I’m sitting here staring at the forecast on my computer. I’m being told, in what I believe to be half-truths, that we could get over 2” of rain tomorrow. By the time you read this, either the ground will be wet or I will be suffering at the hands of yet another meteorological lie.
I checked the calendar where I write down all the rainfall numbers. September 1st, 6 weeks ago, is the last time any raindrops fell on the tree farm. Keeping up with rain amounts is something I learned from my Dad. He was focused on his rain gauge.
For years I would get a phone call from him every day around 7AM. There were no hellos. No how ‘ya doing. Just straight to the point, or what he felt like was the point of what he needed to know.
“You get any rain last night?”
“Yes sir. We got a pretty good rain.”
“It’s dark. I haven’t looked at the gauge, yet.”
“Give me a minute. I’ll go take a look.”
Back to the phone. “We got right at an inch and a quarter.”
“That’s a good rain. I only had ¾” in my gauge.”
“Yes sir. That’s not bad.”
“Yeah, but it’s dry. My pasture is brown and we need a good rain.”
“I understand. Hey, let me ask you about . . . .”
“Well, I gotta go. Good to talk with you.”
This was our pattern for most of the last ten years of his life. Every day. The same phone call. The same information. The same abrupt ending. There was a time when I got irritated with the dance. Rain. Rain. Rain. That’s all he ever asked about. He never let me talk about anything.
Then, he was gone. The phone calls stopped.
One day a few weeks ago the phone at the farm rang and the caller ID said John Chappell. I almost got up and ran out the door. I wasn’t sure what to do. My stomach turned. It can’t be. Could it be? I checked the rain gauge first. Then hesitantly picked up the receiver.
It was my son. He’s named after both his Granddads, but goes by his middle name. I never think of him as John, but evidently most government agencies and cell phone companies do. He had a new cell phone. The old one would show up as Marshall Chappell. The new one looks like my Dad is calling from beyond the grave. The next half dozen times he called me, my skin crawled a little bit and I had to think before I answered the phone.
I’ve heard all my life that you never miss what you have until you don’t have it any more. I took for granted my Mama’s pickled peaches, which I consumed in great quantities and loved them almost better than ripe peaches off the tree. They are gone forever. I took for granted a good strong back and the ability to sleep all night long without so much as moving an inch from the drool soaked spot on my pillow. A lot of things have gotten away from me. Christmas when the kids were little. Looney Tunes. Rabbit boxes. Good dogs. Fried chicken with gravy and biscuits for Sunday lunch.
I hope the forecast is right. We need the rain. My trees are tired. And if it is raining when I get to the farm, I’ll check the gauge. At 7AM I’ll look at the phone and wish it would ring one more time. And if my son calls, and the caller ID comes up, I may faint right on the spot.