Anyone who knows me very well knows I am a fan of a good story. One of the qualities of a good story is that it is worthy of being retold.
The recent death of my father-in-law brought this event back to my mind. It has probably been several years since I last told this, so, as they say, “You may have heard this before.”
An annual event in this area of North Iowa is each first day of spring the Mason City Chamber of Commerce holds a breakfast for farmers that is sponsored by anyone who has business dealings with farmers, which around here is about everyone.
It gives everybody a chance to see who is here for another year of planting and harvesting. It reminds me of bears coming out of hibernation as warm weather has finally arrived and the snow is melting.
It was 1999 and I was at the breakfast along with a few hundred others looking for something to do while eating a free meal.
I sat near a distant cousin who lives about 10 miles away. I am not sure 10 miles is so distant, but that is what the family calls him.
I have a cousin in Billings, Mont. Now that is a distant relative. However, I digress.
The paths of my not-as-distant cousin and I cross maybe two or three times a year and that is when we quickly try to catch up with each other about our lives.
As we were leaving, he asked how my dad was doing. I told him my dad had slowed way down and his health was not the best.
I had read the obituary of my cousin’s father a few months earlier and I told him I saw that his dad had passed away.
We were now on our feet moving slowly toward the door. My cousin said, “You know, my dad would call me at 5:30 in the morning to visit and ask what was going on. I finally had to tell him to not call so early.”
Then my cousin’s facial expression and voice changed. He said, “What was I doing that was so important I couldn’t talk to my dad? Now I just wish he would call.”
I did not have an answer to my cousin’s question and I do not believe he was looking for one. He regretted putting off talking to his dad and now he recognized that there would be no more chances to talk to him at any time.
By then we had reached the door. We said our good-byes and we went our separate ways. It was that sentence he said, “What was I doing that was so important I couldn’t talk to my dad?” that I kept going around in my mind.
My cousin attended my mother’s visitation at the funeral home seven years later and I recounted this event from 1999 to him.
He did not remember saying any of what I told him, but I could see in his eyes that were quickly getting moist he still missed his dad.
That is how it is. There are people in our lives, relatives and friends, who we care about, but also can get annoying in their habits and sometimes we try to avoid them.
Once they are gone we realize those habits were part of who they were and those annoying characteristics do not seem as bad as we thought they once were.
That is when we say, “I just wish they would call.”
I like telling this story around Father’s Day, but it is good anytime. Feel free to retell this story to anyone who will listen.
Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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