Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Pear Tree

We have a pear tree in our yard, and like nearly every other tree on the farm, it was here long before we were. We didn’t plant the dream, but annually we look forward to its bounty. 

Over the last six years I’ve been in awe of how much fruit one small tree can produce. I annually pick up buckets of pears that hit the ground, and in some instances, they hit me on the way down. I consider it a small price to pay. This tree has an amazing ability to not only produce many pears, but they’re quite large, also. The majority of the pears that fall are the size of softballs. It is incredible!

Last year, the small tree produced so many large pears that branches began splitting and breaking off. I was so disappointed to see the tree literally break under the pressure of itself. It took on so much that it was simply falling apart. In an effort to save the beloved tree, my husband decided to take a pair of pruners and snip off the branches that were broken. I wondered if this was a good idea. Don’t things in nature usually just work themselves out? Once the pears all fell, wouldn’t it just spring back into shape? Do men really always find the need to get involved….with tools? 

I would never tell him this, but between you and I, I was sick watching the situation unfold. He is so good at many things, but I silently questioned his ability to trim the right limbs that would ensure we’d still have a fruitful tree next year. I’ve seen the man’s resume. Arborist was never on it. 

I watched from afar, trying not to be in the way. 

A branch there. 

Another on the north side. 

Two more close to the bottom. 

One more on the south. 

By the time he was done, the pear tree looked more like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree than it did the original, strong fruit tree. I smiled and told him that he’d done a great job, secretly certain I’d just picked my last crop of pears. Ever.

But guess what. A month ago, a neighbor stopped by and picked up a bucket of pears off the ground to use for pear butter. 

Two days ago, I picked two full buckets of pears off the ground, beautifully yellow and turning sweet orange. 

As I pen this, I’m looking outside and see at least a dozen more that have fallen in the last 48 hours. 

The tree is back to its old self; it just needed help. 

I can look out at the pear tree tonight and think about resilience, strength and bouncing back. But this fall the tree has taught me even more about asking for help. 

What is it about asking for help – or even admitting that you need help – that is so tough? I remember well when a neighbor stopped in while I was carrying two buckets of feed with a baby strapped to my chest. She asked if I needed help – I quickly declined any assistance. Why would I have done that? Was I crazy? Yes, probably. 

Decades ago, my grandmother got kicked by a Holstein cow, broke her arm, and finished the evening milking by tying a cutting board to her arm with a handkerchief. I’m not from the kind of stock that is comfortable asking for help. Or complaining. 

Vulnerability. Fear. Rejection. Weakness. We’re living in a culture where none of those things feel warm or inviting. Maybe they shouldn’t. But maybe that’s what we need.  

Asking for help: Vulnerability. Fear. Rejection. Weakness. The pear tree never felt those things, but I can guess that maybe you have. I have, too. 

It is acceptable to ask for help. It is acceptable to not do it all alone. It is acceptable to admit that you need support, large or quite small. 

And between you and I: It is acceptable for someone else to carry the bucket. 

In fact, could it be that much of what 
weighs you down isn’t yours to carry?

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A Girl and Her Llorse

As I pen this, the chilling October wind howls through the hundred-year-old pine outside our kitchen window, the clouds float across a moon-lit sky and I’m getting chills just thinking of Halloween. Not because the holiday creeps me out, but because my back is against the wall regarding the event.  

Two months ago, Caroline made mention that she wanted to be a horse for Halloween. We had barely made it through August, so Halloween wasn’t even on my radar. A month later I asked her what she’d like to dress up as. Same answer: A horse. 

Since then, I’ve tried convincing her to be a cowgirl, a farmer, a jockey, or even a princess (her resistance to this idea is genetic). I’ve had no success. She doesn’t want to be a person, she wants to be an animal, and a horse to be exact. She wants it to have a mane and a tail she can braid. She wants it to be brown. She’s not particular for a three-year-old, at all. My search for a horse costume began in late September and continues to this day, October 30.

I asked friends, visited stores and searched Amazon. The online site was the only place I could find one, and even then they were $40 and didn’t even have a braidable mane. Yes, I took her desires to heart.

