This column is in memory of my grandmother, Ruth Harlan, who passed away August 8 at the age of 97.
The farm. While I did not grow up on a farm or a ranch, I did grow up visiting my mom’s family farm in Illinois every year, and sometimes more often. We went to the farm to see my aunts, uncles and cousins, but most importantly we went to see one of the most remarkable human beings I’ve ever known, my grandma. My grandpa died when I was young, and I’m sorry to say I didn’t know him that well so it was always Grandma we went to see.
Usually my family and I would make the long drive across Nebraska and Iowa until we crossed the river into Illinois, which I never considered to be God’s country (because that’s Wyoming) but it was what I considered to be grandma’s country! I have so many memories of the cornfields, the dairy cows, the grain bins and dirt roads. Of the town of Seaton and all the people that knew and loved my grandma, many of whom she had taught. Of the playground and the church and the softball field and even the big city of Aledo. To me this was all “the farm,” which happened to be on co-op lines.
As I grew older, the town of Seaton grew smaller. The dairy cows were replaced by beans and corn, but who was still there watching over what seemed like everything and everyone? Grandma. In the midst of the chaos of family reunions or holidays with a myriad of kids, grandkids and great grandkids, grandma was the calming force. With a contagious laugh and beautiful smile, she just seemed to drink it all in and enjoy every minute of it. Well, maybe not every minute of it. She wasn’t afraid to throw down the hammer on me, my sister or any of my cousins when we got too far out of line. But, none of us EVER wanted to have grandma mad at us so we would always blame each other when something bad happened.
Since my grandpa wasn’t around, my sister, cousins and I dubbed her the “Godfather.” When we were all at the farm, she seemed to know what all of us were doing all the time. If she didn’t like it, she’d let us know. For example, after my grandpa passed away, there was a section in her basement lined with red carpet where she kept all of grandpa’s stuff, and kids were absolutely not allowed on the red carpet. She could be upstairs and one of us (not me) might just step a toe over into the red carpet and she’d yell downstairs “get off the red carpet!” How’d she know that?
It is because of my grandma and her love of family that my aunts and uncles seem more like moms and dads, that in-laws (my dad and wife included) were treated like her own children and
grandchildren, and that my cousins are more like brothers and sisters. And perhaps, it is because of the farm that I have such an affinity for my job. Working for and with hardworking farming and ranching families and small communities like Seaton, reminds me of growing up “on the farm.”
I’m so happy and blessed that my wife and kids, brother-in-law and nephews had the opportunity to know and love grandma like my sister and I did and got to spend time on the farm and feel the love that lives in that place.
Give grandpa a hug in heaven, Grandma.
I love you and miss you.