I have always enjoyed the feel of this blog…I try to make it light, witty, and, if I’m lucky, life-affirming. This is one side of me. Like all of you, there are many facets to my diamond. I read a very warm, articulate piece by my fellow blogger ittymac (http://ittymac.wordpress.com/) which made me think about all my other writing facets.
I’m going out on a limb this evening and posting one of my favorite stories. It’s about 1,036 words long, so it shouldn’t take you too long to read it. It is a tribute (in a way) to my father. I hope it touches you like it touched me.
Home on the Farm
He woke up before the crowing of the rooster, something he hadn’t done in a long time. There was only one rooster left now, a strutting white leghorn with tan wings and black spots on his chest. The old man stretched carefully, surprised to find the shooting pains in his legs gone. Remarkable. Last night the pain had been so bad he had to double his medication just to make it to his bed. Now — now his legs felt sturdy and strong.
Sitting up in bed, his watery eyes looked out the window towards the coming sunrise. The light sparkled like a million crystal chips shimmering at the edge of his vision, stretching the morning clouds into ribbons of pink and gold. Someone once told him that the sunrises were brighter these days because of all the pollution in the air, but he didn’t agree. John had witnessed many a sunrise on his farm, many a sunrise and sunset since his father plowed the land when he was a boy. Maybe they all didn’t sparkle like this one, but they were all unique, all beautiful.
Climbing out of bed and into the bathroom, John savored the fact that his bodily functions were once again running smoothly. What an enjoyable respite from the dribbling and splashing he had been going through lately! Looking into the mirror, his large blue eyes were the clearest he had seen them in a while, the age splotches on his face nearly non-existent. His hands didn’t tremble as he shaved, nor did he need his glasses to comb his hair. It was about time.
Donning his flannel and overalls, John called his hound to come join him on a morning walk. The 84-year-old had not wandered through his farmland in ages, and his legs felt so great, so strong, he couldn’t resist the urge to revisit fields that had seen better days. Bouncer didn’t come running, though, but merely slept in the puddle of sunlight that fell in front of the living room sofa. Fine, John thought. Sleep the morning away.
Opening the back door, the chill of the morning air danced around him, invigorating his senses. The scent of hay and grass filled his nostrils, along with the earthy sweat of horses and cows. John looked down at his legs and for a moment worried they wouldn’t carry him across the porch and down the stairs to the old barn. He hadn’t been able to make that trek in quite some time, his body having grown more useless as the years passed. But this morning — this morning was different. There wasn’t a cloud hanging over his thoughts anymore. No depression, no drugs to slow him down. He could do it.
He cautiously moved down the stairs and followed the dirt path that led to the empty red barn. Vivid memories of his father and mother and brothers bombarded him as he neared the dilapidated structure. His parents had moved to Wisconsin from Poland, hoping to find freedom and a new life in the rural countryside that looked so much like their native land. His father tended 25 cows in his day; John almost 40 during his middle years. Adding chickens and a couple of bulls to the mix, he made a decent living, enough to support a wife and three children in the heyday of the 50’s.
But the kids grew up and moved to the big city, and his wife took on a bout of cancer about ten years back and never recovered, leaving the farm and livestock to run wild with abandonment. John finally allowed the neighbor to plant corn in his empty fields, providing a small but decent return that, combined with his small pension, afforded him a comfortable retirement.
The past was the past, and now all John could visualize was the barn full of cows and the chickens raising a ruckus in their pen somewhere behind the milk cans and the ’52 Ford pickup that was down a quart of oil. His footsteps were lighter than air, quick and sure, walking the path they had carved into the earth for the past 80 years. He saw horses in the pasture and hay bales stacked up in the loft and barrels full of cracked corn.
It was incredible how good it felt to be alive, to feel the earth and the farm under his feet, the sunshine on his weathered face, to hear his children laugh and scream and chase the dogs around the front yard. John fleetingly wondered about his newfound energy, the firmness of his limbs, the accuracy of his eyesight. There were no hints of arthritis or pneumonia; there were no more regrets about the past or thoughts of suicide. It was as if he had always been this way.
Past the farm equipment, through the barn and out the double doors on the other side, John spotted his wife sitting on the picnic table under the huge oak tree at the bottom of the hill, laughing and talking to his mother and father. Margaret took on a subtle glow as she beckoned him to join her under the overgrown tree. His father sat in the wooden chair that used to sit by the fireplace, and his mother stretched out on a blanket at the base of the tree. The kids squealed in the background, the dogs barked and the crows threatened from their perches atop the trees.
The sun crested above the distant pines and the rooster crowed, cracking the morning with its triumphant sound. At that moment John heard a jumbling of sounds: a phone ringing, a dog howling, voices and noises and the shattering of glass. But it must have been the wind playing tricks, carrying nonsense through the open fields from the farms down the way. He hesitated as a thought, a rationalization, tried to take form in his mind. But it was gone as quickly as it appeared. The world was full of enchanting sounds and scents, and it all belonged to him. He turned, and smiling, went into the arms of his beautiful wife.
The reunion had begun. John was home. Home on the farm.