“Get up in that seat right there. Now, that peddle there is the gas. This one is the clutch. You gotta push one and let go of the other at the same time. The SAME TIME…you hear me? Don’t do it to fast, just ease off of that one and give it a little gas. You gotta do it quick though. Don’t let it jerk, ’cause it will die. We ain’t got time to let it die. You just gotta ease off and let it go. Alright, go on now…go.”
Every fiber in my body shook as I took my foot off of that clutch. I held that steering wheel tight and I pushed in the gas peddle as easy as I could. I was eight years old, sitting in a hay field behind the wheel of a three-quarter ton Ford with a half-way loaded hay trailer hooked to the back. My daddy, uncles, and Daddy Jack were all back there behind me tossing hay bales onto the trailer. They needed a driver though…and I was the one who got the job.
I eased my foot off the clutch and stepped on the gas…that old engine roared and the whole truck shook and bounced forward before it died. “I TOLD YOU TO TAKE IT EASY!! YOU GOTTA LET OFF THE CLUTCH AND EASE ONTO THE GAS. I TOLD YOU TO BE EASY! YOU ARE GONNA KILL SOMEBODY!! CRANK IT BACK UP. DO IT AGAIN. JUST EASE OFF THE CLUTCH. EASE OFF IT. JUST GIVE IT A LITTLE GAS. GO ON NOW, WE GOTTA GET THIS HAY UP. DO IT AGAIN.”
My heart literally pounded in my chest. I had to do this right or I was gonna get in more trouble. I took a deep breathe, turned the key, eased off the clutch, and by some miracle managed to give it enough gas to jump forward….but it didn’t go dead! Hallelujah!!
I eased on up and managed to keep it running until I got to the end of the row. I didn’t know how to turn that monster truck and trailer yet. How did you turn it without making it go dead? How did you turn it without knocking all of the hay off? How did you turn it at all? As I sat there trying to figure it out, I jumped as the door slung open and Daddy Jack said, “Scoot over, Girl. I’ll turn it this time. Watch what I’m doing because when we get to the end of this row, you are gonna turn it and you ain’t gonna let it go dead. Ya hear?”
I watched him make the turn. I saw his feet ease off the peddles and I moved quick when he opened the door and jumped out of the moving truck into the hay field. “There ya go, now just ease the gas down a little. EASY NOW, EASY. OK, just keep going down this row. Don’t let it go dead. When we get down there (he pointed towards the end of the long row), you turn it. Go on now…” and he disappeared to the back of the trailer where he joined the other men who were tossing hay bales onto the trailer for my daddy to stack.
That was the day I learned how to drive. It was also the day that I fell in love with driving…and working…and being a farm girl. I never minded getting dirty or working for hours in the hay field. When all of your same aged cousins are mostly girls and you lived on THIS farm…everyone worked like grown men. Honestly, I think it wouldn’t have mattered if we were girls or boys. Daddy Jack expected everybody to work hard and that was that. If the job was there to do, you did it. Period.
He had a way of making it fun though. Like the time we had to haul firewood. He told us to pick it up as fast as he cut it and we did. He went down that tree cutting and stepping as fast as that ol’ STIHL® chainsaw would cut. Me and my cousins were right behind him picking up piece after piece filling up the bed of that little Toyota pickup truck in no time. He laughed as we fought to be the next one to pick up a piece and kept on a cuttin’ until he had the whole tree cut up.
And, the time he poured the cement for my porches. It was the dead of winter in 2006. Greg was building our log house and we wanted our porches swung all around. Daddy Jack was the best cement man there was and we asked him to pour them for us. Well, the day that they started working on them was freezing cold. We wanted them washed, so we knew it was gonna be a long day before they started around 7:00 that morning. What we didn’t know was that the cement was gonna freeze because the temperature never got out of the low 30’s that whole day.
So, fifteen hours later at 3:00 am when we had all of the construction heaters blowing and the water hoses running to wash the top layer of mud off of the rocks Daddy Jack looks around and says, “Hell, this mud ain’t nothin’ but ice. Look at that…see”. Then he sprayed the water towards me and splashed it lightly on my clothes. I screamed, jumped back into the doorway, and laughed as I shook the water off of the front of my six-month pregnant belly. He pointed at the door and said, “get your little butt back in there where it’s warm. You need to be sleepin’, not washing mud”. So, that’s exactly what I did.
