Time moves forward and there is nothing that can stop it. I was reminded of that during a recent visit to my grandpa’s farm to celebrate his 89th birthday. Where did the time go? I have poignant memories of visits to the farm over the years, but this was my first visit in over 2 1/2 years, which made the changes seem that much more obvious.
Driving a route that I could normally traverse with my eyes closed, I missed the final turn because a landmark sign for the nursery on the property just north of my Grandpa’s was no longer there; the owner had retired. Would this be a sign of things to come? Once on the right road, the late afternoon shadows cast by the silo had the barn so hidden that I wondered if it had been taken down. It wasn’t until I was a quarter-mile or so away that I saw the barn still stood.
The house looked pretty much the same as ever, but a large tree by the road that had been a favorite play place growing up was gone, taken down sometime in the last year or so because it was losing too many limbs to be safe. The stump served as a jumping platform for my two oldest children who were thrilled with a large yard around which to race. They would never recognize the change, the oldest being too young on the previous trip to notice, the middle and youngest not even born; all they saw was something fun.
My grandpa, a pillar of strength and solidarity through the years, didn’t look his age, though he was undeniably looking older than the picture in my mind. I’ve seen him plenty of times the past few years, but it seems my memories have yet to catch up with reality. Perhaps it was seeing him in his home that brought that reality home. It’s been good to see him in decent spirits the last couple of years. I’ve never seen a man so broken as when my grandma passed, and I wondered if Grandpa would make it even another six months.
Memories overwhelmed throughout the weekend. My grandma died in April of 2014, and there are noticeable changes. The upright freezer in the kitchen no longer holds a dozen or more containers stuffed to the brim with cookies without her there to do the baking. The kitchen bowls and utensils aren’t all in exactly the same places they had been for decades, items moved to accommodate my grandpa’s needs and preferences. I watched my mom and aunt cook throughout the weekend and search for minutes at a time for this bowl or that container.
Some things were more or less the same. The house remains immaculate, my grandpa’s precise touch evident in all he does. A bookshelf in the living room still holds pictures of family, with portraits of the grandchildren and their growing families dominating the scene, reminders that this man has created a legacy. A few books were in the upstairs hallway, books that I’m certain had mostly been there at least as long as I’ve been alive and that I wish had grabbed my attention a younger man; I was able to borrow a couple of them and look forward to building that connection.
Other constants included mole traps and the burn barrel. Different communities have different laws and regulations regarding burn barrels, and I understand not burning plastic and such, but the overall process reminds me of simpler times. And varmints like moles will forever plague homesteads throughout the world. Raccoons are another pest, especially if you are growing sweet corn. I remember many years when my grandpa had a battery-powered electric fence set up around his corn patch, and I recall at least one instance when he spent several hours into the night sitting out there with his shotgun.
Life is short, sometimes shorter than we could ever expect. Spend time with your family today. You never know how long you will have them around. I think that’s one of the biggest lessons impressed upon me by my time at my grandpa’s house. My family has it’s share of problems, but they are still my family, and I love them dearly.