This past weekend had enough story lines in it to choke a horse. I don’t even know where to begin. I can tell you where it ended and then back up from there.
Last night well after dark, I found myself standing in the backyard, my hands in my pockets, just listening to the sounds of the night. The frogs were busy. The tree critters were chirping a symphony from Beethoven’s Fifth. In Bm, I think. The Cicadas were not out in huge numbers. Just the end of the summer gang chanting back and forth like kids at a high school stadium yelling back and forth across the field.
It was exactly 26 years ago this month that we moved to this little section of the world to see what life had to offer. I was processing the events and announcements of the last couple of days. My mind, like the sky above was a little fuzzy. The crescent moon gave a hazy light that made the tall Oaks look like silhouettes against the night sky. Look to my left and I could make out a small light through the trees from one neighbor. Same to the right and behind us. Not much more than a blip of a light that you might see on the horizon at the beach.
Max trotted past me. All I could see was the white patches on his back and the tip of his tail wagging. A deer blew in the distance, and he took off to protect his boundaries. Eventually, my wife joined me. We just sat on the front porch in the dark. Not saying much. Just taking it all in.
“I’m surprised we haven’t heard an owl”, she said.
“I know.” I could hear a semi in the distance jake-braking his way down the hill on Hwy 27. It was the first and only interruption to the otherwise native sounds of the night.
We left Georgia once upon a time for about 7 years. This night reminded me of the night we came back to Georgia for the job interview at Callaway Gardens. We stayed in town with friends and after supper I walked around in their yard beneath the tall Pines. The sounds then were exactly as they were on this night, and I became acutely aware of the fact that these sounds had been absent from my ears for all that time I had been away. It sounded like home. In fact, a whippoorwill said “Welcome home.” I heard him again last night.
A lot on my mind. Life changes piling up like firewood.
Part of the reason I’m a little contemplative is that I drove up to Hampton on Saturday to bring my tractor back to the tree farm. I’m trying to call it “my tractor”, but forever it has been my Dad’s tractor. And in order to call it mine, I have to accept the fact that it is no longer his. It’s a 1964 MF 65. This worn out Massey Ferguson is like an old friend to me. She leaks. She’s a little rusty and rough around the edges. But that diesel still purrs.
Before I loaded it up on my trailer, I pulled it out past the barn and mowed the old field roads one last time. A salute to a life that is gone. A joy to an old man that is learning to let go. And when I pulled through the last gate on the way out, I got choked up on the memories for a moment. But each time I looked in the rear view mirror on the way home, I smiled at the old red tractor grill staring back at me.
So, sitting in the dark, I am thinking about that.
When I got home late that afternoon, my wife was on the phone with our youngest daughter. Evidently, while I was in Hampton blubbering over a stupid tractor, she was saying “yes” to the young man who had asked her to be his wife. Young love is a powerful thing.
It was about two weeks ago that he asked me if we could talk. “Talk about what?” I asked. I knew full well what he had on his mind. I had seen it coming a mile away. But one of my rights as a future father-n-law is to torture the poor lad like I have no idea what he has on his mind.
“Well, sir, I’d like to talk to you about my intentions with your daughter.”
I was impressed. I wasn’t sure if young men did that sort of thing anymore. I have to admit that when Beth and I agreed to get hitched, we were away at college. It wasn’t going to be easy to talk to either of our parents in person, so we broke the news over the phone. Her Dad said, “Well, it’s about time.” I can’t remember what my Dad said, but it wasn’t as warm and fuzzy. They were just in shock. We were far more like kids than these two.
I pulled into the Cracker Barrell about 7:00 on a Monday evening. He texted me to tell me that he already had us a table. I sat down. He was nervous. I was enjoying a little too much being the old guy on my end of the conversation. We chatted and made small talk over food. It became obvious that I was going to have to break the ice and step up the conversation.
“So, we came her to talk about you and my daughter. I’m guessing you plan to ask her to marry you. How’m I doing so far?” He squirmed. I smiled.
“Yes sir. I’ve got a ring ordered. Having it special made.”
Beth and I have a picture of the two of us staring at rings at Zales in the Greenbriar Mall. A Professor friend of ours happened to be walking by. He happened to be the photographer for the school annual. And he happened to capture the moment. It’s one of my favorite pictures of us. She’s holding out her left hand, trying on a ring. A mini-skirt showing off her legs. She’s gonna shoot me for saying that. I’m leaning on the counter and scratching my chin with $$$$ signs in my eyes. Classic.
The young guy across the table from me is telling me that he is having a ring custom made. This is the advantage of him being in his thirties and holding a good job, versus me being a wet-behind-the-ears-college-student who was broke. I’m guessing that waiting until later in life to get married may have other advantages.
Neither one of them are kids like we were. Emily has been a single Mom for the last five years and has endured a lot of struggles that I cannot even pretend to comprehend. She has matured through her struggles. And, she’s been holding out and praying like mad that Mr. Right would one day ride into her life. He’s mid-thirties and has just never found the right girl until now. I couldn’t be happier or more proud for the both of them.
So, sitting here in the dark, there’s that. And that’s not even all of it.
I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. I guess I kind of think of you and me as friends. We all go through life pretty much the same. Same surprises. Same worries. Same dreams. Same memories. Just different circumstances and different details. I love being at this stage of life. Still a son and always a Dad. Sitting in the dark with my wife. The whole world around us is alive with love and dreams and tears and smiles. Somehow it makes sense to me.
I wouldn’t trade it for anything.