One day at the co-op a coworker heard me discuss my dilemma and offered the use of a llama costume she had. Initially, I thought there was no way that would work, then I remembered that I only had brown yarn and a pair of Carhartts waiting for my creativity and (lack of) skill to kick in. I accepted the llama offer. 

I have hidden the costume in the spare bedroom for five days, peeking at it every so often to determine how I can transform the darn thing. It has a long neck, short tail, no mane, and tassels. Lots and lots of tassels. 

I went to Wal-Mart and found yarn which matched the multi-colored llama perfectly. I created a long tail and fastened on during the late hours of Saturday night. On Sunday I created a mane with the same yarn and I’m having a hard time figuring out how to secure it without damaging the co-worker’s costume. 

On Sunday afternoon I gave myself the, “Now or never” pep talk and decided to show the Llorse - you read that right - to Caroline. I brought it out of the spare bedroom, presented it to her and she studied it. I felt like I was waiting on the judge to examine my open show project at the county fair. I fully recognize how ridiculous that is. 

Then, with one squeal and a big squeeze, she hugged that llorse so tightly. She loved it. She loved it so much, that she has groomed the llorse extensively. I’ve reattached the tail once and the mane three times. Before tomorrow I must find a better way to keep the disguise up before my daughter figures it out. I’m telling you: as soon as the mane and the tail fall off at the same time, this charade is over.  

I’m only putting this in print because our daughter is three and is not an avid blog reader. I fully understand that as she grows she will be more difficult to fool and I’ll need to take her August warnings more seriously. 

Until then, if you see a young brunette running around town in a shoddy horse costume with a tail dragging across Mainstreet and strange tassels all over the ribbon halter, please just give her extra candy. She has a rough home life. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Auction Itch

You can travel all over the United States this season and find a cattle auction going on or approaching. Many beef cows, heifers, and bulls are sold this time of year, whether in the commercial, purebred or show cattle industry. 

Two weeks ago, our family of four traveled to the Kansas flinthills for our family’s production sale, then we went to the beautiful sandhills of Nebraska to another sale where we had beef embryos selling. Over five days, we logged 2,227 miles. That’s a lot of time in a car seat, just ask the kids. 

I love attending these livestock auctions. The atmosphere of the sale, the auctioneer’s rhythmic chant, and “HA! HA!” of the ring men who call the bids – it is truly an exciting event. It is amazing what some stock will bring, what genetics are sold for and how people select what they’d like to take back home to their operations. 

But I’ll tell you, there is something about a live auction that makes me itch. Seriously. 

When at a live auction, you should sit very still so the ring man or auctioneer doesn’t think you’re bidding on the lot. 
Do not nod. 
Do not wink. 
Do not move your arms. 

Not me. 

Put me at an auction and I itch, twitch, and simply do not have the ability to sit still. At the sale in Nebraska, I got something in my eye during the heat of the sale, and could not quit raising my arms to get whatever it was, out. Naturally, I kept blinking, winking moving my head back and forth to find comfort. My husband wasn’t terribly impressed that I almost bought a Hereford bull for more money than we have in our farm bank account. After a bit of confusion, I excused myself to the food line for the remainder of the event. 

A month ago, we went to an estate auction and I watched as they sold the 1989 Crown Victoria. It was at that moment that I saw an old neighbor and couldn’t help but wave. This was a bad, bad idea. Next thing I know, I’m “in” at $2,500 and the auctioneer asks if I want to take the bid to $3,000. I nodded “no” then again excused myself to the dessert line. 

Do you notice a trend?

On Friday night we went to an Angus sale outside West Lafayette. There I was, minding my own business and visiting with a cattle friend when I hear the auctioneer say in the middle of his chant, “Lindsay! You’re OUT!” I looked up to the auction block, and he was, in fact, looking straight at me. I wanted to respond with, “Frankly, I had no idea I was even in,” but I only nodded “no” and walked outside to get some fresh air. I think I use my hands too much when I talk. 

My husband attends these cattle sales for a living, in search of the next great beef bull. He’s taken me to three live auctions over the last two weeks, and I am fairly certain he’ll never again invite me to job shadow him. I’m just a risk that he (we) can’t afford. 

