They were special days, those Sundays when we would go to visit grandma and grandpa.
Though closer to the city than we were, they had enough acreage for a real-sized hobby farm complete with some small farm animals, a couple of old horses, a sizeable apple orchard, and a vegetable garden large enough to warrant the utility of a real tractor!
It was long enough ago and I was of an age where the memories have fuzzy edges. But there were things that will never leave my mind. Good things. Things I am grateful for.
There were always some chores to do–like pick up apples so they could cut the grass around the trees in the orchard (save the good ones for cider!), weed some small parts of the vegetable garden, carry the compost from the bin to the backyard pile (grandpa would do the heavy lifting), or maybe shuck some fresh peas to go with lunch at the backyard picnic table.
On very special occasions there was a ride on the old Allis-Chalmers tractor with grandpa at the wheel and me on his lap, pretending to steer. At the age when I could reach, I was invited to press my foot on the starter and bring the engine to life, then work the hand throttle to give it more power. Today, I can only begin to imagine the mix of anxiety and potential grief my mother held in her visions of a disastrous accident for her second son.
I remember my grandfather was a warm, caring man with a sense of playfulness and I treasured my time with him. He was an outdoorsman. Along with the small-scale farming, he loved to fish and hunt and he patiently taught me those hobbies when I was barely old enough to manage the responsibility of them. He helped me pick out my first gun–the same Winchester Model 1200, 12 gauge pump that still sits in my closet some 50 years hence.
He was also an accomplished man, a medical doctor with specialties in the eyes, ears, nose, and throat.
And, he was generous with his craft. I will never forget the special day-long pheasant-hunting trips, a one hour drive further East into the real farm country. Inevitably, part of the day involved a drop in on an Amish family where he would socialize while offering medical advice where it was welcomed.
After retirement, he maintained an office in his home where he would receive pilots in need of their annual eye checkups. My memory has it that he never charged his “patients” for his services and usually left them with a parting gift on the way out the door.
Kind, warm, adventurous, playful, accomplished, and generous. I want to be like him someday.
There are many reasons today to let our attention be drawn into the chaos, anxiety, and fretfulness of this world. There may even be something about us that finds it all entertaining in a sick sort of way. Maybe it is the ability to assume for awhile the moral high ground – to feel good about ourselves by looking down on others.
We pay a price for letting that happen.
The mind can only focus on one thought at a time and when we let it wander into the dark, we sacrifice the wonders that reside in the deepest parts of our fond memories. Worse yet, for not noticing we may let pass the ever-present opportunities to lighten the load for one of our fellows who crosses our pathway.
In The End
In the end, I suspect it will be thoughts of others that rule my fondest memories.
What did they do for me, and me for them?
The treasures along the path will retain no attention.
The news of the day – no longer an attraction,
The anxieties, and fears so empty in their worries,
Desires of power, money, prestige, and romance will seem so silly.
No. I think it will be about shucking peas from the garden with my loved ones that will bring me my final thoughts of peace.
Yours in faith, character, and service,