Thursday, March 19, 2015

Growing Up Doesn't Get Easier

I'm a farmer's daughter. Those two words have defined me for a few decades now. There was a period of time when I wasn't necessarily proud of it but over time, I've carried those two words with me like a symbol of my strength. For me, it represents hours spent in soybean fields with a corn knife, summer mornings that began at 5:30, fashion that revolved around black rubber boots. I've never had skinny, shapeless arms, that that's a trait I've grown to love about myself. But a few months ago, I was left pondering whether or not I can still label myself as a farmer's daughter. My father shared that he is scaling back and working toward retiring from the industry. Immediately, I saw flashes of memories growing up. When I was too young to irrigate, I carried an avocado-green Tupperware container from field to field. It was filled with "Teachers", which were really Little People. While my parents changed gates and checked motors, I'd build dirt towns. Flash forward to learning how to drive a tractor pulling a pipe trailer. I'm still perplexed by multiple brakes...and I'll never be comfortable driving one. As I mentioned, my older sisters and I spent hours roguing soybeans. We'd wear tube tops and short shorts with knee-high rubber boots. The shirts, for maximum sun exposure; the boots, to protect our feet from the wet beans. The memories go on and later include my children. Their first exposure to farming. My son fishing with my father in one of three reuse pits. Catching turtles while laying out irrigation pipe. The smell of freshly turned soil, pollinating corn, and dirty water from the reuse pits. The more I dwelled on my own memories, the more my heart sunk for my parents. I can only imagine that this decision is equal parts sad and rejuvenating. They had spent more than 40 years of their lives working the soil, sweating more than most people will in their lifetime. It hasn't made them rich financially but it's my belief that they're ahead of most in character and respect for the land. But how does my father define himself now? Is he a retired farmer, a semi-retired farmer? How can someone who has given so much of himself to the industry ever call himself anything but a farmer? He's earned the title, which is something to be extremely proud of. It's an industry that helped establish this great country, and one that is all too often ignored or criticized. I can't help but feel that this decision weighs far too heavy on his heart and mind. I worry that he feels like he failed somehow. Like he hasn't accomplished enough. Like he no longer has this label to hang proudly for all to see. This could very well be that transitional period that I've heard of...where we begin to take on a parental role for our parents. In this case, it's not to tell him what to do or to drive him to appointments. It's to remind him of his self worth. Offer words of encouragement, a hug that he would never ask for, and our memories so that he might understand that we'll always proudly carry the title of Farmer's Daughter.

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