Thursday, November 4, 2010
The Web of Life
I have often referenced my life as the grand-daughter of a Farmer, and I have long known that this has affected my every decision since beginning the search for my authentic self. However, it wasn’t until recently that I realized just how closely that I am walking in the shoes of my family and how closely I am connected to them.
When I went home this past July to visit my Grandmother upon the loss of Grandpa at the age of 88, I had no agenda other than to wrap myself up in the warmth of my family and refuel my soul with their love. Allthough it was a short visit it was long enough to catch up with family that I hadn’t seen in several years, though we keep in touch online.
One afternoon, my middle child, Mason and I had the pleasure of having Grandma all to ourselves. Everyone else was home with their families and recuperating from the emotional drain of the past few weeks. It was a sunny afternoon, with a cool breeze blowing through the sheer window dressing. We spent some time that day in Grandpa’s bedroom going through his life both tangibly and spiritually, touching his treasures, laughing over little things that we came across and helping Mason to see his Grandpa in a new light, in a time before his body had begun to show the harshness of time. Mason never knew Grandpa without the infirmities that eventually took him from us. It was a wonderful experience to bring Grandpa to life through pictures, knick-knacks and stories of a time when life was simpler.
Grandma was in a melancholy mood, just right for opening the flood gates holding back 50 years of memories. We learned more that afternoon than I knew that I was missing.
We learned that Grandpa’s Dad was never a farmer at heart. He had chosen to do the only thing that he felt qualified to do after being ousted from his life’s passion as a cheese-maker, due to a life threatening case of pernicious anemia. At the time, his doc told him that the only way to get better was to get out of the factories and into the fresh air. So, being banned from the factories, he took a step back in the cheese-making-chain and went into the dairy industry. Thanks to the hard work of his three sons, he was able to make a go of it and support his family.
For years, they all worked hard to keep food on the table, a roof over their heads and clothes on their backs. Over time, Grandpa’s older brothers grew up and grew away. This left him handling the farm and now starting a family of his own. Sometime around the mid 1950’s, small time dairy farms started to fall to the larger farms and milk producers. The industrialization of farming had begun. Now, they were faced with a decision. To keep the dairy or let it go. Thankfully for those of us in subsequent generations, a compromise was reached and the dairy cows went, and in came beef cattle, a beautiful group of wooly headed Herefords which would become a constant sight on the hills of the farm for the next 30 years.
By this point in the story, my heart was filled with a yearning for more, more history, more knowledge and more memories. I could have listened for days and days to all of the things that Grandma was sharing. Some of them I had heard before, some were new. Some were even considered risqué back in the times. But all of them were filling me with a sense of who I am, where I come from.
The story of Great Grandpa’s cheese-making passion had brought sharp, burning tears to my eyes. My heart filled with that yearning again, for this past summer, I had begun to experiment with the art of cheese-making. With this adventure, I had unknowingly, created another connection from my life here in the hills of Southwest Virginia to a life 700 miles away and more than 70 years ago. The web of my life is spinning along, anchored in time by yesterday and all of the days before.
As I come closer and closer to finding my authentic self, and what brings me true joy, I know that there will be many links to the past. Some of them will be painful, some will make me laugh and some will make me cry. I hope that the tears will wash away the pain, some of which is buried deep in scar tissue of old wounds. I know that ultimately, this is the true path. I hope you continue to follow along and one day soon, begin your own journey to a joyful life.