Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Father (as in paternal parent, not God) (04/10/08)
TITLE: Snippets Of Memory
By Noreen Ophoff
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Every Autumn two nuns from The Little Sisters of the Poor, came to our Michigan farm. Dad had overflowing bushels of apples, pears and tomatoes waiting for them. He told them they could also have anything else they wanted from our plentiful garden. We children helped load the trunk and backseat of their shiny black car with butternut squashes, green beans, carrots and beets. Mom and Dad gave the sisters this produce, and in return the sisters gave each of us a holy card with the picture of a saint on it.
I never heard my Dad raise his voice. I overheard he and Mom talking about punishments they should give us three children, but the worst we ever got was a spanking or we were sent to our rooms for our offenses.
The summer I turned five, Dad pulled the farm truck onto the lawn on the south side of the house one day because he had a big flat cardboard box in it. My sister and I watched in awe as he unloaded and set the contained pieces of metal out on the lawn. It was a swing set for us! He erected it under the maple tree, next to the sandbox. The glider became my “horse”, and I rode on great adventures from my imagination. Cathy immediately balanced herself on the top of the set, and hung by her knees on the bar that attached to the swing chains. As the years passed, it became a contest to see whose foot could reach the highest point on the maple tree as we propelled a swing toward it.
Daddy was working in the fields one day, and brought home an injured pigeon. He put the little bird in a chicken cage, telling us girls to get two little dishes from Mom for corn and water for the ailing bird. We weren’t allowed to touch it, but we could sit with it up in the barn, speaking softly. We named it Penny. I don’t remember how long we had that pigeon, a couple of weeks probably, but I remember crying the day it was healed and we had to set it free again.
On most Sunday mornings when I was very little, Daddy went to church at 6:00 a.m., then came home to milk the Guernsey cows, feed chickens and do the other morning chores. Mom and my siblings went at 8:30 a.m., and I got to stay home with Daddy. I stayed in the area of the barn between where the cows were in their stanchions, out of the way. When Daddy measured each cow’s ration of grain, I helped by pouring it into the mangers in front of each one. I liked to pet Daisy, a gentle Jersey with a crumpled horn, who stood in the first place by the walk-in door.
When chores were finished, Daddy and I walked hand in hand up the hill to the house. While I rode my tricycle around in the garage, he made our breakfast of eggs, sunny side up. Always, he fixed me a piece of buttered bread, cut into fingers, for me to dunk into the yoke.
Our family ate supper together in the kitchen. When my brother and sister left to do homework, I climbed onto Daddy’s lap, to listen to him and Mom talk while she put food away and did the dishes. I got to dunk my bread crusts in Daddy’s coffee then.
On Sunday afternoons, when Daddy stretched out on the bed to read the paper, I perched next to him. I just wanted to be near him. He smelled of Old Spice, and hay, and out-of-doors. He read me the funnies, and one time he taught me how to whistle.
Our Dad was a gentle soul. He made friends easily, laughed heartily, and loved to the depths of his big heart. Through all these years my heart aches with the moments he missed in our lives, but his life was the foundation on which I built my own.
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