I Wear His Coat

Burt & I at his wedding in 1994Burt and I at His wedding in 1994

His name was Burton . He was 37 years older than I.   He was living in our farming community the day that I was brought home from the hospital. We four kids grew up knowing Burt as the friendly kind neighbor who stopped by the farm and sold seed corn to my Dad (Amcorn) and drank a lot of coffee. I grew knowing him as the old white haired guy.

Alas, as is the story, time changes EVERYTHING.  When I was 18,Burt was 55 at this time.  He stopped by our family  farmhouse one week day  and ask if my Dad was home. When I told him he would be soon he ran to town. Burt seemed pretty disappointed. “Well.”….I remember him saying as he rubbed his chin back and forth with his large hand..” Your dad told me I could use his welder and I really need to get this part welded and back on the corn picker.”  I smile and said  “I can hook you up with the welder. ”

This act in itself was hilarious. My folks were in the middle of remodeling the kitchen and while they waited for moms double wall ovens to come in Dad had hooked up the old stove in the basement so we still had an oven. Mind you we had to go from the kitchen, through the dining room, through the new living room and down the stairs to the new part of the  basement to use it.  Allow me to just add to this hilarity that  baking cookies was an Olympic workout.

I unhooked the stove and pushed the wire up through the basement window to Burt who was standing outside in the driveway to retrieve it.   That is all there was to that story. Burt always told me it was then that he saw me as a grown person and not the daughter of that farm couple down the road.

CIRCA  1983. My husband and I had just had our first baby. A sweet little girl born on Easter Sunday. What a Blessing. I took that as a special gift from God, not just our baby girl but that she was born early Easter morn. That next week…on the way home from visiting my parents I was driving past Burt’s farm and he was walking on the road. I pulled the old diesel truck over and he opened the door, and I said “Hey Burt, look what the Easter Bunny brought us”.  OF course he made over our little bundle as do most polite people, but there was a spark in His eyes as he looked her over.  Again, here come that large hand with long over stuffed looking fingers and he so gently reached up to touch her hand and she grabbed ahold of his finger…and he beamed.

I told him he needed to come by my house sometime for coffee whenever he was in my neck of the woods. (Which was just the next town over 8 miles).  And He did.  In fact Burt came to my house at least twice a week for coffee for over twenty six years!  We were like soul mates. Best Friends. We enjoyed so many of the same things in common, and we could talk for hours and never run out of things to say. And oh what a celebration on a rainy day because that meant two pots of coffee or more.  He introduced me to photography and the world always seemed brighter when looking through his lens.

Two more babies were born, and still Burt was around.  He seemed to enjoy our children.  There was a time when my Dad had a slipped disc in his back and early mornings Burt would come to my old trailer and watch my three babies so I could run down to my dads and do his morning chores for him.  For a man that had never had babies of his own…this was a wild adventure.  We laughed about some of those moments over and over again.

In l990 Burt’s wife of 44 years passed. She was never happy on the farm in all those years and used alcohol to console her disappointment. There were no children.  She spent those  years sleeping in the downstairs of the home and Burt spent those years sleeping up stairs. Shortly after her death Burt ask me if I could help him try to clean up his house a little bit.  It had been 44 years of accumulated debris and cats and NOTHING had ever been swept or thrown away. It was a two year process. Still, no matter the dirt and mess  I enjoyed sitting in Burts home drinking coffee with him and listening to his stories of growing up on that farm. His parents owned it before he did.

In the Spring of 1994 Burt came to me and said he wanted to sell his 200 acre farm and he did not want any of the bigger area farmers to have it. He was from the old school and he loved the older way of doing things.  He knew I had no money. We truly were as poor as any church mice you could have ever come across and only GOD KNOWS how we survived.  So he told me what he wanted for the place, and offered me a land contract with a dollar down.  (Not only is that unheard of…..but it has been and will always be the best gift of in my life second only  to our babies).  Burt was to marry his high school sweetheart and he was moving to Indiana. He 68 years old.

