This is the barn of my childhood. If it were still standing, this is exactly what it would look like. This morning on the radio, in honor of the upcoming Father’s Day weekend, the DJ was putting out the question,
What was the best advice your father ever gave you?
As folks called in and shared different pieces of wisdom their Dad has given them over the years, I found myself smiling stupidly as I cut through the quiet streets of our still sleeping little town.
My Dad was a quiet guy. Never had too much to say, and that was fine by me. I did enough talking for the both of us. Often times, the only response he had to my infernal chirping was a slow grin, that made the corners of his brilliant blue eyes crinkle.
You see, he’d already raised three girls. 15 years later, I was born, surprising the heck out of my whole family. By the time I showed up, Dad had seen it all, and so not too much of what I did or said surprised him.
When I heard him sneaking to the kitchen for his midnight snack of cold cereal, I would swing my legs over my pink canopy bed, pad lightly on the hard wood floors and stick my head around the corner of the kitchen. He wouldn’t say a word. He would just grab another bowl out of the cupboard, like he’d been expecting me. And he would smile.
One time, my Mom found us both, bent over our bowls of cereal, eating silently. She started to protest. After all, it was a school night! And 2 Am for crying out loud!
All Dad said was, Oh, come on, honey. She looked at us both reproachfully, and muttered something under her breath about, never again. But, she didn’t get up again to give us a hard time. I guess she knew it was our thing, or maybe she had some piece of intuition that these moments were to become some of the best times I would share with my Dad.
The memory this morning that was coaxed from hiding, was the time I spent with Dad in our old barn. I have so few recollections of him ever talking, much less giving advice. But if I live to be 110, I won’t ever stop hearing his voice in my head when we got to the barn.
I loved to hang out in the loft. But to get there, I had to climb on top of one of the old sow’s pens inside the barn, on the left hand side. We had a lot of pigs, but she stands out. Larger than the other pigs, and always looking for a fight.
Dad kept her by herself, and the only pen for that was under the loft that I pretended was a schoolhouse, or a castle, or countless other places depending on the day. Whenever I put my leg up on the railing, she would charge at me. I had to be quick, and pull that other leg up before she got it.
Everyday, I would follow Dad across the road to do chores. As he started his work, I would head for my special place that could turn into anything I wanted it to be. And Dad’s words were always there, said exactly the same way, with the same inflection. I’m sure they hang in the air somewhere over the family farm my Mom still lives on; the land that will always be home to me.
Be careful, Sis. She’s a mean ol bitch.
Best words of advice he ever gave me. I didn’t call in to the radio station this morning to share Daddy’s eternal words. How would I ever explain the story behind them…that it was this and everything my Dad never said that made him perfect?
I just wrote it down instead.