Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Norma

My grandpa Norman was one of the greatest men I have ever known. He was the strong, stoic type and when he spoke, you listened. My grandfather experienced many events in his lifetime. After a brief stint in the Army, he married my grandmother and had two daughters. He spent his younger years working at a Chrysler plant and his retirement driving a school bus. He and my grandmother loved exploring different parts of the world and traveled often. In fact, he visited 48 of the 50 states in his lifetime. But his one true passion was cattle farming. Grandpa would spend hours on end working his cows and the land they lived on. He loved his cows as if they were his own children, and he was truly at home on that farm.

My sister and I spent many afternoons helping Grandpa on the farm when we were younger. It's where we would go sledding in the winter and pick walnuts and blackberries in the summer. Lessons learned on the farm weren't just about how to mend a broken fence or drive a tractor. They were about being kind and gentle but firm when necessary. He was teaching us how we should live in all facets of our lives, but it wasn't until I was older that I realized the magnitude of his simple ways. The lessons that I learned on that farm have helped mold me into the person that I am today, and I have Grandpa to thank for it.

Not long after I graduated high school, my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. As his disease progressed, his abilities became limited.  Throughout the years, my father had helped my grandfather move cattle, put up hay, repair fences, and whatever else was asked of him. So when Grandpa was no longer able to farm, my dad (with the help of my grandma) slowly began to take over his role.

Last winter, just five days before Christmas, Grandpa passed away. I was at his bedside when he took his last breath. It was a loss that effected us all, and he will forever be missed as the foundation of our family.

Today, my dad still runs the farm. He is careful to do things just as Grandpa did, and he still refers to it as Norman's farm. Because no matter how many years pass, that land will always hold his memory and his love of farming.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the heifers had twins, one boy and one girl. The momma cow only acknowledged the male as her own and refused to feed the female calf, so my parents moved the female calf from the farm to the pasture behind my grandparent's house. My dad built her a pen and has been bottle feeding her three times a day since.

While we were in my hometown this past weekend, we were able to meet the new baby calf. When I asked about her name, my mom informed me that she had been calling her Whiskers. I looked at my mother like she was crazy. You can't name a cow Whiskers.


I thought about it for a moment then asked, "What about Norma?"

The suggestion to name the calf after my grandpa brought a tear to all of our eyes.


It seemed almost surreal to be in that backyard bottle feeding a calf without my grandpa present, and it saddened me to know that Taylor would never get to experience life on the farm with her great-grandpa. But thankfully, she has her Papa to teach her the important life lessons and to spend long afternoons with her in those green pastures. I can only hope she'll take those experiences with her throughout her life, just as I have in mine.