Twenty years have come and gone since then. We took this old ram shackled house and turned it into a happy little farmhouse. Its clean, comfortable and country. When we bought the land and later had it all assessed so we could purchase some equipment they would not even put a value on the house,. It had been neglected for 44 years and over 70 cats were living in this house at one time.  When we moved into the house  (April 1994) and I  started to clean the master bedroom upstairs in order  to live in it , I carried  5 gal buckets of dried cat manure out  of the master bedroom alone.   People have NO IDEA how much physical work has gone into this house.  We hired nothing done as it was too costly. Hubby worked away and did not wish to partake of any renovations. So I learned to plaster, plumb, remove, repair, replace windows, sub floors, build decks.  I put the crops in during the spring and I harvested them in the fall.  My husband worked off our farm for a larger farmer.  Several times I was sure I would be in traction by the time I was 50. The load was staggering.

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The farm in 1940 (top left) then 1990 (Top Right) . Bottom …the Farm as she stands today!

As renovations and clean up were under way  Burt was drinking coffee in my house again, but it used to be his house. He loved it. And he would tell me over and over again that some of the changes took his breath away cause that’s how his parents used to do this or that. He kept saying  “I bet my parents are so proud of how you have brought life back to this old place…and I bet they shook their head at me in shame”…..

James McNutt And Gladys (Flagg) Stafford had this dream for only 10 years. Burt’s Dad died in town one day in 1946.  His mom lived her a total of 14 years and she left to live in Texas with Burtons Older brother Jim.  Burt lived on this farm from 1936 to 1994—that was 58 years. We have lived here for 23 years as of this writing.  What a privilege to share in another mans dream or vision. God Bless James M. Stafford Sr.  I pray we all made him proud.

Burt ALWAYS believed in preserving the land and while the house he allowed his wife to control, the land he kept on top of. Nutrients and such.

For 28 years Burt sent me cards and hand written letters. Filled with politics, feelings, news, opinions, dreams and wishes. I treasured those letters when they arrived and kept every one.

In 2009, Burt was terribly sick, and he wanted to come home to die. His second wife said she could not do it by herself and did not want to go through all that again as she had with her first husband. So, I promised if we could bring him home to pass that I would stay until it was over, and she would never have to administer anything and I would not leave till it was all over.

And I never did. Not even to run to the store. I stayed two weeks and was Burts HOSPICE team.  I never dreamed in all the years that we had coffee, the bonding that brought us so close together that I would be the one changing his cath bag, rubbing his nothing but bones body with lotion while he cried over and over from pain. That I would be the one administering the morphine every couple hours. The death pain is an awful one, and the suffering makes no sense to me,  I was always on one side of him and his wife was on the other. He kept calling us his Angels and he would hold both of our hands and hug us both at the same time and kept thanking us both for working together and loving him as we did. His wife was wonderfully precious and I will be forever grateful that she allowed me to be there and do that for Burton.  He kept crying and asking us “why wont the Lord just take me, I’m ready to go, I want out of this pain and suffering”.  Our hearts were so heavy as we tried to explain the Lord was just preparing the place  for him on HIS time table.

I was sitting at the end of  his bed, my hand on his shin and listening to some other men talking who were there to see Burt  when I felt the life leave his body. Finally. No more suffering for him. I prepared his body for the Coroner, I put on his clean pajamas, and held his eyes closed till they stayed on their own.  And I realize that some who read this will not understand those things you have to do. I never dreamed I would be the one to record and write his time of death on his certificate.  A part of my heart died that day. Burt had become my mother, my sister, my brother, my father, my best friend…..I will never be the same. There is a part of me that wont regrow, I wont be able to regift it to someone else, or build it back….. because I buried it with Burt. In Crane cemetery, a stones throw from this farm.  His Parents farm, His farm, Our Farm. His loving kindness, much like that of Jesus…was unconditional, nothing I earned or deserved but he never faltered in giving in and showing it to me.

Holding a hand as it slips from this world, is an entire post all on its own. I wouldn’t have missed being there with Burt for the world. I wouldn’t have missed loving him, and sharing his life and when you love and share completely..unconditionally..then you realize that it doesn’t just mean when there is an occasional rain storm…it means even IN DEATH.

