Thursday, October 24, 2013

"But his hat seemed to me like an old halo."

You're right; his barn looks like him.
And not just in a "those holiday socks and thin-lipped coffee mugs look like Liza" sort of way. 
No, it is more than reification of personal taste, something more significant than color preferences and quirk appeal actualized.
His barn feels like him...

His menagerie of tools, part and parcel of gifts made and chores done;
his organized chaos, a reflection of jack-of-all-trades inclinations and wildly varied interests.
I see his handwriting on random truck maintenance receipts and horse racing paraphernalia.
I read the labels of medicines used on animals he loved.
I stack hay in the stalls once home to bottle-fed calves, stud horses, and tobacco striping boxes.
I walk a few steps outside and talk to the man buried by the barn he built.

But, it is the tools that remind me most of my father.
Holding them, I see Dad in the thick of some project, a walking advertisement for perfectly-dirty and broken in, feed-mill baseball caps and button-down, denim shirts,
(the lightweight, short-sleeve kind if July, tucked-in and under a puffy red vest if November).
I hear the sound of hammer on nail head...and a funny, strewn-together combination of cuss words.
I watch old wire and fence posts turn into an outdoor play area for Lucy and Willie in a matter of hours.
I smirk in the same way he would when "encouraged" by Mom to sit on the back porch and take off his manure-caked cowboy boots.

So, these tools, tools held by a man I loved deeply and whose death I cannot accept;
tools housed in a barn that looked like him when I was a little tomboy girl "helping" her dad and forevermore will;
tools that have a legacy that should breathe beyond the four walls of that 12X8' feed room-turned-workshop,
today I give to a man who also understands devotion to animals, land, work, and family.
I wrote the above in response to a poem penned by the best writer I personally know. 
A few weeks ago, I decided that the tool room in Dad's barn needed to be cleaned and organized. If any of you have seen the inside of my car and also knew CLT, you know that I get it honestly.  Dad wasn't really a stickler for organization. And the fact that the rest of us have pulled and grabbed random tools and supplies as we've needed them over the past three years has only contributed to the mess. It thus goes without saying that the tool room made my car look like Pottery Barn. Anyway, when I did finish cleaning, I sent Lee some of the "after" pictures. 
Here is what he sent to me the next day:
"A mans barn is his barn after the wheat and chaff lie side by side,
himself to become something growing.
It is his office and workshop, his life and his meaning,
a place that looks like him.
He liked orange power tools,
this I know.
A desk he made into an antique unknowingly,
and he would scoff at such a line.
A daughter who would smile, knowingly,
that all good things come in time.
A daughter that would know him, be him,
conversations in a glance.
A joke the others don’t quite get,
a father and daughter dance…
To say we are alike, the similarities are far and few,
but one thing that old farmer and I know is that
August is proud of you."
I will probably never be able to write something for someone else that means as much to them as these words did/do to me.  I hate that I lost my Dad for purely selfish reasons; he was my friend and my hero; I always felt like he understood me in a way no one else in my life did; I wanted to work harder and be better so I would do him proud.
At the same time, however, I hate that I lost Dad for everyone else who won't have a chance to know him, whether it be new friends that come into my life or children I hope to have one day.  They are missing out.  So, to read Lee's words, words that suggest that maybe others see or understand him because they know me, was a wonderful gift. 

I'm certain this is how his grand kids and great-grand kids would have seen their "Pa." I know I did.


  1. You are your daddy's girl, Liza, and always will be. You are so much like him in every way. Sometimes when I see you from a distance working at the barn or walking across the lot to feed the horses, I see Curtis. Your were his "Tomboy Girl" ! It' s hard to believe it's been 3 years since CLT lost his battle with cancer, but he will always be in our hearts here on Turner Farm. I love you!

  2. Thank you for all of that, Mom. It really does mean a lot to me. I love you too.