Today is my Grampa's birthday. He would have been 100 if he was still here. He was, without a doubt, my most favorite person in the whole world. He showed me unconditional love and how to live a just and happy life.
My mom was their baby, the last of 4 girls. They lived thru some pretty tough times - but Gramma used to say, "We always had laughter and we were happy." I loved their farm, I loved their house, I spent every single spare minute I had with them.
After Grampa died in 1989, we went back to the farm. That house that gave me my precious memories was so..........small. I couldn't believe it! How could it have seemed so huge. It was a little farm house with two bedrooms, 1 bathroom with a shower, 1 living/dining room, a kitchen that their daughters added on several years before and Gramma's craft/sewing/sitting room. There was a screened in porch with a freezer - it was the place to be during get togethers - it always had the fudge, divinity, pies, whatever desserts Gramma had made. It also had a small milk crate full of old toys. The lights were pull on bulbs, she never had a washer - she liked the wringer kind - when it broke we went to the laundry mat once a week. The closets were covered with curtains, full of crafts, material, home canned goods.
They had milk cows, a few beef cows, and farmland. They milked 3 cows at a time - the bottle calves were kept in a small pen at the end of the barn. They had chickens, peacocks, and cats. Gramma was the best shooter I ever saw. She could hit a coyote at what seems 800 yards away, I never saw her miss.
Grampa was the smartest man I knew. He went to college on a football scholarship but had to come home to help the family. He could answer ever question on the gameshows - they had one tv channel. I never saw him mad, rarely saw him sick until he got emphesema in his later years. When I was a baby, he had cataract surgery - it was 6 weeks of laying around the house and being very still. I had colic, so Mom would lay me on his chest and I'd stop crying. That bond held us closely until he left this world - I miss him so.
After Gramps got too sick to tend to the milking, they sold the cows. The farm credit called their note - he pulled out their savings and paid it off. Then they lived on nothing - never once told their girls. A cousin of Mom's who worked at the bank called her and told her what had happened. That's the way he did things - he never whined about it being fair or not - he just dealt with it. The girls started helping them after that.
While staying with them in an old feather bed covered in homemade quilts, I'd wake to the sound of a tinny, country music playing in the kitchen. After they'd milked, Gramma would be playing solitaire on the table and Gramps would be reading the paper. Bacon, sausage, and/or ham would be sizzling on the stove. I could smell the hot biscuits almsot ready to come out of the over, and the aroma of hot coffee. They would be quietly talking, laughing, sharing their morning. She always made a feast for a king, but Grampa never had any extra weight.
Searching the horizon, I'd be watching for his straw hat in the summer. He'd walk the ditches to irrigate. Gramma wouldn't let me go with him because of snakes, bulls, and mean ol' cows. I think maybe he liked to be alone to think.
He made every person feel as if they had his whole attention, and their home was a little taste of Heaven - unconditional love. He showed me how to live a happy, simple life - and to enjoy life. He truly loved my Gramma - and taught us how to build a marriage. Every time I hear that Mercy Me song, "When I Finally Make It Home" - he's one of the ones I long to see! Happy Birthday Gramps!