The longest night
I miss my brother a lot. But, especially at this time of year. He counted the days to the winter solstice, and counted each extra minute of daylight after that day. Always waiting for spring. He didn’t label his dread of the dark days, he just plain didn’t like it. It came as no surprise that when he finally lost his battle with cancer, that he died on the longest night of the year, December 1989. His mind was on other things that day, but I can never shake the feeling I get when the winter solstice rolls around. I visited him in the hospital that day, and when he vomited up blood, he told me that he had prune juice for breakfast and it didn’t agree with him. Always the big brother – protecting me until his dying day. I knew it was blood, but there was no sense in speaking of it. I went back to work, and when I came home that afternoon, and my friends were here and came out of the house before I even got out of my car, I knew what was in the offing. We went back to the hospital and that night he died, with friends and family getting one last moment. So I thought instead of being sad today and thinking of his death, I would go back in the time machine and look at his life.
We still have the basket and we used it at the farmers market in our display. Every time I see it, I think of this photo.
Summer 1949. It would be a while before I came along.
I only have two pictures of my entire family, this is one taken when my brother graduated from high school. You can barely tell in this picture, but my dad is missing fingers from playing with blasting caps as a child. And my sister the seamstress had made a matching dress for her and my mom for the occasion.
Pioneer meeting 1966.
My brother got roped into a lot of things he didn’t want to do. This was one, but my mom made him put on a good show anyway.
I think if he had had a choice, he would have left the farm, or maybe done things differently. But our dad died when I was 8 and my brother was 24. He was locked in because my dad left property to him, and gave my mom a life estate. He just did what was expected of him, with no complaints until I was grown and his wife left him because of the isolation of farming and being married to someone who was self-employed. He was my brother, but he had to be the father figure too. He spent a lot of his time teaching me what I now know, keeping me safe, so to speak. Our relationship reminds me of Bambi and the Old Stag. “Here eat this.” “Run this way.” He always was telling me how and why everything worked, and imparting his vast knowledge of the natural world. He taught me how to be light on the land, all this, from a logger and heavy equipment operator. He put up with all my idiot boyfriends, and when HD came along, he teased him, but he started teaching him too. And he started getting sick, first heart attacks, surgery, and then cancer. He accelerated his teaching with an urgency. It un-nerved us. It was daunting thinking of a life without my big brother. He and I heard and saw the same things. We couldn’t explain to anyone how comforting the sound was that the fire poker made in the basement when you hung it on it’s nail. Our blacksmithing grandpa made that poker, and the metal rang straight and true. It was music to our ears, to others it was a chore to hang the dang thing up. He always quizzed me when we would hear a log truck – Cummins or Jimmy? What girl needs to know that? I knew, and I find myself teaching my daughter, and telling her stories of her uncle that she never knew. I had to listen to the ram drive pipe, if it sounded just so, you had air in the line, if it rang good, you were good to go. So many things to learn and remember, one cow missing – look for her, 10 cows missing – no big deal.
When people say farmers aren’t good stewards, I beg to differ. My brother was proof positive of the opposite. And horror of horrors, he was one of “them” conservative Republicans. I know there are people who ravage the land, but I hate being lumped into the “Oh you’ve been farming a long time, well, there are new better ways to do things… .” I know that, I’m doing some of those things, but I also do things the old way too. Knowing when to do what, is what is more important. I think.
I was tagged by Howling Duck Ranch for a green meme, and I have been struggling with how to do it. I was flattered to be tagged, and I looked at the questions, and I thought of my brother, and I thought of how we have lived for a long time. I couldn’t really answer the questions and sound green. So I guess I’m not really green, but I think some people might think that I am. I just don’t fit, I drive a full size pickup, but rarely. My green neighbor has a new hybrid, but drives to Portland sometimes twice a day. My other green neighbor drinks soy lattes, and flies to Hawaii multiple times a year. I have only been to Hawaii once and I drink plain old coffee with cream from my cow. I think my brother and I would qualify for the not-in-your face kind of green. Just plain old everyday land stewards. Thank you for tagging me HDR, btw. 🙂
I’m guessing 1988, my brother had cancer here, no hair showing.
There was one question on the green meme that I would like to answer. If you had unlimited funds what green project would you implement? I think I would try to restore a project that my brother and his business partner did before it was the “in” thing.
I apologize for the three following videos. Our original VHS tape of this project has seen better days, and our computer had a hard time loading the entire segment, so we broke it up into 3 smaller videos. This news segment is from the early 80’s.
My brothers headstone – his best friend since first grade (not the guy in the video) did the original artwork.
My brother’s BFF drives by here frequently, hauling rock to various jobs. He honks both ways, multiple times a day, and my daughter always thinks Woody is honking at us. I know he is honking at my brother.