Archive for Wednesday, May 17, 2000

Farm’s welcome mat will always be out

May 17, 2000

I have walked my grandma's eastern Iowa farm dozens of times. Over the years, it became so familiar that I stopped looking for anything new. I spent the past weekend memorizing every nook and cranny of the farm going the places I only went as a child as it was probably one of my last times there.

There is no easy way to say it, but my grandma is dying. She has pancreatic cancer, the only notable health problem she has experienced in her 94 years of life. The cancer's toll on her body is obvious, yet she is still the most beautiful person I know.

When she rested over the weekend, I walked from barn to barn and through pastures and fields accompanied by my camera and Emily. I never noticed my grandpa's name Oran Birkey carved into the foundation of a silo built in 1917. The silo isn't used for anything now, except as the occasional home of a barn owl.

I climbed over old farm equipment in my favorite barn built in 1909. I listened to the windmill turn in the breeze, and pulled the rope to the dinner bell but it didn't ring. I picked through several patches of asparagus, careful not to disturb the pheasant nest my brother had discovered earlier in the day. I wished I knew someone who ate rhubarb, because grandma grew a fence row of it. I never made it to the pond or the timber grandma loves so much.

I taught Emily to catch the rainbows from the lead-glass windows on the stairwell. The stairs are her favorite part of the farmhouse ordered from a Sears catalog and built in 1913. I am most fond of the kitchen, where grandma made the softest sugar cookies and my favorite asparagus casserole, and where the windows overlook well-stocked bird feeders.

The farm is not being sold, and one of my uncle's nephews will be living in the house, but I felt like I was saying goodbye Sunday afternoon even though I know I will always be welcome there, even though I will probably be back soon. I have a feeling the little girl in me will always find a reason to return, and search for something new, something not noticed before.

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