My Grandfather died in May of 1997. I was able to visit the farm one final time after his death before my Grandmother sold it. My Grandfather’s death was tough as I always looked up to him and I learned so much from him. Knowing the place I had called “home” for so long would no longer be “home” was a mental blow as well. So I wrote what you can read below as a bit of therapy, if you will.
It always begins at the foot of a small hill just off Meadows road. The sky is blue with a few wayward clouds hanging in the distance. Hills on all sides and the mountains further back, a presence at all times. Maybe that is why there are only a few clouds this day; they just can’t make it over the mountains.
At the top of the driveway there are two boxes. One for mail and one for the paper. This is how it has always been and this is how it will always be.
Your first steps yield the crunching of gravel as the driveway is nothing but dirt and gravel. How much of which depends upon the time of year.
As you walk slowly down a short decline you may see a rabbit or one of the random farm kitties scurrying through the bushes. If it is early or late enough, there may be deer. There could be a snake as well, but usually not.
There are always birds. Different kinds; different noises. The pheasants waddle away before taking flight and the crows – well, the crows just watch from their perch in the trees, which move easily in the breeze.
You used to see cows, but that was another time. Now just a field of amber. The field could be green or even brown. The season dictates year after year.
The driveway stretches well over 200 yards. As you walk, you may as well know that as a kid during the summer, my Uncle Mike and I filled the holes in with gravel. I don’t know if any of the gravel I put down is left, but the memory of it is.
The grass is tall this day on both sides of the driveway. It doesn’t get mowed as often as it should. The smaller animals probably like it that way though.
If you continue your walk, about halfway down you will notice an open space to your left. There used to be a trailer there. My great-grandmother lived in it. Sometimes she was scary and sometimes she was nice. Mostly she was just old and I was too young to understand. But I always stopped when beckoned because there was normally a piece of candy in it for me.
Just past the trailer used to be a pen for turkeys. The kind you eat for Thanksgiving. Most of the animals on the farm were eventually eaten. Not necessarily for Thanksgiving either.
Continue walking and you will pass a small well house and come upon a line of bushes and trees. When you pass between them you are officially at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
My Grandfather built the entire thing himself. He started with the garage, which the whole family lived in for a couple of years until the house was completed. Since I moved around frequently as a kid, it has always been home to me. Always the same; always familiar.
But the place I have called home for 35+ years will soon be home for someone else. My Grandfather has passed on and the house and the farm are too much for my Grandmother.
My Grandfather was a good man and he was a fair man. He worked hard and believed everyone should work hard as well. When I visited the farm on vacations, regardless of the season, regardless of my age, I worked. Everybody else worked too.
My Grandfather gave me my first beer. I wasn’t three yet, to my Mother’s horror. I have enjoyed many beers with him since then. Even as a kid, despite my Mother’s pleas, he would always leave me a few sips in the can for me to finish.
My Grandfather is gone, but my memories are indelible. Important people in your life always leave something with you. Something that becomes a part of you. Something you carry on. My Grandfather carries on in my memory and in my soul.
For one final time I go back up the driveway. One last time I can look back at my youth. The driveway that shaped my life more than anything else.
A small cloud of dust settles behind me, a small change, a small difference, but carrying on just the same.