But if you do drive by our farm and see a Hereford bull, 1989 Crown Victoria or something else that just doesn’t fit in, please understand that it is probably a (/an expensive) result of me getting an untimely itch at an auction. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Mike the Mule

In the closing minutes of a recent meeting, a client of Sankey Creative remarked, “I enjoy reading your blog. I don’t know how you keep finding things to write about.” I told the gentleman that finding the uninterrupted time to sit down and write has always been the challenge, rather than finding things to write about. Somehow, stories or topics just always seem to...come out of nowhere. 

That was last Thursday. 

On Friday afternoon, the kids and I returned home from Ohio with a load of feed. Cody met us at the truck and said, “You’re not going to believe this. The strangest thing. I look out to the pasture and all the cows are stirred up, something really has their attention. And across the pasture goes a white horse!”

“What?!” I asked him. “Where did it come from? Where did it go?” Cody didn’t have solid answers for either of those questions. The white horse seemed to appear from nowhere, then disappear again. 

An hour later all four of us were working outside when Cody yelled, “Lindsay! Look at the woods! There it is!” And sure enough (Cody hadn’t been drinking in the middle of the afternoon), out of the woods emerged a large white horse. 

This is not the horse that emerged from our woods.
This is a result from Googling, "White horse woods"
The cows were stirred yet again, so we needed to take action by calling neighbors. The first neighbor just laughed and said it wasn’t theirs. The second neighbor just laughed and said yes, in fact, he was missing Mike the Mule. In our defense, we hadn’t been close enough to the majestic animal to determine it was actually a mule, not a horse. 

In the same minute that we determined where he belonged, Mike the Mule took off running north, then he cut across our yard. Then he did something really stupid: He stepped onto Highway 35. 

Here is probably where I should describe where we live. We live just west of the crest of a hill on a terribly busy highway. You can look west out of our drive and see ½ a mile, but looking east only grants you about 75 yards. That isn’t a long distance when trying to pull out onto a road where people may be going 60+ mph. Much to our dismay, we don’t have a dog because of this location. I’ve scraped enough barn cats off the highway with a scoop shovel to know that I don’t have the intestinal fortitude to own a family dog. 

So, when Mike the Mule stepped onto Highway 35, my heart sank for multiple reasons. Cyrus was on my hip and Caroline was by my side and they both thought it was pretty awesome that a magical white horse appeared out of nowhere and wanted to play with their cows. I had a bad feeling they were about to see something no child should. Then, my animal adoring husband decides to step out on to 35 and try to stop traffic at the crest of the hill so Mike the Mule doesn’t turn into Rex the Roadkill right in front of our farm. 

You have to understand Cody and horses. Having grown up on a Kansas ranch, horses are quite special to him. His parents still have his childhood horse, Socks, on the ranch and Caroline visits Socks and friends when we travel west. When Cody saw a horse(/mule) in danger, he stopped at nothing to try to get it out of harm’s way. 

So there I was. Baby on the hip, toddler on hanging on to my leg crying for her daddy, a white mule trotting a straight line down the double yellow of 35 and low and behold, a Red Gold semi barreling up from the other direction. 

“This is not going to end well,” I told the kids. “We’re going to the house.” 

Of course, I couldn’t, because while Mike did seem special, I also cared about the well-being of Cody, who had suddenly turned into Walker Texas Ranger right in front of our very eyes. He was going to save the world. And by the world, I mean Mike the Mule. 

Of course, my mind kept clicking back to how I was going to call my in-laws in Kansas and explain to them that Cody got into a tangle with a Tahoe because he was trying to save a random mule from getting clipped in front of Caroline’s concerned, and always curious, eyes. 

Quite luckily for all parties involved, I never had to make that phone call. 

A black suburban, silver Fusion and beige Buick all barreled over the crest of the hill but avoided Mike and Cody. The Red Gold truck slowed his ascent up the hill and pulled over the shoulder with his flashers on. Mike the Mule made a very smart decision and took a left through our double red gates and went back onto our property. Cody closed and latched the gate behind him.

Mike’s owner came a short time later with a halter and lead rope. Cody got Mike haltered and lead him back up our ditch to a pen where he would be safe until the owner returned with a stock trailer. 

