Recently, my family and I spent almost two weeks in Missouri at my father-in-law’s farm. Mornings of clear blue skies over acres and acres of corn and soybean fields with a nice cool breeze blowing the tree leaves. Some days the wind whipped the tree branches, and I gave up thinking I could just hairspray my hair to stay out of my face! Besides the sounds of birds singing, an occasional car or truck churning up the gravel roads, were the train whistles. About 70 trains a day run close to where we were – far enough I didn’t see one from the house – but with no other environmental or man-made noise – I could hear that mournful sound. We would wake with a general purpose for the day. With my mother-in-law’s passing just over a month ago, my father-in-law was learning a new path in life that didn’t include his beloved wife of almost 65 years. He grew up in a time when men in that part of the country took care of the business end of the farm – and the home – and the women took care of the rest – cooking, cleaning, gardening, and nurturing. We knew he was looking forward to someone else besides just him roaming around the large home. So each morning – even though it was vacation – we set our alarm in order to get up and have breakfast on the table by 7 a.m. My husband and I took turns fixing breakfast. Most days, not only did I cook the evening meal but I fixed a decent sized lunch – smoked sausages, a beef roast, or stew. Sometimes my husband and grandson grilled burgers or steaks. My sister-in-law deep fried catfish one evening and ordered pizzas another night. Besides the meals, there was the washing, dusting and vacuuming. My husband and grandson spent time helping my father-in-law clear brush and vines as well as mowing the grass. There were electrical issues in the shop to take care of and accompanying his father on two long drives (over two hours each way) while we were there. Our days were filled with “helping work” but not so packed that we didn’t have time to enjoy ourselves. For the first few days, I helped my sister-in-law in her quest to put together three scrapbooks of photos. After church services on Father’s Day, my father-in-law treated us to a delicious lunch at a nearby (eleven miles!) restaurant. He is a visitor and talker so as we ate, several folks dropped by the table (you know you are in “small town America” when that happens!) to chat. Unfortunately for him, by the time he was done talking with the two or three folks who stopped by, only half his lunch had been eaten and it had gotten cold. Before we left, he made the rounds of other tables. It was good to see him out and about and chatting with folks. A few days after we arrived, all of us piled into his mini-van and set out on a cemetery tour. Since it’s a rural area, there were miles and miles between one cemetery and another so we spent the better part of four hours in the car. However, unlike the last time we had done this (many years ago), we did stop several times and get out so I could take pictures of the gravestones belonging to my husband’s great-grandparents, great-uncles, and various other family members. My grandson was able to stroll down to south pond (the farm boasts two stocked ponds except one now has a herd of cattle – mainly bulls – on that section of land) to do some fishing. Each evening ended with the daily television show on their local PBS station – “Cook’s Country”, then “The Doctors”, and then the 9:00 news from Kansas City. About halfway through that, my father-in-law would head to bed, and the rest of us would watch my grandson’s new favorite “old” show “That 70s show”(!), followed by Rod Serling’s “Night Gallery” (yes, we saw the episode with a young David McCallum before he was NCIS’ Ducky and a young David Carradine). Then the next morning we began all over again. I took my grandson on some fascinating excursions for two consecutive days before we left (but that’s for other blog posts). It was very difficult – especially for my husband – to leave knowing that his dad would be alone as my sister-in-law (who lives across the street) was out of state for over another week. Now we are home again and standing out on the front porch here is just not the same as being able to see miles and miles in the distance with the train whistles the only loud sound to break the silence.
(Photo above: barn on the farm, photographed by Wendy Littrell, June 2013)