Harvest Home

Bluegrass roots must be exceptionally strong and tenacious. Though our family moved to Ohio when he was quite young, my father never fully lost a Kentucky accent, or a fondness for his birthplace. He subscribed to his hometown paper for years, and despite some health problems, he went back “down home” for a local festival only a few weeks ago. His lifelong nickname references the county where he was born, and that’s the only name most people know him by. So we had to include it in his obituary.
My dad died this week, on a sunny afternoon while he was out mowing and bush-hogging. For him, that was probably a good way to wrap things up. Personally, I’d rather have root canal than run a noisy, smelly tractor all day. And I can’t stand bluegrass music by the hour either. But Dad loved them both.
That’s always been our relationship. I think we liked one another well enough, but with little understanding and few interests in common. Though we’re both talkers at times, we’d soon run out of conversation, when we even got as far as phone calls. We absolutely never discussed our feelings or philosophies … which was no doubt just as well. I would never say so out loud, but … I don’t even LIKE grass! … while my dad would rather mow than eat. I’ve love to read since I was four, but I have no memory of my dad ever reading anything for pleasure. He still loved collard greens, and wanted sorgham molasses on biscuits or pancakes. Let’s just say … I’d as soon eat dirt as either one.
Despite our distance and differences, my dad and I have had considerable lingering affection, from our time together when I was little, and our shared weakness for a good joke, and a few really dreadful ones. He brought me my first puppy, taught me to read maps, made a thorough job of pulling splinters and bandaging scrapes, gave me an enduring love for small planes, and quizzed me on state capitals … which I still know. Though Dad was not an enthusiastic early riser, he got up early for six long school years to wait with me for my ride, and after tiring workdays he watched cartoons (Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and Quick-Draw McGraw) with me, when he wasn’t … resting his eyes. Which was not to be confused with napping. Busy men never nap, you know. I think Dad got his first job at twelve or so, and never stopped working for long, even in his so-called retirement.
Now it seems odd to realize that Dad isn’t still hard at work on something, somewhere. Maybe he is just resting his eyes for a spell.

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About l. l. frederick

I'm pretty ordinary, so I find any number of things in the world interesting, among them: books, music, flowers, food, social justice, politics and (sometimes!) people. As for my writing, I've decided that I can be subtle and tasteful when our only problems are esthetic ones. Or when I'm dead, whichever comes first. In the meantime, read at your own risk.
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20 Responses to Harvest Home

  1. cindy knoke says:

    What a moving and honest tribute. I like the care he took of you and for you. It’s touching. I am sorry for your loss and hope he is now in greener pastures with lots of grass that needs no mowing….

    • Cindy, Thank you for such kind thoughts, and for your comment. My dad had his faults (I sometimes wonder how such imperfect people ever produced a child like me … just kidding! I fear I’ve inherited and improved on the worst of both parents! But I’ll try to do better. A little, anyway. When I grow up.
      Again, I do thank you for your kind support. – Linda
      But grass that needs no cutting? Not sure my dad would approve of such unnatural stuff! I have no idea what his favorite flower was, but I know we’d better make sure his grave has the very best bluegrass on it. And we’d better keep it well-trimmed, or he might well haunt us. And who could blame him!

  2. sojourner says:

    I am sorry for your loss, Linda. But it sounds like you have many fond memories to hold on to.

    I lost my parents almost two decades ago, and so I know how painful this can be, especially at first.

    Take care of yourself, and allow yourself to mourn and heal. Thank you for sharing this with us!

    • Thank you Sojourner, I appreciate your kindness and support. My dad and I haven’t been that close for years, but I’m sure the reality of his loss will hit me at some point. All the questions left unasked, the jokes I never thought to share with him. And though we would hug, and … eventually … say we loved each other, I’m already sorry I did so little to show it. In just that way, we were in truth much alike. So … remind me to try harder with those who are still here! As always, I thank you for your good comment. – Linda

      • sojourner says:

        I hear you, Linda. I have regrets as well!

        I’ve never known a person who hasn’t had some regrets after losing a parent.

        • And every time someone I value dies, I say and believe that I will … communicate more often and more honestly … have more patience … show people that I care for them. But then all too soon I relapse into my habitual self-involvement, and good intentions fall by the wayside. Except this time I really mean it!

          • sojourner says:

            You are not alone, Linda! Believe me!

            • Good to know I have such good company, on my way to hell. Or wherever that well-paved highway leads.
              And as long as the music’s good, I’ll be fine with it.

              • sojourner says:

                My friend, you and I have already done our time in hell, as has your father and my parents!

