Two years ago …

April 23, 2021

Grief has no sense of decorum. So it did not occur to me to question my actions when I interrupted the chaplain, with his head bowed and hands folded, to place myself in front of my grandfather’s face. As he tugged on the tubes, wildly waving his hands, and craning his neck up while his head turned side to side, I planted my face in front of his. “Hi PaCharley,” I said. Over. And over. I saw his clear blue eyes. I saw him. He saw me.
After weeks of stoic, walls-up, business-mode, yesterday my dam broke. Intending to call my husband, and update him on the coming family meeting at the hospital, instead I lost it. “I can’t do it. I can’t do it. I’m so sorry . . .” It was an involuntary, illogical (so I thought) reaction, but I lost all control. 

Had our year gone as planned, we would not be here now. We would be in the flurries of school life, finishing out the year in Ghana. Only after arriving would we find out the family business that would occupy us so completely, for so many weeks, that would pass in a rapid blur.

Truthfully, over the past couple of months, I have questioned what I’m doing here at all. With nothing tangible to account for our days, they have, at times, felt wasted. And the “work” we’ve been doing has left me painfully aware of my shortcomings. I have been impatient with errand-running and hospital visits, and bad-attitudey about the changed grandfather he seemed to be. The man who never met a soul he didn’t like would now complain about doctors and nurses. The man who was always in a good mood spoke constantly of how bad he felt, and how much the tubes, the pricks, and the medicines were bugging him. He fought back, trying to coax forbidden foods and drinks from unsuspecting visitors. And I watched, stunned at the changes in this man I’d loved all my life. Mind you, he still had good moments and “normal” days as well, but the negative moments were so shocking to my perfect image of him that they overshadowed the good. I wondered why he couldn’t let people do what they needed to do to care for him, and I even resented the trouble caused for those closest to him.
But yesterday I realized how wrong my perception had been. When I saw him—and when he saw me—all I could think was I get it. I see. I see.
I see a man who has lived 92 beautiful and full years. A man who has given himself, without reservation, to his children, his grandchildren, and his great-grandchildren. A man who has worked hard, running his own business and rising up from the depression era. A man who fought well, who “won,” as his great grandson aptly noted, as a good, good soldier. A man who “fought the good fight, [who] finished the race . . .” (2 Timothy 4: 7-8, NIV)
And now, for the past few months, he has been unable to care for others, wholly dependent on the help of those of us who had always before come to him for that same help. He never wanted anyone to trouble themselves over him. He never wanted to be a burden, on anyone. And when the time came for his independence to be gone, he fought back.
One week ago, on his 70th anniversary, he told my grandmother that he intended to be home in a week. He told her this as if he was going to get back to independent living in the house he had loved for 50 years. But when my sister relayed this to me over the phone last night we knew what had happened. PaCharley was true to his word. PaCharley found his way home.


April 10, 2021

Three days. Somehow it felt like an eternity, those three days of missed phone conversations. I had begun to grow paranoid, imagining that she had decided she wasn’t going to take my calls. I wasn’t worth the trouble . . . a failure. This is where a mind can take one, if irrational emotion overtakes reason. Because what I know to be true is that my grandmother loves me. Unconditionally. And I also know that she takes as much comfort from our daily calls as I do. But still, when I heard the familiar, “Anna!” I could not help but choke back the little catch in my throat accompanied by a stinging in the eyes. “Yeah, GramBea,” I sputtered out with forced cheeriness. “I’ve missed you!” I almost blurted out, “Are you disappointed in me?” but managed to hold back. A bit into the conversation, it was quite clear that she was not. She was in a calm mood, showing grace and wisdom as she asked about my mother, job news, and Peter. 

“Oh,” she interrupted, when I started to talk about the latest homestead project, “I’ve been meaning to tell you how good Peter looks.” She must have noticed the haircut I’d given him right before our visit last weekend, I thought. I began to inwardly take credit for her compliment, until she added, “You can see that he doesn’t get anxious.” I frowned slightly, wondering where she was going with that. “He’s so good for those of us who worry, isn’t he?” Then I laughed, both at the surprise continuation of the thought as well as at the profound truth of her statement.

Yes, GramBea, you’re right. Thank you. Thank you for reminding me that my husband is so good for me. Thank you for lumping me with you, reminding me that we are two of a kind, linked by the bloodlines that carry with them all manner of issues and angstinesses—but also a bond of love that leaves us clinging to each other with all our angsty strength. Thank you for jolting me out of my self-centered paranoia . . . and thank you for being my grandma. My GramBea.


