Monday, November 13, 2006
I got a check in the mail today--a modest amount--for the sale of a piece of farm land that has been in the family since the Great Depression. My grandad Lovell first farmed the plot, and my mom and my aunt grew up on that piece of western Kansas farmland, playing on tractors and columbines as if they were the finest of playground equipment.
When my mom died of lung cancer in 1976, she left her share of the land to her five children. We leased the land to others to farm, and have always reaped a small blessing (in the form of a check) once the crops were sold. The land has mostly produced wheat, although corn, milo, barley, and even sunflowers have been sown and harvested over the years.
When I went back to western Kansas for my grandma's memorial service several years ago, Don Waters, the man who'd been leasing and farming the land for us for several decades, asked me if I wanted to see the old farmstead. The house my mom grew up in wasn't there anymore, he told me, but other than that, the farm hadn't changed much.
I was eager to see this bit of my history, and he was eager to take me on a stroll down his memory's lane.
"Your mom was my first love--my first kiss," he told me as we slowly drove down the dirt roads that divided up the sections of land. It was summer and the wheat had not yet been harvested.
I had not known this amazing fact. He then went on to tell me stories about my mother, beautiful glimpses into the life of a young Kansas farm girl.
"Do you ever wonder what it would be like if mom had married him?" my brother Dion asked, after Don took us back to the the cemetery for grandma's service.
"Well, for one thing, we wouldn't be here," I answered.
"Right," he said, laughing at the obvious. "I just wonder how her life would have been . . ."
Precisely because she did marry my dad, Mom gave me the precious gift of life--among other things.
From my mother, I inherited:
. . . a sense of humor. She loved to laugh and could even tell a good joke (my family thinks I missed out on that trait)
. . . a compassionate heart. We were always taking in strays, from kittens to foster babies. That gift from my mom would explain the unending procession of people (and critters) through this house
. . . my looks. Anyone who ever met my mom says I'm the spittin' image of her. Although certain parts of her anatomy skipped a generation and have graced my three girls
. . . my love of adventure. Mom had a knack for making everything fun--or at least exciting. Like the time she tried to cook frozen fried shrimp in dish detergent
. . . my passion for Jesus. My mom converted to Catholicism when she married my dad and she embraced the faith with all her heart. I remember when she made a commitment to go to 5 o'clock mass (that's 5 a.m.) every day during the Lenten season. She fulfilled her vow, too, although one morning she stumbled into the church and unbuttoned her coat--only to find that she was only wearing a slip! But she had a reverence for God that impressed my young soul deeply. It is by far the most precious gift my mom gave me.
And thank you, Mom, for the gift of the land. The first thing I will do with the proceeds will be to get my eyes fixed through cataract surgery. The doctor thinks that he may be able to help me achieve 20/20 vision--for the first time in my life!
I thought you might get a kick out of that--since I also inherited my terrible eyesight from you.
I only wish I could hear you laugh . . .