Then, there was the snow. He loved snow. In the eighties we had a snow storm that knocked out power for a week. We played and played in the snow with him that year. Then, in 1993 we used inner tubes from his tractor tires and his little white Toyota (the same one from the firewood hauling) to play on in the field beside his house. We played and built snowmen all over the place. He considered himself a snowman building king. This picture was taken the last time we had a big snow a couple of years ago. He told Paula (his wife) to take a picture and send it to all of his kids so they would know how a real snowman should look when it was built right.
Sitting here tonight my mind is racing between so many memories of my Daddy Jack and me. He was a hard working man. Working… for him, was fun. He set the standard for my whole family. All of us are naturally hard workers because he never let us be anything else. I look through my family and I see his influence on all of us. His wives, his kids, his son-in-laws, his grand kids, his friends. Everyone who loved him works themselves to death because of him. And not one of us would have it any other way.
My Daddy Jack went home last night. He fought a hard battle with cancer over the last year. He left this life surrounded by all four of his kids and his wife at home. Just exactly how he wanted it to be minus the pain he was in.
I can just see the light in his eyes when he saw Greg standing there to greet him. I know there are so many other people who were there to greet him as well, but my heart is happy knowing that Greg was one of them. They had a special bond here and knowing they are together up there brings peace to my heart like nothing else could.
I spent a day with Daddy Jack last spring at his house down by the creek. We sat in his sun room and watched the redbirds play in his yard. He told me that day that he was ready to go home. He also told me to watch for the redbirds, because they were messengers from Heaven. He believed that and so do I. He was the man who taught me to pray. He made sure we knew who God was and he made sure we respected Him. He made a lot of mistakes in his life and he told me that day “that we all do”.
He said, “Mistakes is mistakes. We all gonna’ make ’em. But, when you do, you gotta ask God to help ya make ’em right. He’s the only way. You gonna make mistakes, Girl. Just own up to ’em and keep going. What else can you do?”
A couple of weeks ago he sat up in bed and sang “Jesus Loves Me” out of the blue. My heart jumps at the thought of him singing that particular song. See, that was one of Greg’s last songs as well. The day we lost him we went to church and we sang “Jesus Loves Me”. It’s weird how God connects things without us even realizing it.
Sadness weighs heavily on my heart tonight. I will miss that old man more than you could ever imagine. I loved him so much and would do anything for him. Looking around my home, I see so many pieces of his handiwork. My dining room table, my island in my laundry room, my table by the door, my birdhouses scattered all around inside and outside. So many things that I cherish because he made them with his own two hands.
Heaven can’t get here soon enough for me. I long for the day when I am sitting and watching him build something else. Listening to him talk and watching him laugh. Until that day, I will cherish each and every memory I have of him. I will smile when I remember how he yelled at me for some little thing and I will cry when I miss him so much it hurts. One thing I am sure of, he was the best grand-daddy a girl could have and I can’t wait to see him again.
My siblings and I were sitting around talking with my Mama tonight and we discovered a couple of remarkable things. First, we realized that all of our kids have been to more funerals than weddings in their lives. They are all ten years old or younger. Their compassion and understanding of Heaven is amazing and we are so proud of how well they are handling yet another loss. Looking back it is truly overwhelming.
Secondly, we were so touched by the fact that all of my mother’s siblings were with both of their parents when they died. That’s just a very odd thing to happen I would say. We are a tight family, but what a blessing for my Mama and her siblings to be holding first their mother’s, then their father’s hand as they crossed into eternity.
We’ve lost a lot of people in our family over the past year and a half. Daddy Jack was my last grandparent and now he’s gone. If you have your family, please take time to spend with them. Take it from me, you never know when your life could change forever. Love each other as much as you can, because the memories are what keep you going when you don’t think you can go anymore.
Thank you for praying for us always…and especially throughout the next few days. We are sure gonna need them!
Love you all,