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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In Which I Apologize to my Dad

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Have I ever mentioned that I grew up on a farm? I should have. It was a big part of my growing up.

I guess I don’t talk about the farm much because I don’t really know what to say about it. And because not many people can relate to it. In my life right here (my real life, not my bloggy life and not the lives of people who don’t live here in the suburbs with me) I can’t think of a single other person besides me who grew up on a farm. It was a strange and solitary existence, which could probably explain a bit of my introversion problem.

But growing up on a farm was mostly good. Aside from the allergy situation. I was a farm kid with allergies and asthma, and every year at this time the situation became pretty unbearable.

Of course, I couldn’t complain because my dad was a farmer with hay fever. Which is worse, I think. Much worse. Poor guy would sit for hours on a tractor just sneezing and blowing his nose. He’d come in from the field late at night with bloodshot eyes and a huge red nose. This would go on for weeks, until the time of the first frost when he’d start to feel a little better.

At this time every year I really miss the farm. I loved Fall on the farm, especially the smells of harvest. All of that dust being blown through the air. All of those diesel fuel fumes. It was great.

Some of my favorite memories of the farm involve harvest time, when my dad would climb up on the combine and sit there for hours on end, probably for days and weeks on end without a break, until the job was done. Talk about a solitary existence. Just Dad and his radio buddy, Orien Samuelson who brought the farm report on WGN . . . .

. . . until we brought him dinner out in the field late at night, with only the big light from the top of the combine to give us a sense of where he might be in the vastness that was harvest. Dad would drive over to where we were waiting with his semi-warm dinner, hop down off of the tractor and give us all big, dusty hugs. He’d take his cap off of his head and we’d see the distinct line of dirt across his face where the cap had protected his forehead.

And so it was with such memories—the sights and smells of harvest—in my head that I sighed as we drove to Springfield for a quick weekend getaway earlier this fall. As we drove, we watched the busy farmers harvesting corn in the fields with their huge combines when all of a sudden Maggie asked, “Mom, what does a combine do?”

I nearly had a stroke right there in the car when I heard it! Seriously? What does a combine do? She was joking, right? After all, her grandpa had been a farmer. He had ridden a combine every harvest season for the better part of 35 years. And she really didn’t know what a combine did?

B and I just looked at each other in the way that parents of troubled teenagers look at one another. You know, the look that says, “Where did we go wrong?”

So I took a deep breath, tried to remain calm, and patiently explained to Maggie that a combine was a harvesting tractor that gobbles up the corn stalks on one end, strips all the unnecessary parts off and spits them out the back onto the field. The only part that was kept were the corn kernels which were then used to make things like corn oil, corn syrup, and feed for cattle.


When all of a sudden it hit me. Maggie didn’t know what a combine was because I hadn’t taught her. Her grandparents had retired from farming when she was about three years old, and then they moved away, so Maggie had never really had the experiences that her sisters had had on the farm. Her sisters remembered riding tractors with Grandpa and walking through tall cornfields and climbing on the combine, but Maggie didn’t.

Maggie had no recollection of farm life because I had neglected to instill in her a sense of her heritage. I just assumed she would know what farming was all about.

And, Dad, for this I am truly sorry. Well, that, and the fact that your granddaughter doesn’t know what a combine is.

As we drove down the highway toward Springfield, I had another realization. If my daughter, who is just one generation removed from an actual farmer, doesn’t know much about farming, how quickly could our Christian faith be lost if we don’t pass it on to future generations?

More than anything, this thought scared me. And it made me realize the importance of being intentional about passing on our faith to my daughters, and also, someday, to my grandchildren. How quickly, how easily, can our heritage be lost if we don’t do anything to make sure it is preserved?

Yes, it’s important to me that my daughters understand the farming culture which is a part of them, but it is much more important to me that my daughters understand the Christian faith which has sustained my family and my husband’s family for generations.

“Listen, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4-9



Kimberly said...

So next fall we'll get to see you out here for combine rides, right? :o) Great post.

helmetorheels said...

Great post! Will He find faith when He returns?!

Shelly @ Life on the Wild Side said...

Absolutely, Kimberly! We would love it!

Carmen said...

Love this post, Shelly! My grandpa was a farmer, and I remember the fun hayride at your parents' house when we were in college - where I found out I was allergic to hay! :) My 6th grade son is currently doing an in depth interview of my Dad for a school project... So glad for that assignment since we live so far away now. What a beautiful post! Important things to remember.

stacey said...

Love when God uses real life to drive home a spiritual point!

Great thoughts Shelly!

Shelly @ Life on the Wild Side said...

Carmen, we still think about that weekend. So much fun!!!

Prior said...

Followed you over from Kay's blog. Her husband used to pastor my church...Your thoughts are so true. Great post! Lezlee

Linda said...

I thought this was going to be the blog where you said you loved living on a farm. :)

Great post. You are fortunate in that your kids will all get to know your dad and remember him.

Down On The Farm said...

That is so very true. My husband and I were talking just recently that when we were kids everybody at least had a grandma who took them to church once in awhile. Not anymore. We truly are several generations away from church being a part of people's lives. Sad, an scary.

Anonymous said...

Loved your post Shelly.
How proud your Dad must be to read this.
What joy I get reading you blog.

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