Thursday, August 22, 2019

Some thoughts on my thirty-second wedding anniversary

I shouldn’t be, but I’m filled with overwhelming sadness today.

It started two nights ago when Tracy and I were out for dinner. I left the restaurant feeling a little discomfort. I told her, “My gall bladder hurts.” It reminded me of the sort of thing my dad used to say: “Did your bladder splatter? Did your liver quiver?” He was full of ready-made goofy Dad-isms. For whatever reason I thought about him on Tuesday night and it made me sad.

After dinner we went to Burlington Coat Factory and bought some clothes for our youngest. He went off to graduate school and, for the first time in twenty-four years, his momma wasn’t able to do any school shopping for him. She made up for it by buying some new clothes for his first day of school. (Do other grad students’ moms do that?).

I bought a new pair of jeans to replace some of the loose-fitting jeans I haven’t worn since I began focusing a bit more on my health. For the next two days all I wanted to do was buy things. I looked at classified ads for a new truck. I put shoe cleaner in my Amazon shopping cart and hovered over the purchase button before deleting it. I researched updating my Apple Watch, and nearly bought a new pair of running shoes.

Was I trying to numb the grief I was feeling? I’m not sure.

Today is our thirty-second wedding anniversary. I am incredibly blessed and grateful for her. Last night we sat on the deck listening to Earth Wind and Fire’s Live in Velfarre. We ate pork chops and corn on the cob. She made blueberry muffins for dessert. When I woke up this morning I made us bacon sandwiches and then we went our separate ways. She had to work; so did I.

As I left the house I couldn’t stop thinking about my parents. They died ten days apart earlier this year. They were in their early seventies and were married for fifty-four years. The thought hovering just beneath the surface of the lump in my throat and the eyes threatening to erupt in tears is this: if my parents are an indication of what’s in store for us, then Tracy and I only have twenty-two more years together.

That’s not enough time.

I can’t imagine life without this woman.

The thought is made bearable only by the fact that I have no choice but to bear it.

I wonder how many more times grief will assault an otherwise perfectly fine day. How many more times will I be driven to tears on days I should celebrate. Birthdays. Christmases. Weddings. Anniversaries. The pain of losing mom and dad will get better. I believe that. Others have confirmed it.

I just hope that, as the years pass and we see our children get married, have children of their own, and build lives that validate the sacrifices we made when we were their age, that I don’t continue to be plagued by the dread that the love of my life and I are one year closer to our last.

Because I love her.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Our Family Farmall Comes Home

In the mid-1950s my grandpa went to the Ford dealer in Avilla, Indiana and traded in his
F20 for a Farmall Super M. He farmed with that tractor for a couple decades before selling it to
my dad. Dad used it until 1987 when he sold the farm and went to Great Lakes Christian College to become a

Our neighbor, Kenny, bought the tractor and used it until he passed away. His brother, John, inherited it and parked it in his shed where it sat unused for 24 years. So forgotten was the old Farmall that at some point a mouse crawled down the muffler, through an open valve, and into the number four cylinder where it made a nest.

Eventually Leo Sarazine bought the tractor and brought it to his farm shop to restore it. My cousin got word that Leo had Grandpa’s M, so I called and asked him what he planned to do with it. He told me he had rebuilt the motor, was planning to paint it, and then sell it. Without asking his price I told him, “I want it.”

My son and I headed to Auburn, Indiana last Friday to bring the Super M home. It’s special because it is a family tractor, but also because Leo worked with my dad at International Harvester in Ft. Wayne. His sons – one now an actuary and the other a physician – rode the school bus with me and my sister.

I’m a preacher in Lansing, Michigan, and some of the folks in my church think a tractor-loving pastor is a curiosity. I suppose they’re right. It is a bit odd when I drive our other family tractor – a 1962 Oliver 1600 – to the Speedway gas station to get a 44-ounce fountain pop. But there’s something special about sitting on a seat where my Dad sat, or putting my hands the same place Grandpa put his as he stared at the other end of the field for hours at a time. If you own some “family iron” I don’t have to explain it; you already know what I mean.

Grandpa’s long gone. Dad passed away April 10. Mom followed him to Heaven eleven days later on Easter Sunday morning. Though they didn’t live to see the tractor back in the family, they knew we had found it and were planning to bring it home. Dad wasn't with me in the truck last weekend when we made the 90-minute drive back to my Hoosier homeland. But he was with us Friday when a Weller once again hit the starter switch. And he'll be with us every time we hear those four cylinders bark to life.