Saturday, August 19, 2006

Thirty Short Years

I recently came across the following piece which was written on October 4, 1991, 25 years to the day of my joining the Air Force. It was written with consideration of the brevity of life, the universal nature of man’s problems, and the only solution: Jesus Christ.

"The twenty-three mile ride to Willmar in the ’60 Chevrolet pick-up was uneventful. The conversation was sparse and measured. At best, my Dad looked troubled.

It had to be hard to take your youngest son to the bus station to go off to the Air Force. The year was 1966; Viet Nam was in full swing. My pacifist, farmer, father didn’t consider it a war worth fighting. I thought the heaviness of his heart was due to the fact that I wouldn’t listen to his side of the story, but I was wrong.

We waited for the bus passing time in idle chatter and then he said it: “Thirty years, Jerry, thirty years.” He said, “Thirty years ago I married your Mom and after today, I’m alone again.”

When you are 18, thirty years seems like a long time. When you are 44, thirty years seems much shorter.

He was a good looking young farmer; strong, with big hands; the youngest son of a Lutheran German immigrant farmer. She was the oldest daughter of the same stock: German, solid, and Catholic. They had to love one another for a Lutheran and a Catholic to marry in 1936 was not something taken lightly in our farming town.

In the late thirties, times were improving. By 1941, they had a daughter and a son. Dry weather and hail challenged their perseverance, but crop prices were getting better. They lived through the Armistice Day storm, “just barely,” he said, “but we made it.”

He would remember the Day of Infamy and in his mind, FDR was rock solid. At the start of the war, he was 32 and farming; he never got called. His boyhood friend, Rudy Trapp, went to Europe—he never returned. He would reminisce, “with Rudy Trapp in left field and me in center, not many balls got by us.” And he would add for emphasis, “You better believe it!”

By 1947 they had another daughter and another son. Machinery was easier to get, crop prices were getting better. Frost, dry spells, hail, good crops, bad crops, good prices, bad prices were their companions. A growing family kept them busy.

“It started as a pain in her ribs,” he said, and five years later, he buried his wife. I was young but I remember it. He never remarried; “Pearl was the one for me, why should I get married again,” was his feeling.

The two older children married. Grandchildren began to fill his life but time continues to march on. His hair began to leave his head, what was left turned from brown to grey. He was a combination of boisterous and quiet; opinionated, belligerent and gentle. He always seemed to be missing a part of his life. As I got older, I realized what it was—it was Mom.

The bus arrived, my mind was spinning. The drive back to the farm in the ’60 Chevy pick-up must have been lonely—really lonely. Only thirty short years, he said, thirty short years.

He often said he wanted to die in his carrot patch. God granted him his wish. There was no one there when the angels came. He was alone except for his faithful dog, Butch standing guard.

Lord, slow me up. Make me appreciate my family now. Continue to use this past to teach me. Hold me securely. I have hope; I look ahead. With Jesus, I will not be alone.

James 4:13-14: Now listen you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money. Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

Jesus said in Matthew 28, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”

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