Monday, September 27, 2010

Catching Up

Hi Friends! I promised to write a blog about our life on the farm. I am glad to say that our plans are coming to fruition. The hope was that being in Ohio would enable us to serve my mother in her first year of grief, give Henry the opportunity to experience farm life, allow us a rare chance to slow down and enjoy each other, and give both Debbie and me space to write. All those things are happening. For that I give thanks to God!

The journey here was grueling. Exhausted by the dying and death of my father and preparations to lease our house and leave for the year, we limped across the country to Michigan. It is a good thing the mini-van ran on gas and not our energy, or we wouldn't have made it across the Cascades. But God's grace provided where we were lacking and our chariot arrived at the lake.

Once at our cabin, we were embraced by our extended family. How wonderful the love of aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings can be! My talented brother created a pottery urn and fired it Japanese style in a kiln on the porch of his bath house. We drank whisky and smoked cigars as he plunged it redhot at midnight into a can of dried leaves, sticks, and feathers in order to give it a smoky, silvery finish. I entertained all with terrifying stories of climbing Rainier. We buried dad's remains in a moving ceremony attended by about 50 family members. Struggling to keep my sorrow from obliterating my ability to say the words which I wanted to say, I lead it (barely). God gave a sense of closure through that worship.

After a month, we headed south to the farm. The four of us (Mom, Debbie, Henry, and I) have rather quickly made the adjustments needed to meld two families into one. We have done a good job of listening to each other whenever we cross the unwritten lines that everybody has about how you run a household. We love and support each other in our own separate yet linked paths of grief and health. It has taken longer to unpack all our stuff and make the farm physically feel like our place as well as mom's. But we finished that up last week. It is good to know where your things are instead of saying, "Those pants are probably in one of those boxes in the corner."

Henry is having a wonderful time. His school started a few days after we arrived. We were frankly surprised at how every element of his school experience has been positive. He has a gifted teacher who loves the children and quietly maintains peaceful discipline while leading them on the amazing adventure of reading.  Henry is enthralled by reading. He wants to make leaps and bounds and sometimes is frustrated that you must walk the path and sometimes even stop to review whence you came. In addition to the academic sphere, Henry is very comfortable within the society of schoolchildren. He is making friends readily. When we ask him what is the best part of school he replies, "Everything. I love it!"

I asked Henry, "What is best about living on the farm?"He replied, "The dogs, daddy." He is also in love with combines. "There is one!" he'll call out as we drive down the road. This week our fields will be harvested so hopefully he will get to ride in the big machine. If so I'll take a picture and post it. He likes going to mom's church. Two kids from his kindergarten class attend which is nice for him. At an apple festival he had his face painted like India, his stuffed Tiger. He is drawn to the horses and is getting to be comfortable on a saddle. The "Fall Festival of Leaves" is coming up with a parade. Henry has never seen a parade. Henry also went to a small traveling circus where the highlight was a performing camel and Joey the Clown.

Rather than speak for Debbie, I asked her this question, "What is it like living on the farm?"
"Mostly great. Only in the last week have I felt that I live on the farm. Before that I felt like I was renting a room and running errands and unpacking boxes and sweating. It was 90-100 degrees from the day we arrived until 2 days ago. The best part of my day, unquestionably, is picking up Henry at his school. I don't ride the horses but they are pretty. The sunsets are magnificent. The dogs want to eat Simon (our cat) and Beth is helping us to eat healthfully. Charlie and I discovered the "Country Music Jamboree". It is a country music and gospel review every Saturday night in a hundred year old brick theater next to the Dairy Queen. I love that.

I asked my mom, "What is it like having us live with you?"
"It is wonderful! Fun, cozy, and comforting, and happy all punctuated by Henry's ebullience over school, dogs, kite flying, riding toy tractor, and everything."

I set up my computer and began to write the day we drove up to the 180 year old white clapboard house. I find that creative writing can be rather addictive. I have started a short story, but mostly I'm writing reflections on the experience of losing my father. That is not to say that I have "found my calling". Not serving as a minister, I feel how much I relish it. Writing is good, but I am an extrovert. (Would any of you doubt that?) I miss preaching, leading a group, teaching, bringing comfort to someone in the hospital, chatting with the staff, conversing with members, ... I miss pastoring my church.

And I am loving this special year. It is so neat to have the chance to do something different knowing you will return to the usual. For instance Debbie and I went to a mega-church Saturday night in Columbus (Vineyard) and were moved to tears by the fantastic cuttting-edge worship band. Sunday morning we were in mom's loving village church where the emphasis is on relationships and enthusiasm. That night mom and I drove windy country roads to hear a second cousin of my dad's speak about African mission work in community church in the hills where the mid 19th Century revival hymns sounded fresh and lively accompanied by a gospel band which included a piano, keyboard, slide guitar, dobro, mandolin, bass, drums, and 3 guitars. Earlier in the day a friend of my dad's showed me how to work a green horse by applying pressure through eye contact! It is quite a year.


  1. Dear Debbie, Charlie, and Henry (and Beth!),
    I'm hooked! I have subscribed and will look forward to hearig more about your adventure. I love the idea of Henry spending a year on the farm-I'm jealous! And sorry about your dad. What a blessing for your mom to have you there with her. Thanks for including us in this opportunity to hear about what you guys are up to :) Love, Kristin (et al)

  2. So great to hear from you! You are such an enthusiastic writer. Give our love to Eric and all. Love, Charlie and all of us.

  3. Hey Charlie,
    I'm so glad you guys are having a good time! Henry must be having a ball with the farm- every kindergartners dream!! I'm happy you are getting settled in :)We miss you here, but this blog will be awesome for keeping us up to date with your activities.
    Hannah(and family)

  4. THanks Hannah. Thanks again for that wonderful birthday card. I like seeing what you are up to on Facebook.