milking the cows twice a day and the other multitudes of duties it took to run a farm and make our family living. What I learned was an incredible work ethic. You needed to take care of business while it was daylight or when the crops were ready. But, there was always time for play as well, be it playing daredevil in the hayloft or moonlight-starlight around the house and garden. We always had kids to play with even though the closest neighbors were an eighth of a mile away. We figured out early to depend on our own legs and bikes to get to the good games.I remember Mom in the kitchen a lot and there was always room for more mouths at the table. Sometimes people would show up to deliver hay, take our milk to the processing plant or some other collaboration dad was working on. I learned quickly that I could never do anything immoral or illegal. Someone would surely recognize me, or know someone who knew me or my family. Gossip spread through a rural community faster than social media does now days.
I have adopted that warm and welcoming, sharing spirit and strive to live up to that legacy. I believe that spirit feeds my soul and my husband’s as well. I married a loving man who thrives in giving to others of his time, talents and other resources. It is common for us to open our home to travelers and especially share meals with others.
My dad and I did not have a good relationship. He was a functioning alcoholic and was sick with cancer for several years when I was a teenager. I think adolescence is such a tough time for most kids anyway, and I just felt like another wound around for my dad. Having had a cancer journey myself, I can only imagine how hard it must have been for him being sick, going through treatment and still doing his best to run the family farm and his field spraying business.
Dad died when I was 17 years old. Emotions of grief ran in many directions. It was more than the fact that my dad was out of my life forever. I wanted to turn back time and let him know my thoughts, my fears and my feelings. I wanted him to know that I saw how hard he worked and planned for his family. I wanted to tell him I loved him and how much hurt I felt for him.
Now, I realize what an incredible man my dad was! He created a farm that monetarily sustained 7 children and his wife who lived another 35 years! Dad was the one that used to lie on the grass with us in summer and watch the cloud shapes. Riding backwards on a bicycle would send peals of laughter from all of us. I think he instigated the baseball games – we had enough players even without the neighbors!
How mom managed to keep 7 of us in clean clothes and well fed seems like a super-woman feat to me now! There was no way any of us could use the word “bored” around the farm. Tasks were handed out with the mere thought of the word. I always thought it was so much fun keeping up with gardening, chasing weeds, mending clothes or whatever else mom was up to. She could have done them faster and more efficiently, now I know she patiently taught us valuable skills and lessons that way. I never thought any of it was actually work but there was a lot of it to do.
Mom kept the trucks, combines and family vehicles washed on a regular basis and if one of our friends left a car or truck sitting in the barnyard too long, it would turn up clean too! I think mom was a bit obsessed with washing as a result of living in Kansas until she was 15 and lived through the “dust bowl” days where fine dirt was in every crevice.
Mom was 93.8 years old when she passed from this earth. Everyone that knew her, loved her. She has given me an example of grace and beauty and is my example to live up to.
Our parents put all 7 of us through eight years of private parochial school and beyond. We didn’t have a lot of extra’s, but we had all of our needs met. We learned that if we wanted anything, we could have it if we were willing to work for it. If we wanted a bicycle or special outfit, we learned how pick berries in the summer or babysit to earn it. We didn’t get things handed to us and I believe that helped us value items and yet, our folks instilled a love of sharing. Dad and mom taught core values and morals that I am forever grateful for.
What I hold precious is how much love there is in my family. One of my brothers has gone to be with my mom and dad. I don’t think I would ever have been ready for any of them to leave this earth. I love when I can physically be with my other four brothers and sister, all my sister-in-law’s and brother-in-law’s, my nieces and nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews and all our wonderful family on my husband’s side that I was lucky enough to marry into.
Even when we cannot be physically together, there is a deep bond that I treasure beyond measure.