Man. This is heartbreaking to write. and even more heartbreaking to realize that I don’t have many pictures of such an amazing place…
February of 2010 my grandpa passed away. From there, my grandma’s health has declined to the point where she is in assisted living, about an hour away from the farm they bought around 50 years ago.
I have pretty amazing memories from the farm. I knew that dirt road the second we turned onto it – my dad would fly up and down the dips in the road, sending a rush of adrenaline through both my brother and I for a split second as we felt the car suspended momentarily in air. Early in life, I knew it as a place where I knew a homemade cherry pie (amongst others) would be waiting for me. I would sit on my grandpa’s lap while he drove me around on the good ol’ John Deere, and I knew that night we would be chasing lightning bugs until we passed out. We ran around, sticky with sweat from the warm Missouri air, picking bark off the Bullet Tree until we were corralled into the house to eat a five course meal Grandma had somehow prepared out of thin air. I would eat my way through the sweet corn fields, drowning each ear in butter, sprinkling them with salt and pepper just like how my Grandpa showed me – to this day I will eat my corn that way, yet it’ll never taste like how it did on the Farm.
Fourth of July on the Farm? Holy Moses, I’ll never forget that. One summer, my parents spent about $600 buying fireworks in Illinois, and it took us about four nights of hour long fireworks shows to go through them all. The Farm was also a Mecca for family reunions. I would painstakingly wait while we drove the mile and a half down that dirt road, eager to see everyone; ecstatic when I recognized the RVs, cars and campers in the makeshift driveway, knowing I would have cousins, uncles and aunts to play with for days on end.
In my teens, I found a happy balance there between appreciating the quiet times at the farm, mixed in with a healthy dose of reliving my childhood. I would show the ‘new’ kids how to catch bugs, snatch frogs up without having them pee on you. I would sit on the front porch swing and take in the day, and I even went to church with my grandparents (secretly I think my Grandma was trying to set me up with the preacher’s son). To this day I still think Grandpa just focused on the brunch part of church, but I’ll never know.
I would run the dirt road numerous times, only to return drenched in sweat, prompting my Grandma to ask if I was ok, and shaking her head as to why ‘anyone would go that far on purpose’. It wasn’t until a few runs later that my Grandpa offered to drive behind me with a shotgun “in case of them coyotes” – pronounced, “kai-yotes”.
As an adult, I can safely say that I took advantage of every second I had on that farm. I’ve never admitted this to anyone, but 99.9% of the times that I meditate, I’m on the Farm. I’m on my yoga mat, on their front deck, sitting in the breeze and hearing the random bugs. I swear at times I can smell the mustiness of my Grandparent’s home, or hear the creaking in the floor – it was especially bad walking from the guest room to the bathroom, but comforting in a way.
Sadly, my last trip to the farm was also one of the last times I saw my brother. It was definitely a happy reunion, one that only a few family members could make because it was last minute. We both put on our uniforms and took pictures, both ‘in all seriousness’ and goofing off, in true Stiles form. It was a very short visit; we had ‘life’ to get back too, and Jon had military ‘what nots’ to take care of. Fortunately, I was able to see him just a few weeks later, but again – another memory on the farm.
I’ll always remember the little things about the farm – the way the barn smelled, the knick-knacks my Grandma had in the kitchen, the hat rack right inside the front door, the oil lamps in the bedroom, and of course Grandpa’s couch and his affinity for trains.
I hope to never, ever forget these memories. From what I understand, the neighboring family bought the farm, and they intend to fix up the house. So, not all hope is lost.
My only regret is that my children won’t get to visit it how I did.