I thought briefly about saving this memory for a spring day, or even just a really wintery one so I could be thinking spring-like thoughts. But it is too good to wait and I really can’t think of a good autumnal anecdote just now. I don’t remember how old I was, but I think it must have been junior-high or high school age and it was evening on my step-dad’s farm. He was a good man, but one that I often misunderstood. Here I pay tribute to him and transport you into one of my memories Harry-Potter-style to share a bit of his wisdom.
As a background, my mother and my step-dad married when I was six. Of their courtship, I remember him being very charming to a little girl as we all sat in our living room. I liked him. He played fun games with me and teased me when he came to visit. I really had no idea there was someone he was kind of trying to replace, so to me it was just fun and games. I still have the sense that my mother was more skittish than an unbroken colt, so he must have had to work really hard to get her.
My next solid memory skips to the chilly morning of their honeymoon in November. They were driving me to my grandmother’s house for babysitting. I did not attend the marriage, as it was in the temple, and I was not invited. I asked them where “we” were going on our honeymoon. Of course, they laughed heartily at that, and I got a big shock when I found I was not invited to this either. Well, so much for the threesome-ness of our courtship.
His name was Glade, and I always called him by his given name. He was a good father to me, and passed away about five years ago after an old age lived young via his step-daughter. He would delight me and my friends with his terrible but hilarious table manners and his “punny” jokes. He liked those hokey Hawaiian tunes that the women of the buoyantly-curled hair would sing on the Lawrence Welk show, as well as Hugh Nibley, and Johnny Cash. I’m sure each of them was a great influence to his personal work. You judge. Here is my favorite poem of his, composed carefully:
I once had a pig with a nose that could dig,
All around, in the ground, in the dirt.
It didn’t look hard, so I tried it in my yard.
I did it all right, but boy did it hurt!
The opening of the memory I’d like to focus on finds the two of us suddenly standing at the edge of one of his wheat fields in the spring, me with my spare teen body, and he with his trucker hat, blue button down shirt, blue jeans, and brown work boots, which always smelled of earth. I would contrast his slow and maddeningly methodical manner with my own youthful impatience. I remember being ready to move onto the next subject, whatever that was, and feeling an indefinable irritation at standing there just staring out across the land. The sun was setting low in the sky, putting out golden light sideways onto the bright green wheat shoots, most only inches high, yet sending out shadows two feet in length. There were long furrows of these shoots spread out horizontally across the distance almost as far as I could see.
“Look at that!” he said ecstatically. At this point, you should imagine someone from what you would assume is my grandparent’s generation saying these words, as he was quite a bit older than my mom. Think Lawrence Welk. Again: “Just look at that!” said with genuine marvel and a shake of the head. “I am amazed every time they come out of the ground like this in the spring. It’s a miracle.” At first all l I could think of was just how many springs that had been. He seemed truly amazed and grateful that each little seedling had decided to grace us with its presence, though there were hundreds. I felt a question, nothing specific, form in my mind and opened my eyes a little wider to see what he was seeing. He was right. It was a miracle. And the evening was beautiful in a way that few evenings ever are.