September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
Back to the barn
I knew this day was coming, but still I wasn't ready for it. I have yet to fully realize that the kids won't be home in just a couple of days, like an extended State Fair week. I watch the school bus drive past the driveway without stopping. There is no cavalry coming to our rescue after school to help with chores while we keep the chopper moving through the corn fields at harvest time. Luckily, a neighbor friend who worked for us when the kids were little is still able to help us out with field work and milkings.
We have truly been a family farm with only family labor doing the work. That is great when you're 20 years younger and when the kids are old enough to help, too. But just when they are old enough and strong enough to really be a big help, they head off to college to discover their life path leaving you doing all the work, but 20 years older. I guess it is just another 2x4 across the head trying to pound a life lesson into our thick skulls. This isn't the first time we've been knocked across the noggin.
Eight years ago I ended up in the hospital in a coma with meningitis. Mark was given the worst news a husband could hear - I may not survive the night. I was only 42 and had four small children at home. It was May 1 and the planter was ready to hit the fields for another season. There were cows to milk, chores to do, bills to pay, there wasn't time for life to come to a stand still, yet it did for our family. Life kept moving forward with help from friends and neighbors. Friends filled our freezer with more meals than we could eat. Neighbors stood in our yard until the guys told them where they could plant a hay field for us. A young farm boy, nervous about milking our registered cows, realized that all cows milk the same way, one squirt at a time regardless if there are papers on them or not.
I walked out of the hospital 13 days later. I had to get home to pay property taxes and payroll taxes by the 15th. I was the only one who knew how to turn on the computer, let alone the passwords. We all survived, but looked at life differently.
A few weeks later, I needed to have a surgery at the Mayo Clinic in order to repair the damage caused by the meningitis. After an eight-hour surgery in my head, I loss all ability to hear in my right ear, but I could still smile! I left Rochester under strict orders to stay out of the barn and to not lift anything over 10 pounds for the months of June, July and August. I didn't think this was very good timing, but it was perfect timing in the end.
Here was my 2x4 whacking me across the head. Talk about getting my attention. I learned to step aside so my kids could step up. Before it was so easy for me to just do the jobs. I could get them done quicker than the kids and then move on to something else, but that wasn't how it was supposed to be. They needed me to get out of their way so they could grow, make mistakes, fall down, but learn how to get back up and keep going, to learn and to build confidence in their decisions. That summer corn and alfalfa weren't the only things growing on our farm. Our children were blossoming before our eyes as they took on new responsibilities and learned they could make things happen by their actions. I learned I just needed to get out of their way. It is hard being on the sidelines when you're use to being in on all the action. But sometimes you need to take one for the team and let someone else have chance at making the winning shot.
Now we are shifting into a new gear around our place. A different rhythm has settled in our house and over the farm. With only three people in the house, it is very different. It is so quiet. Of course it doesn't help the fact that most 16-year-old boys don't say much of anything anyway, but the house seems large and empty. I can clean a room, close the door and nothing will change when I peek in a couple days later.
I have discovered I don't need to mend any jeans for quite some time. The work jean pile has multiplied since the three went to college. Apparently patched jeans are not an essential part of your wardrobe for college and since we all wear about the same size, I won't even need to do much laundry either.
Probably the hardest thing to adjust to is cooking. I am so use to making a roasting pan full of casserole/hot dish with nothing leftover. Now an 9x13 pan will last at least two days. It appears we will be eating more leftovers until I learn to cut back. Of course, by the time I have learned how to cook for three, there will be a house full of college kids sitting around the table looking for a home-cooked meal. I can't wait.
As this new 2x4 swings at our heads, maybe we need to focus on the new lesson we are to learn. Now is the time to look outside of the family for labor on our family farm at least for the next couple of years until our children have discovered where they want to go with their lives.
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