Burt and I last days

 

This photo is not pretty of Dear Burt or myself. Theses were some pretty dark days, a lot of nights full of pain and broken hearts, a lot of tears and hugs, and little  to no sleep.  Some nights laughter filled the room till early morning light and it felt like a slumber party  and other times the silence was deafening. The waiting was excruciating ….death is exhausting…..  And given the choice………. I would do it all over again. For Him.

I am  a better woman today because He first loved me. Because He saw something in me and through him I saw something in myself too. What a gift he left me with. What a gift this farm has been for me, for our three babies all grown up and now our eleven  grand babies get to come here and play and walk around a farm that is still plowing the old fashioned way. Still growing corn without all the sprays and picking ear corn and off loading it into corn cribs instead of taking it to a local mill

The last couple days I have been out in the fields plowing with my OLIVER (not john deere) tractor and it takes me an entire day to get across a 20 acre field that the BIG BOYS cut through in 30 minutes.  I am in an open station, where the big boys are all in sound proof cabs with radios and computers.  But that’s ok. I hear things better, I feel the sun and wind on my face, I love the smell of dirt and diesel  and breathing in the  fragrant Spring as it comes to life.

My Oliver

And I  WEAR HIS COAT. Burt’s chore coat. Its way too big on me, generally I  have to put  a sweat shirt under it. Its as old and antiquated as my tractor, as old me too ,  no doubt.  But I wear it anyway….I wear it because this was his parents dream, then it was his dream, and now its been my dream for the last 21 years….and I am thankful that GOD saw fit to bring into my life a person that truly showed me Unconditional Love and acceptance, Grace, and giving.

I WEAR HIS COAT to feel closer to him, and I  hope somehow he can see me wearing It…and can feel how much I miss him…and how precious he was to me and always will be.

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Brutus

This is our family pet Brutus. Well actually,, I think all the animals on our farm are pets in one sense or another.  Brutus is an Australian Shepherd . (river rock-clay) is what they call his coloring/markings.  I feel very fortunate to write that all of our outside farm dogs have been great, docile, family oriented dogs. We have lost a few over the years as do all people. And they become so much a part of our lives.  No, they aren’t our children but I believe their should be a new word to describe their place in our lives/hearts because they are more than a family dog too.

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Anyway, Here is Brutus. He is so much joy for me. Especially since our children are all grown and most days its just him and I here.  There is a special iron chair that sits on the back deck and most mornings and evenings you can find him there without fail.  He sort of took over the big chair with arms that sat in the corner tight to the glass door. Out of the weather I suspect. So it was only natural to buy him a large dog pillow and make sure he is comfortable. Right.

Some mornings Brute can be found laying on the front deck, where he can watch the road and take in some sunshine.  He is a keen watch dog.

If you drive onto our farm, and you know us at all.  You only need to look for Brutus and you will know where we are. If he is sitting in the yard between the house and barn. Its a safe bet I am out in one of the barns. If He is on one of the porches. I am in the house. If he is no where to be seen, he’s with me in the back acreage. He will investigate the woods, the swamps, and will run in front of my tractor tires a dozen times, but always seems to stay out of harms way. Thank God.

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He will …if I give him the nod, or pat my leg he will climb the step on my Oliver 1750 and he will push himself against the front of the seat and sit there till I cannot hardly work the pedals with ease. When I stop and say lets go, he will sit. I climb off the tractor and try to coax him to no avail. He wants to ride.  In the fall, He wants to ride in the combine. I will not allow him to do this unless the door is shut and if I need to get out I shut the machines down completely so he or I never fall into moving parts.

He is my buddy, my friend, my protector.  When the grandbabies are here, he is between them and the house, and if they start to wonder out of their designated play area, he is ahead of them. How does he know where they are going….smart smart dog.

Alaina and Brutus
Alaina and Brutus

My cousin stopped by here once, a man I hadn’t seen in almost 20 years, when I went to the porch to see who it was he informed me that he had been by the day before….but in HIS WORDS        “You dog put me back in my truck”.        Brutus never came near him but the look  must have sent a powerful enough warning. I laughed and said  “That’s his job”.

