The whole family piles into the car, on our way to Sunday dinner, and naturally we’re all talking at once, seeing if we can outdo each other with our stories.
But my dad slouches in the front passenger seat, arms crossed, a scowl on his face, his Pioneer seed hat pulled low enough to cover his eyes.
“Dad,” I finally interrupt over the rest of the voices in the car. “What’s your problem?”
He throws a disgusted hand toward the window.
It’s dreary, gray and depressing. The rain pelts the roof and we’ve already hydroplaned twice.
“There’s nothing you can do about it, Dad,” I say. “You better get used to it. The forecast is calling for rain every day this week.”
* * *
My dad warned me about this.
With plenty of sunshine and warmer-than-usual days, many farmers across northeastern Ohio were ahead of schedule this spring, including my dad.
So the first day it rained last week, he was in a good mood, knowing the crops needed it.
“But you know they’re calling for a lot more rain, right, Dad?” I asked.
“I need one day of it. And every day beyond that I’m going to get progressively grumpier.”
Now, three days later, you can imagine his state.
“That seed is rotting in the ground. I’m going to have to replant the last 200 acres,” he grumbles, glaring at the rain out the window, as if hating it enough will make it stop. “The fields are going to be wet for God-knows-how-long. The tractors are going to get stuck, tear up the fields. This sucks.”
My ever-helpful brother, who is 21 and of course knows more than my dad who’s been farming all of his 54 years, pipes up from the back seat: “Well, Dad, if you would’ve just listened to me and bought a bigger planter, we would’ve been done planting a week ago and this rain would’ve been just what we needed.”
I hold my breath and hope the drone of the rain muffles that comment before it reaches my dad’s ears.
* * *
We get to the restaurant, sprint inside and try to arrange ourselves so my dad is not facing the window. Maybe if he isn’t looking at it, we can cheer him up.
“You spend way too much time worrying about the weather, Dad. You get grouchy over it every single spring,” I say, and then repeat my favorite line. “There’s nothing you can do about it.”
“Yeah, Dad,” my brother chimes in. “Everything ends up working out fine in the end. There’s never been a harvest where your combine sat unused in the tool shed.”
He has a point and for a second we all exchange grins, thinking it might’ve worked.
But as my dad eyes the other customers laughing and eating, I know what he’s thinking: No one understands.
“Look, Dad,” I say, “maybe there’s someone out there who really needs this rain, and that person is thinking of it as a blessing.”
Before my mom can clamp my brother’s mouth shut, he blurts, “Yeah, maybe another farmer has all his corn planted and really needs this rain to give it a good start.”
* * *
Since the rain hasn’t let up, we have a little time to waste before chores. Why we want to spend any additional time with my dad on a rainy day is beyond me, but I guess we still have hope.
We stop at an appliance store and my dad, just wanting to argue with someone, haggles with the salesman, trying to get him to come down on the price of a 42-inch flat-panel TV.
Meanwhile, my father-in-law calls my husband on his cell phone.
My father-in-law, who happens to be shopping for a boat, is sympathetic to my dad’s distress but he doesn’t quite get it. “Tell David I’ll bring the boat over to cheer him up … we can ride it around in his fields.”
My husband gets off the phone and wisely keeps this offer to himself.
Back in the car, my mom tells my dad he’s crazy for wanting to spend $2,000 on a TV.
“If I can’t be in the fields outside, I might as well have a nice big TV to watch inside,” he says as my mom rolls her eyes. He thinks this is funny and smiles (smiles!) for the first time all day.
* * *
That smile fades each mile closer to home.
Without thinking, my mom turns down a side road and we drive by one of my dad’s fields. I cringe and hope, hope, hope my dad somehow fell asleep in the front seat.
Pockets of standing water cover the field and I swear there’s a duck in the distance.
We continue driving for several minutes but the silence isn’t comforting. Even my brother knows not to say anything now.
“See, look,” my dad finally says. “There’s a dark cloud and it’s hanging right over the farm.”
“Yes, David,” my mom says for the hundredth time, “the only place in the country with bad weather is Ravenna, Ohio.”
By the time we get back, the rain has slowed but it’s no consolation. All of us know the 10-day forecast exclusively features a raindrop icon.
* * *
My husband and I say goodbye, give my dad an extra hug and head to our own home.
Not even one mile away from the farm, the clouds break. The sun shines. We switch off the windshield wipers.
I turn around in my seat and look back toward the farm. Still gray.
Maybe my dad was right. But I won’t tell him so.
(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 23 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)