April 7, 2021

Now that’s a proper Easter bunny … never mind the fact that his name is “Stew” 😉 But for today, at least, he got to enjoy a velveteen-rabbit-style appreciation. And Peter and I got to enjoy the exquisite joy of good friends traveling to come visit us here on the farm 🥰

Incidentally, on the topic of farm life, I made a discovery today:

Thanks to some chick-sitter-needy critters, we are currently housing some eggs in an incubator. One hatched, ahead of the anticipated schedule. As a result, this chick has been a lonesome little soul for a few days now. 

When my husband left this evening, he realized that with the extra activity in the house, he had forgotten one of his new chores. So when we touched base via phone, he mentioned it to me in case I had a chance to fill in.

A bit later, while on the phone with my brother, I remembered this request. I asked my brother if he could hear the chirping, when I explained to him what I was doing. He did. For a moment. Then silence. My jaw dropped open and my heart quickened as I realized what was happening. You would think that an animal would be frightened by an unknown giant picking it up. But no-rather, this little creature immediately settled into my palm. It stopped cheeping altogether, and quietly nestled into my cupped hand. I could feel its heart rate slowing, and sensed that it knew, in a deeply physical manner, that it was not meant to be alone …

life. still

April 4, 2021

My tulips died. No match, it seems, for winter’s last hurrah; our 1st-of-April frost did a number on my husband’s garden as well but, with my gift for short-sighted reactions, I am more inclined to bemoaning the loss of my kitchen table blooms than to thinking ahead to the usual summer vegetable extravaganza that graces the same table. I’m not proud of this fact; I admire long-term thinkers like my husband and tend to be a bit ashamed of what feels like a sign of my self-centered nature (I’ve been known to curse gathering rain clouds because they interfere with my outdoor plans, even if I know that our parched farmland is in desperate need of nature’s watering can). But one good thing about being as old as I am (or at least middle-age-ish) is that I’m less inclined to spend the time apologizing for things like my own faults; time is becoming increasingly valuable, and precious moments lost lamenting things that aren’t likely to change are just not worth it. Lord grant me the serenity . . . to accept (for now) the things I (am unlikely to quickly be able to) change?

Back to tulips. Have you ever noticed that you run to your mother when you need something? And that moms have a way of taking care of what you need before you even ask? It seems that each time I start to think about a loss of some sort, mom just appears (or calls, texts, or emails) offering just what I was longing for, even if that something was as of yet unknown to me. So yesterday I went by my mom’s place on the way home, ostensibly to pick up a sampling of her latest culinary creation. Being in the midst of a season of melancholy, I’ve caught myself lingering awkwardly, hovering in a way that I know must be annoying to others, with a sort of waiting for something . . . wanting someone, somehow, to take me out of this state of hesitant uncertainty. I have learned the hard way that the “real world” has little grace for this state; it requires confident certainty and bold productivity. Not to mention speed. Yeah . . . right . . . says the turtle.

Back to the moment with mom. She acted as if it was the most normal thing in the world to have me hovering next to her in the kitchen. She pointed out to me the birds she’d noticed recently outside the window. She commented on the peaches she’d used for her latest breakfast bread. She chitchatted.

And you know, funniest thing—this was exactly what I needed at that moment. I am overly aware of my inadequacies, oddities and failures; it was a sweet relief to just be barely noticed, in one sense . . . but exquisitely seen in another. As she talked, i noticed a small bouquet of purple blossoms next to her. “What are those?” I asked. She told me that she thought they were grape hyacinths, and that Lou had picked them for her down the hill when she sent him down to look for asparagus. He didn’t find any asparagus. Spoiler alert—nor did I.

I did, however, find a few more of the purple hyacinths. I also found a few other wildflowers in bloom. Roaming her yard that afternoon, bundled up against the wind, I found myself soothed by the simplicity of the quiet, and warmed by the sun; it felt as if I was rediscovering a part of myself that had been forgotten in the season of striving that the past year and a half has been. Climbing back up the hill, I hugged mom goodbye and headed home. I put the wildflowers on the table and set about preparing a meal for Peter and I. That was it. That was the extent of it. Riveting? No. Real? Yes. Life? Yes.