WOW

My life is full of   WOW’s.

Three beautiful grown children that still today sometimes I stop, scratch my head and look towards the heavens and ask :  Lord, how could these great people have come thru me.”  They are truly good people. The kind of folks I would want to know more if they weren’t our children.  They love one another and treat each other with care and respect and love and that is a precious gift in itself.  WOW!

 

Ten, beautiful Grandbabies. There isn’t an ugly one in the bunch.  Haha  ( I may be a tiny bit prejudice). Each and every one is so incredibly precious, young beautiful skin, new hair, and teeth, chubby arms and thighs, twenty feet and twenty hands all moving at once when they are all here together. Beautiful laughing eyes and pools of giggling all about me.  WOW!

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A beautiful farmstead that is always in need of my attention.  Repairing, replacing, or renovating. The barns need painting, the grass needs mowing, the fields need tilling, the vintage equipment need greasing and updating.  This farm steals my time and some that i don’t even have. It leaves me dog tired at the end of my day,  worn out happy, and my heart so full it feels like it could burst . I am  grateful to be the steward of this farm and land  and I pray that i am bringing honor to the previous caretakers.  WOW!

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GrandBabies Galore!!!

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I am not sure how it all happened. I know I was in the room when eight out of the ten of our grandbabies were born.  I was there to sing Happy BIRTH day in a hushed whisper to each and every one of them for the first time.  I took their first photographs with their mommies and daddies. Mommies crying tears of joy, daddy’s cutting cords…..I  took the first pictures when siblings met the new baby. I was there . I was.  And yet……how can it all be. It seems inconceivable to me that I am 51 years old and have three WONDERFUL  grown children of my own AND  now have TEN grandbabies under the age of nine. What a sacred blessing it was for me to be invited into those moments.  Memoires more precious than the spoken word can express.  I am grateful God allowed me to be  here to see it all. It wasn’t this side of 9 years ago that I battle cancer and wasn’t sure I would survive to see our first Grandbaby born, And to be honest …days when I was so sick, and tired and wouldn’t have cared if I did.  What a gift. I didn’t just make it to see Benjamin born….but nine more after him and I am grateful to say I am a survivor.

It can be crazy at loud at Omie and Papas house.   (Omie is German for Grandma).  There is actually almost three sets of twins between our two daughters. Each of our daughters have been pregnant and delivered three babies each and each pregnancy had been within 5 months of the other sisters delivery.  We have a set of 2  years olds,   a set 4 year olds, two babies at the moment, and then there are three older grands….. 7, 8, 9, and they have a little sister that is 2 all from our son.  Life is full and happy and loud and chaotic.

At least one or two days a week you can drive by our farm and you will see all those yellow and red plastic cars left discarded in the yard, children riding tractors, bikes, tricycles. Or you may see them climbing up to the two story playhouse that I built for the first of our grandbabies about five years ago.

We have a central boiler, Papa built a shed to hold wood, I built another one and put a playhouse on top of it with the help of my son in laws and son.

Last weekend, our play house received an upgrade. With the gift of two previously used slides, one normal and one of those ugly enclosed things, I decided to add an additional 8 feet on the second deck and add another yellow slide. So we have slides going to the east and the west. A large green enclosed slide on the back side (not visible from the road…yeah) going south.  The grandchildren come and they are beyond excited . You cannot slow them down and I seriously wish I had a little copper penny for every time one of those children climb the stairs and race  down a slide…..they do it hundreds of times in a day. Its crazy. The energy they have.