While filling milk cups for bed, Caroline looked out our south window which overlooks the pens. “Look! Daddy got me a white horse!” she yelled out. I broke her heart by reminding her that was Mike the Mule and he’d (hopefully) be gone before she woke up the next morning. And he was. 

Every day since, we’ve traveled St. Road 1 and seen Mike the Mule out grazing where he is supposed to be. Caroline looks for him each time and she’s grown quite fond of the rogue rascal. I, too, look for Mike at every opportunity. Not because I necessarily like him, but because I want to ensure he stays where he belongs and doesn’t become the reason for a long-distance phone call back to Kansas. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Unless There Is Blood

I’ve seen many houses with “Family Rules” signs hanging on their walls. Some of those family rules are things such as:
Always tell the truth
Pay with hugs and kisses
Do your best
Keep your promises

I have yet to see one that reads, 

Don’t bother me on the lawn mower 
unless there is blood

and that was probably the number one family rule we lived by growing up. 

I never understood why my mother was so weird about her weekly time on the lawn mower, but I rest in full understanding now that I’m a mom. 

Besides the day-to-day lessons and laughter in raising two kids, the absolute highlight of my week is mowing our yard. It is the hour and a half that I have a task in front of me that doesn’t require cleaning maple syrup off a TV remote or disposal of any bodily fluids. It doesn’t require muck boots or fly spray, proofreading or editing in red pen. It is an hour and a half of me time. During a phase of life where I don’t remember the last time I went to the bathroom without an audience, an hour and a half of me time is quite significant. 

While I mow the yard, 
I play questionable music from college, way too loud through my ear buds. 
My mind drifts between travel and children and memories and places and people

My goodness, I love people. 

By the end of my lawn mowing chore, I have the world’s problems solved, though no one has asked my opinion. But since you’re curious, I’d start with major jail time for people caught littering. Because while I do love mowing the yard, I do not enjoy picking up endless amounts of trash along our ditches. To the person who threw out a single black sock, two rubber gloves, three Bud Light bottles and a lint roller: Please tell me what the rest of your life is like. 

On the lawn mower I develop my grocery list, but I have no place to record it. 
I mentally add on to my to-do list and cross things off, too. 
I rarely take phone calls on the mower, because I figure that if I cannot disconnect from the world for an hour and a half one time a week, I probably have bigger problems than tall grass. 

I generally pay no mind to the passing cars and trucks, but I will say it’s astonishing how many people go by our house on Thursday afternoons when I get the mower stuck in the fence. And the honking rate really spikes when they see Cody come pull me out with the Kubota. There is something about that activity that really gets people motivated to lay on the horn while passing Sankey Angus (and it also gets Cody’s blood pressure elevated).

I sincerely enjoy mowing the yard, having one task in front of me that I can complete without interruption. 

I remember well one weekend circa 1995 that my brother had his best friend, Ben Warner, over. Ben’s joints were very….fluid. I don’t know if he was double jointed or triple jointed, but he was able to bend things in directions that would have easily qualified him for the circus, had he not other aspirations. In fact, quit scrolling and try this: Bend your wrist down so your fingertips touch your elbow. Try it. You can’t do it, can you? Ben Warner could do it in 1995. 

Anyway, Luke and I came up with a grand plan to frighten our mother: We’d send Ben over to stop her on the mower and tell her he fell out of a tree and broke his wrists. Ben would then demonstrate two “broken” wrists. 

As we watched from afar (because we weren’t stupid), Ben ran over to mom and pulled his stunt. And Mom proceeded to jump off the lawnmower, as mortified as we expected her to be. 

I think Ben’s dad came and picked him up not long after that.   

I look back now and I realize that wasn’t nice of us, at all. She was likely extremely deep in thought, perhaps in middle of writing her grocery list or trying to figure out how to get George H. W. Bush back into office. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Down the Aisle

My cousin got married last weekend in one of the most beautiful, elaborate weddings I’ve been to. This, of course, coming from someone who used a pair of tree pruners to cut branches off her favorite tree at the farm to create her wedding bouquet. So when my cousin, Joan, asked Caroline to be the flower girl I’ll admit I was a bit apprehensive. 

