Our barn radio is possessed. The station selector is apparently shot because the radio station changes willy-nilly. Sometimes it switches stations every two minutes; sometimes we'll get the same station for half a day, only to come in the next morning and find the radio tuned to a new station.

The malfunction started right around Halloween, so we've been joking that there's a ghost inside the radio and we're now subject to its listening preferences.

But yesterday morning's station selection was no laughing matter. After a half-hour of the country gospel program that was playing, I was in tears.

It was impossible to listen to those songs by The Carter Family, Kitty Wells and Gene Autry and not think of Grandpa. Those original folk country artists were his music. They were the artists whose cassette tapes he played in his Jeep Eagle while driving from his house to our farm. They were the artists he listened to while relaxing in his easy chair at night. And they were the artists whose music he danced to - first with my grandmother during their basement dance parties and later with his friend, Eileen, and his granddaughters during dances at Larson Barn.

Eight years ago this week, Grandpa passed away and we laid him to rest. Every reminder of Grandpa still makes me miss him: The smell of diesel fuel on greasy hands. The way my kids stick their tongue out a little when they're concentrating, exactly the same way he did. The sound of his music. I didn't know it was possible to miss someone so much.

Grandpa's influence on my life can't be summed up in words. He was the only grandparent I ever really got to know. My other three grandparents had all passed on by the time I was in middle school.

Even thought we didn't live on the home farm, Grandpa came to our farm almost every day to help, mostly with fieldwork and machinery maintenance. Grandpa always had a pliers and a spark plug in his pocket, along with enough spare change to make the whole collection jingle a little when he walked. He taught us girls everything from how to turn a wrench to how to release the clutch on the tractor.

Later, when Glen and I were farming there, Grandpa still came to the farm most days, but it was more for coffee and visiting. I still consider those 18 months of near-daily visits with Grandpa to be one of the greatest gifts of my life. I was able to come back after high school and after college, when I was finally starting to understand what life is really all about and hear Grandpa's stories with fresh ears and a new perspective. That was truly a gift.

After we moved to Melrose, I tried to make as many trips up north as I could. During one of those trips, while visiting with Grandpa, he mentioned a song. For the life of me, I can't remember how the song came up in the conversation or why it was important to him. Nor can I remember if he specifically asked me to find it for him. Grandpa didn't ask for much.

Either way, I went home and found the song he mentioned: "I'll Be All Smiles Tonight" by The Carter Family. Then I found the lyrics and the music and learned the song.

That summer at my sister's wedding dance, I sang that song for Grandpa. Grandpa, in his best suit, and my sister in her white dress, started waltzing across the dance floor. When the words started and Grandpa heard my voice, he stopped dancing for a second, turned, and said, "Why, that's Sadie singing."

The smile on Grandpa's face was unforgettable. I've never been so proud to give someone a gift so meaningful as I was in that moment.

I sang that song twice more for Grandpa.

With the help of the choir teacher here in Melrose, I made a recording of me singing the song, so Grandpa could listen to it while he relaxed in his easy chair.

Then, two years later, I sang for him again at his funeral. "I'll Be All Smiles Tonight" isn't exactly a popular funeral song, but it was perfect for Grandpa's funeral because it was his music. And, for some reason, that song meant something extra to him.

It certainly means a lot to me now.



Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 75 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have three children - Dan, 9, Monika, 7, and Daphne, 3. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com.