I am very grateful for this piece of ground that I am able to be the steward of while I walk on this earth, I appreciate the wonderful place our children and their children get to play and explore. That I  will be able to teach them/ show them (as I did our children)   what a tractor with wheels is like, what mold board plowing is, and what its like to raise animals by hand and to use a New Idea corn picker to pick ears of corn to store in a corn crib like folks did back in the 1940’s – 80’s.  A hard way of life back in the day….but the best way  and we got it honest. It wasn’t handed to us…we struggle to make the payment every month like so many people today….but I am so grateful for the opportunity to wake up here everyday and watch all these babies

 

Do It Anyway

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OUR LIVES CAN BE  FULL OF PAIN, AND HEARTACHE….
HURTS AND ABUSE…ITS UP TO US TO MAKE THE DIFFERENCE WE WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD. TO LOVE WITH NO HANDS, NO CONDITIONS…..ITS NOTHING SOMEONE SHOULD HAVE TO EARN…BUT SOMETHING WE SHOULD ALL TRY TO BE GRATEFUL FOR HAVING. IF YOU DONT FEEL YOU HAVE HAD ENOUGH LOVE IN YOUR LIFE THEN GO FORWARD AND SPREAD IT THICKER TO SOMEONE ELSE WHO NEEDS IT. LIFE IS SO FRAGILE, NO LUGGAGE RACK ON A HURSE…..LIVE FOR TODAY…LOVE FOR TODAY…FORGIVE FOR TODAY…AND LET THE LORD WORRY ABOUT TOMORROW.
Heard this song this beautiful Spring morning and I am reminded of just how precious a gift life is and how we live it …..whole heartedly that makes the difference.  Forgive others….its the best gift you can give yourself.
DO IT ANYWAY…..BY MARTINA MCBRIDE.

You can spend your whole life building something from nothing
One storm can come and blow it all away …
build it anyway
You can chase a dream that seems so out of reach
And you know it might not ever come your way …
dream it anyway
God is great, but sometimes life ain’t good
And when I pray it doesn’t always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway … I do it anywayThis worlds gone crazy and it’s hard to believe,
That tomorrow will be better than today …
believe it anyway
You can love someone with all your heart, for all the right reasons
And in a moment they can choose to walk away …
love em anyway
God is great, but sometimes life ain’t good
And when I pray it doesn’t always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway … yeah, I do it anyway
You can pour your soul out singing a song you believe in
That tomorrow they’ll forget you ever sang..Sing it anyway …
yeah, sing it anyway yeah, yeah

Our Angel….Our Mom

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OUR ANGEL ..Our MOM…
GOD chose an angel from above
An Angel sweet and fair;
He placed a Halo around her head
To match her silvery hair.

 

He gathered sunbeams for her smile
From His beautiful skies above;
Then He carved a heart of SOLID GOLD
Then filled it all up with love.

He picked the stars from the skies
To give her eyes of blue;
He gave her kindness, hope and faith
To last her whole life through.

GOD CHOSE OUR Angel from Above
On “LOAN” to us for a little while;
Then He came and took her home again
But left us with her smile.

Dearest Mom, how can it be that you have been lost from our lives for three years now. It seems so much longer. You live on in our hearts each and every day, we think about you often and I mourn the loss that our grandbabies have for never getting to know you. I feel sad when I am hugging them tight, laughing with them, chasing them, breathing them deep into my own lungs and memory and I realize if not for you they wouldn’t be here.

If not for you, Carl would not have been here either. What a precious legacy you have left behind. How you would have loved all these babies. (Especially the ones that have your loud…voice) lol. I spoke at your funeral. Did you hear me? I Read a poem I wrote for you.  You always ask me to read to you, you loved it. For over 30 years I was your reader…. But did I ever tell you I Ioved reading to you? I hope I did.
And while I promised YOU and  myself at your graveside  that I would be sure these babies all knew about you and  the song you always sang to our babies… “Smile A While” 
…I cannot sing the song to my ten grand babies yet without crying myself.   I am sure that in Heaven  your crown is almost to heavy to wear for if ever there was a saint on earth it was you. If ever there was a woman who deserved a crown full of diamonds it was you. I like to think that you  and Don are up in Heaven laughing hysterically over silly things.
We miss you Mom, we love you still …you left a hole in our hearts and in our family that no one will ever be able to fill.
And thank YOU….for never accepting me as your first daughter in law…but instead adopted me as your daughter BEFORE I  ever married your first born baby. What a blessing you were FOR me. All the love and acceptance of a Mother that I always yearned for, never had ..until I was 18, met you and thereafter………you never failed to give me.