A lot of coaching and bribery goes into getting a three-year-old down the seemingly endless aisle of an enormous Catholic church. At the rehearsal, I picked a place to sit during the wedding and kept reminding Caroline that when she got to the alter, she needed to take a left, then another left, and I’d be sitting in the pew waiting for her. This is confusing for someone who doesn’t know left from right.   

So, during rehearsal, I found a statue of a saint that she could identify, walk to, and there she would find me. It happened to be a Saint with a dog, cat, and mouse at his feet, which confused me greatly, but Caroline thought it was absolutely wonderful. We decided that I’d sit next to St. Martin de Porres, patron saint of people of mixed race, barbers, veterinarians and more. I have a real knack for getting Caroline into situations where she only asks a lot of questions, and this saint selection was one of those situations. I instructed her to not worry about St. Martin de Porres’ physical traits and pets, just focus on the puppy and kitty and getting down the aisle. 

The rehearsal itself gave me confidence that she knew what she needed to do, when and how. But could she walk a quarter mile down the aisle in a fluffy white dress with hundreds of strangers looking at her? Time would tell. 

We arrived at the downtown Indianapolis church Saturday afternoon just in time to get dressed in a dark, quiet corner. Once the fluffy white dress was on, Caroline was a magnet for attention and that really bothered her. Every time someone would say hello or tell her she looked beautiful, she hid behind me. My confidence that she would make it down the aisle was waning.  

We tried to stay out of the way as parents of the bride and groom welcomed guests. We sat by the Holy water font and Caroline asked why everyone was washing their face when they came in the church. Of course, we didn’t have time to go into a full explanation, so I quickly told her they probably had a snack on the way to the church and they needed to clean up. She begged me to carry one of her horses down the aisle with her. I figured that if it got her to her destination, we could do that. So with her petite rose bouquet, she also held a brown pulling horse figurine in her tiny hands. 

The gorgeous bride arrived, and Caroline was quite intrigued that she had a group of princesses behind her holding up her train so it did not drag the ground. All of a sudden, mere minutes before she was supposed to walk down the aisle, Caroline had a mini-breakdown that her flower girl dress did not also have a train. She began walking around with her knees bent, looking behind herself, hoping it would make her dress drag on the marble floors. “Great,” I thought to myself. “She’s going to walk down this aisle appearing to be crippled just so her dress will drag the floor, and everyone is going to wonder why Joan asked a toddler with a mobility problem to be the flower girl.” 

Some clenched-jaw instruction convinced Caroline to stand up straight and tall just in time for her debut. 

The grand doors opened, and I whispered to Caroline that I’d meet her at the puppy and kitty. 

Do you know when honey gets crystallized and thick and you can’t get it to drip out of the jar? 
That’s how slowly Caroline walked down the aisle. 
Do you know when you’re late and a train stops over the tracks, only inching along for twelve agonizing minutes? 
That’s how slowly Caroline walked down the aisle. 
She actually walked so slowly, and carefully, down that endless aisle that the pianist had to play her song a second time. 

But she made it down the aisle. No tears, no turn arounds or panicked yells for mommy. I became the proudest mother in the world, and I was sitting in Saint Mary’s Catholic Church! 

In the thirty minutes that followed, Caroline asked a series of questions which included but was not limited to:

  • Why did the Priest show up in a white bathrobe?
  • Why did Uncle Rex, who was seated behind us, have his eyes shut when we weren’t saying a prayer?
  • Why didn’t I bring her cold milk for doing a good job?
  • Why couldn’t she lay down on the kneeler inside the pew?
I’m so thankful it wasn’t a full Catholic mass. 

We made it through the rehearsal, wedding, and reception without any catastrophes, and when you’re dealing with a three-nager, that seems to be a major accomplishment. On the way home I looked in the rearview mirror to see a sleeping toddler in a puffy white dress with barbeque sauce down the front of it, holding her brown horse. 

I guess it is true: 

You can take the girl off the farm, but never the farm out of the girl.

As a side note, my sweet niece Marlee wore this dress at our wedding on August 10, 2013. You may have read about her here. 

And six years later to the day, Caroline Jean fit into it perfectly. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2019


I miss Elder-Beerman, as I knew I would. My bank account, however, is much better because of the closure. 

