Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gentle Spirits

He was the gentle spirit who stood by the swinging doors at the back of the church every Sunday. Always a smile and a quiet word. His wife would greet me in Sunday School. She would make me laugh and have a warm hug for a shy, little girl. He is turning 90. They have been married 69 years. I was part of their life journey.

I grew up surrounded by gentle spirits. A gentleness that showed its face in those at my church and those who lived on Neff Road. Despite the hard exterior many farmers wore, they always had a gentleness of spirit to offer a child, later a young woman. The women were hard working women. No job could have been more difficult than that which they daily lived. Yet, there was always time to stop and give a bit time to me. Over the years, it never changed. The soft beginnings of friendship turned into bonds that surpassed time and distance.

Farmers and their wives work hard to provide for their families. They live at the mercy of the weather and crop infestations. They live at the mercy of disease in livestock. Flooded fields can erase income for a year. As my father learned, disease in a fine herd of cattle can take a farmer to his knees, never to fully recover. Women work daily helping with crops and chores, raising children, cooking for farm hands, canning, sewing clothing, making a dollar last. Life on the farm was difficult.

Still for all the struggle and pain, a warmth, a tenderness lies beneath. Not in all. The Johnson men on Mom's side of the family were far from gentle men. Even then, I found a gentle heart and caring spirit in my cousin, the last of those farmers. When my parents passed, men I had known as gruff farmers hugged me with tears in their eyes. I knew I had been loved in my growing up years. I knew that I had not been invisible to these hard-working men and women.

I'm sure that many of these people think I have forgotten them. How could I? Those people helped to create the me I am today. They gave a lonely child love. They found a girl in her shyness. They continued their love for me as I grew up and became my friends adult to adult.

Gentle spirits. They were those people on Neff Road.

No comments: