June 27, 2022 at 9:30 p.m.

Lessons from my grandfather

By Kate Rechtzigel- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Exactly one year ago this month, my grandfather passed away. It felt like he had been gone a long time before that because with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, he had already forgotten who most of us grandkids were a couple years ago. But somehow, maybe it was all those years spent working side-by-side in the barn milking cows or something else entirely, he remembered my dad.
We would come in to visit, and my grandmother would try and get him to remember each of our names. But, he couldn’t. He would look at my dad and start talking about random stories that us grandkids had never heard of. So, with the help of our dad, my brothers and I were left to process them for many days after the fact.
But long before he passed, my grandfather taught me some good lessons in life. My brothers and I had each spent many days working alongside of him. Now, my brothers may have different memories and lessons they have learned over the years, but these are the ones I learned and will cherish for the rest of my life.
One was to always protect your hair and never let a boy, or barber, cut it. It was the end of fifth grade, and my grandmother took me in to get my regular bob haircut at the local salon in town. Unfortunately, I told the hairstylist I wanted my hair cut thick instead of thin. So, I got home, and my grandmother did not like how the hair cut turned out. She kept complaining about it until finally my grandfather said he had an idea. He took me in to his local barber, Jim, and told him I would like my hair cut. Jim, having never cut a woman’s hair before, decided he would shave all the hair off. I was left with a man’s haircut all of sixth grade, so much so that my grandfather started introducing me as his fourth grandson. I was embarrassed, and ever since that day, I have grown out my hair and decided I would never let a boy, or barber, cut my hair ever again. So, ladies, always go to a salon and get your hair cut how you want it.
My grandfather also taught me to always work hard no matter what. He often doubted I could do some of the barn tasks such as milking the cows, cleaning the pipeline, bedding the barn or putting up small square bales. And me, being the competitive person that I am, decided that I was going to prove him wrong and started to do not one but each and every one of these chores. My grandfather was amazed and eventually landed on giving me the nickname, George, because I was the girl who could work just as hard if not harder than all the boys. This transferred to later in life, because when I was working at the cheese plant, I was one of the hardest working people there. All of my male coworkers were amazed that even though I was a girl, I could work just as hard as them.
Lastly, I learned that it’s OK to be the only girl in the group. Growing up, I spent many days in the barn surrounded by my two brothers, dad and grandfather. I learned I liked working with men, so when I went to college, I got a job at the meat lab on campus which once again was male dominated. I thrived in this work space and learned it was one of my favorite jobs. So, a couple weeks ago, when my boyfriend asked me to go on a fishing trip with him and his guy friends, I thought long and hard about it and decided I would go because my grandfather would have wanted me to. And believe it or not, I had one of the best times of my life in the middle of nowhere, fishing with a bunch of guys, all because my grandfather taught me long ago that it’s OK to be the only girl in a field dominated by guys.
So even though my grandfather is gone now and I never said a proper goodbye or even a thank you before he passed, I am thankful I knew him and feel honored to have learned the lessons I did. Hug your grandparents tight because you never know when it is their time to go, and if you are a girl in agriculture, never be afraid to work just as hard if not harder than all the boys.


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