One thing I always bought there were jeans. Elder-Beerman didn’t put Calvin Klein jeans on sale often, but when they did, I usually bought a few pair. There was something special – magical, even – about the Calvin Klein jeans sold at Elder-Beerman. Though I was nowhere near the size in real life, I could somehow always fit into size 6 Calvin Klein jeans from the downtown department store. I know well that there was something mismarked about this dreamy denim, but it was the only place in town where size 6 actually suited me. 

This is also likely why they were the ones on super sale: they were flawed.  

Last week I had to work with a tent rental company to set up for an approaching field day. I had both children with me, and together we walked the field test plot with map in hand and marked the areas where certain size tents should go, what grass walkways should be left free, and how many tables and chairs to set up at each location. I thought this would be a fun day for the kids to join me, out in the middle of a corn/soybean maze on a beautiful July day. They were certain to burn some energy. 

I waved the three large trucks into the test plot field and parked them. Three men unloaded out of each one. I imagine the rental company has a high turnover rate, as I never work with the same group annually. The men that unloaded from the trucks were as different as they come: one was clean-cut, shirt tucked in and a belt, while the vast majority of the others looked as though they just rolled out of bed. Dreadlocks, tattoos, ripped jean shorts, cut off shirts, piercings, this small group had it all. Because I’ve been in this situation before (standing in the middle of a field, with no one around but truckloads of strange men I’ve never seen before), I thought nothing of it. 

But then there was Caroline.

“Mommy. What wrong wit dat guy?” she asked me in her outside voice while she pointed very directly. I wanted to cover her mouth and stick her back in the car, but instead, I squatted down beside her, getting on her level. Quietly, but firmly I responded, “Honey these are mommy’s friends. They are here to help me set up all these tents and all these tables and all these chairs. There is nothing wrong with him. He just doesn’t look like you.” 

She studied the group intensely as they began unloading supplies. I’m certain she was thinking, “Mommy sure has some shady friends,” but she never said another word about it. 

That afternoon lasted longer than it should have. My map was off by about ten feet so we had to change tent size for one location. They brought the wrong tent for one stop, so their manager had to drive another down from an hour away. But the team I worked with was very kind. They were precise and calculated, measuring everything twice before setting a single stake. They were efficient, like worker bees zipping around and wasting no time to raise the big white tops. They were respectful to myself and my kids as we walked every bit of that field with them as I described my needs for the event. 

I drove home that evening thinking about Caroline’s comment and her concern. The man didn’t look like anyone she’d been around before, with gauged ears, dirty clothes, few teeth and covered in tattoos. His lifestyle was obviously different from ours. However, his specific and special talents lie in working quickly and doing all the heavy lifting to help other people. That is not something I do on a daily basis. This man does. 

Then Sunday rolled around and things seemed much clearer. 

Sunday’s sermon was about how God has irregulars that play a special part in meaningful moments. In fact, God often chooses insignificant people to teach us some tremendous lessons. 

A quote from the sermon, by David Jackman, 
“The apparent unsuitability of the great men of God in Scripture is a recurrent theme which finds its peak in the selection of the twelve by Jesus...They had none of the pedigree or accomplishments which today would be considered absolute necessities.”

I believe that the blonde man that helped us set up for our event last Monday was one of those irregulars. He didn’t say much, he simply took instruction and got to work. I don’t know how long he’d been setting tents, what the row of bullets tattooed on his calf means about his life experiences or if he has any little ones at home, keeping him on his toes. 

I do know that he served as a wonderful vessel to have a brief, but meaningful conversation with our 3-year-old about not judging others who look different than us. 

Especially if they have a bleeding skull and inmate number tattooed on their forearm and they're holding a 12-inch steel stake. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Make Time for a Visit

Last week I told you about the farm auction we attended and the perspective it brought to my life. But I wanted to share something more. 

My Grandma Jean spent some time at The Springs, an extended care facility in Richmond, over the winter and early spring. We made regular visits when Grandma was moved to The Springs, usually on Mondays and Fridays, after breakfast but before lunch. When you have a toddler and a baby, you avoid any opportunity to eat a meal in public; I planned our trips to see grandma so that we avoided the community dining room.

And we always packed horses. 

We were in one day and my mother stopped by to check on Grandma Jean. 

“Did you know Dick Kinsinger is here?”