                If there is nothing after this existence, it will still be heaven in comparison to this shit!

                And yes, hang on to your music, it is sanity in this insane world!

                • “Sanity” could be a stretch in my case, but yes, that’s as close as I get, and I hope it helps you get through as well.
                  BTW, I “helped” my mom plan her funeral a while back. And she just said “oh whatever” when they asked for songs she wanted played or sung then. I was flabbergasted. That’s absolutely the only part of a memorial plan I even give a shit about! So … which of us is the weird one?.

  3. tubularsock says:

    Linda, Tubularsock is not a big fan of death and even a lessor fan of memories BUT loss is loss and that is difficult often times to face up to.

    Sounds like my father a great deal and we too had little to say to each other though he worked his life supporting our family. And taught me invaluable lessons. He left this plain years ago and the water has past under that bridge.

    I wish you well in your grieving process and hope the best for you and others in your family.
    It may be time to take up the banjo and paint the grass red!

    Tube

    • Tubularsock, Wow, I never knew you could use banjos as paint sprayers! But given my. ahem. musical talent, that’s probably the kindest thing I could ever do with one. And red grass sounds perfect! Maybe we could start a running of the bulls , Midwestern style … we’re obviously up to our ears in manure anyway.
      Think I can get through this one all right … another story when my mother’s time comes — that relationship’s always been a huge minefield, and we’re still crawling through it. But so it goes. Thanks for your kindness, candor and support. – Linda

  4. Such an honest, loving tribute to your father, Linda. I love the nuanced balance of memories – his caring and kindnesses and the profound differences that sometimes interfered with sharing deeper thoughts and feelings.

    And yes, bluegrass – my days in Kentucky gave me many headaches. Thankfully my time there was short. But this one song has stayed with me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=043qsOkEKIE. Of course, I’m curious to know father’s nickname.

    I’m sorry to hear of your father’s death and send hugs your way.

    • Carol, Thanks for the music link – that’s a nice version of a song I’ve heard somewhere … and now one that’s firmly stuck in my head for a while. But thanks nonetheless! I can take some Doc Watson and Alison Krauss, but beyond that, all that whiny nasal high-lonesome stuff leaves me cold. Lucky for me there’s a world of other music out there!
      My dad was from Casey County, a few miles from the county seat of Liberty. I’ve been down there, to my great-grandmother’s house, but not for decades and I don’t remember much. Hills and hollers, meager-looking small farms, pawpaw and persimmon trees. Great-grandma Frederick’s terrifying black cook stove (the size of a locomotive to a small kid( that dominated her large kitchen. Numerous storytelling aunts, uncles and cousins in rocking chairs on the porch … not sure I ever knew exactly who was who.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casey_County,_Kentucky
      I’m sorry but unsurprised to read it’s … a deeply conservative spot, very white and very poor. It’s a dry county, but I’d guess it may be rife with meth labs now. Well … my oldest uncle’s first job was helping tend a neighbor’s still, and tradition hangs on a long time in the hills.
      Thank you as always for your kind and thoughtful comments, and
      especially for the hugs! – Linda

  5. sojourner says:

    These comments remind me that we are not alone, Linda! Even though all of us have never really met, and we live all over the place, we have and care about each other. And this is a very good thing, to coin old Martha Stewart!;-)

    • Sojourner, It is a good thing indeed! I did realize that, as I’ve welcomed your kindness and support in recent years, and subconsciously maybe I was hoping for it now, since this post sort of insisted on going up. But yes, such wonderful responses to this piece make our connection most plain. I don’t have words for how grateful I am for all of you, especially now. I hope I can and will do my part to support our blogging brothers and sisters half so well. And even our wicked blogging aunts, uncles and stepmothers,if we have any! Again, I thank “you-all”, as my dad would say.

  6. Sorry to hear about your Dad. Great tribute.

    • Thanks as always for your kind comment. I’m never ready to lose people, but my dad had been failing for several years, and I’m truly glad he did not suffer the dragged-out misery and indignity so many endure before the end. Really, this is harder for all his granddaughters, who knew him as the genial, loving “papaw” who had time and energy to spare for them once he stopped working quite so much.

  7. kalison0515 says:

    This was a poignant piece. It’s interesting how we process what we know about our parents when we become adults.

    • I’m not always sure we do know the people around us. We see some aspects of their personalities, but never everything. And we assume we know them. And yet, even those I’ve known all my life keep surprising me on occasion.
      Thank you so much for your time and kind comment! – Linda

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