I am sure that the older I get the more difficult it is to accept change. Nothing new here, I know. Nobody right now is saying, “Wow. What an insight!” But it helps me to admit it to myself.
I get my resistance to change honestly. My folks could never accept much change. No surprise there. They lived through the Great Depression. They saved tin foil. Washed plastic cups and baggies. We ate sandwiches off wax paper, not paper plates. They canned anything and everything that could be put into a mason jar to be eaten later. Much later. In 2012 we threw away mason jars of green beans that were dated 1992 on the lid. The beans were black, not green. Change did not necessarily change them.
Take, for instance, telephones. When I was a kid we dialed a 6 plus the last four digits to get anybody we wanted to talk to in Hampton. Later, the black rotary phone gave way to the tan touch tone. When answering machines came along, Dad refused to have one or to talk to one. He had reached his limit.
“Why don’t you just leave me a message, Dad? I can call you back.”
“You called me back anyway, didn’t you?”
The difficult truth, that change comes whether you want it or not, really settled in on me this past weekend. I drove up to the home place to go fishing for a little bit. I’ve worked some at trying to keep up the place, but I haven’t been heroic about it. And the longer it goes unattended, the more it becomes obvious that nothing about it will ever be the same again.
You might as well set out to stop the earth from spinning as to stop time from changing everything around you. Hammering Hank doesn’t play ball any more. Eight ounce Coke bottles have gone the way of the dinosaur. Good barber shops cannot be found. The sleepy little towns of my past have exploded into crowded retail emporiums. Open fields are going to be a forest again one day.
I know the answer. I just need to get over it. I need to embrace the change. I’ve embraced grey hair. I have options in a bottle, but I’m not going there. I’ll take it as it is. So, why can’t I ride the wave of change and be happy about it?
More than 10 years ago, my son made a difficult decision when my Mama, his grandmother, was in the nursing home. Our life with her changed forever. I never tried to talk him out of it. I always respected his point of view. I knew it was tough for him. And, for him, it was the right call.
“I don’t want to see her like this. I want to remember her as she was.”
And he never wavered from that. In many ways I’m glad he didn’t see what I saw.
As I drove away from Hampton and made my way through the country back to the house, I couldn’t help but notice other old farms that were growing up and being taken over by Privet and Sweetgum and Pine. I thought about the farms that used to be. And I thought hard about both the shrewdness and the difficulty of my son’s choice.
Maybe I would be better off to not go back there, I thought. Maybe I’d rather remember the place as it was because it’s so painful to see it as it is.
Dad made an effort to sell the place before he passed. The change he must have seen was far greater than in my life time. I knew things had turned when he got rid of the cows. He tried to prop up the old barn, but it was a losing battle even back then. He knew that the changing tide of time could not be halted. And I think he was ready to part with it. Maybe he wanted to save us kids the pain of letting go. He was willing to be the one to set it all aside. I wish he had succeeded.
I’m slowly letting go. It’s not easy. I tear up thinking about it. But I know I cannot stop it. I chose a long time ago to make a life somewhere else.
One day the change will make the old farm unrecognizable. There will likely be houses and streets. Kids will ride their bikes. The fields will disappear beneath the asphalt. I hope the lake survives it all. Maybe somebody I don’t even know will cast a line and catch the big one.
It’s strange how a piece of land can get into a man’s soul. Five generations of my family have lived here. And, now my name is on the deed, along with my sister. But I don’t own it. It owns me. It defines much of who I am. It has shaped the way I look at the world around me. It has taught me to appreciate life and work and to enjoy the gifts that God drops into our lives.
The paths I have walked through the woods and the tracks I have followed through those fields will forever be embedded in my mind. And even if it’s gone with the wind, I can close my eyes and go there anytime I want.
It’s time to move on.