“No kidding? Who is he visiting?” I asked. The last time I saw Dick he was mowing yard. 

“No, he’s a patient.”

“Oh no, I hate to hear that.” Though The Springs is a nice facility, you always want your kind of people to be back where they belong – on the farm. 

“You should go see him. Go down the hall, take a left. You’ll see his name on the room,” Mom said. 

I looked at her like a dog looking at a high-pitched sound: head cocked to one side and slightly confused. I have yet to meet a person who enjoys going to hospitals, nursing homes or care facilities, myself included. You are only there because to have to be; someone you love or care about is within the walls. No one comes to The Springs to pass the time. So when Mom suggested I go visit Dick, I made every excuse in the world. 

He probably doesn’t want visitors. 
He wouldn’t know who I am. 
I have the kids, and they are chaos. 
I hate to leave grandma, she looks so lonely (yeah right – I think she was ready for a nap after the Sankey kids).

My mother gave me a look that I haven’t seen in a while. She expected more. She even offered to keep baby Cyrus. 

Moments later, I grabbed Caroline’s tiny paw, told her we’re going somewhere where she needs to sit and be quiet, and together we marched to Dick Kinsinger’s room. 

Dick was in a big comfy chair, looking out the window. His daughter, Carol, was in another chair visiting with him. She was happy to see us and as I predicted, Dick wasn’t quite sure who I was. In his defense, he often saw me in cut-off shorts, gum boots, a tank top, absolutely losing my temper and herding Shorthorn heifers off a road of which we’d not yet replaced the fence. Looking back, we were probably his entertainment for 25 years, as he saw our family begin a herd of Shorthorn cattle with bad fences early in the game.  

Dick Kinsinger and county fair beef show judge Tom Younts reminisce about a 1960's county fair, where Dick awarded Tom the Grand Champion Steer title.

Once he realized I was the neighbor kid, he seemed almost proud to see that I had a little girl with me, a job in agriculture and that I would stop by to see him. He told me he was ready to get back home to sit in his lift chair and watch Purdue basketball. I told him I couldn’t blame him one bit. Dick had aged greatly since I last visited with him. His eyes longed for home. I am a firm believer that when you take the farmer (or farm wife) off the farm, they age at least a decade. There is something therapeutic for those raised on the land to remain there.

But Caroline was restless, unsure about who we were with and why she didn’t recognize him. She adores Great-Grandma Jean; she was ready to get back to her room. Our stay with Mr. Kinsinger only lasted seven minutes.

That day was February 7, 2019. Mom called me on February 13 letting me know that Dick was gone. 

If Dick Kinsinger taught me anything in the 34 years that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him, it wasn’t anything about raising beautiful Angus cattle, or kids (and grandkids) with strong work ethic, or even caring for your homestead so much that the neighbors feel compelled to keep up.

When I remember Dick Kinsinger, I’ll remember the power in making time for a visit.

I don’t know a single person who looks forward to hospital, nursing home or care facility visits. There is something so terminal about leaving such a place. You often wonder if this was this our first goodbye or our last?

Life offers us so many situations where we will feel comfortable. Pleasure, happiness, laughter, comfort and safety. Don’t we love them, all? But I believe it is in the moments when we are not in our comfortable lift chairs that we learn the most. 

Dick taught me that, when I feel uncomfortable in a situation, I should remember that it isn’t about me. It isn’t about my comfort, schedule, awkwardness, convenience or need. It is about the person who won’t sleep in their own bed tonight. Dick taught me that bedside visits are the best opportunities to pay respect. My goodness, how those away from home long for it. Sure, I went to his visitation, but our final visit at The Springs was one where I could show him that I turned out ok, despite my 13-year-old temper.  

Go to the nursing home. The bedside. The facility. 
Go to the home. The farm. The hospital. The apartment. 
Give 30 minutes of your life to make 36 hours of theirs.
Cry in your truck before and after if you have to. That’s why God made truck consoles and McDonald’s napkins. 

Bedsides and funeral homes are places of which I’ll never regret visiting. 

They say when an old man dies, it is as if a library burns down. I know that another fell to ash when Dick Kinsinger left us in February. Thank goodness he was one heck of a teacher while he was here.