A birthday: Memories stick with you


Isn’t it odd how certain moments in time stay with us, remaining vibrant in our memories?
I have one such memory, and while I can’t explain why it stands out while others that were certainly more important have faded away, it is as clear as though it happened yesterday.
Birthday. One May day, my father and I were out in the barn working. I suddenly remembered that it was his birthday, so after wishing him a happy day, I asked, “How old are you today, Dad?”
He shifted the stock cane from one hand to the other, looked over the springing heifer that we were checking on, and finally answered, “I had to think about it a minute, but by golly, I am 37 years old today!”
It strikes me as strange that I can recall every little thing about this exchange.
I recall what Dad was wearing (the gray work clothes that he favored at that time, and a farm cap, of course), where we were standing (in the pen that he jokingly called the “spare bedroom” because we only put cows and heifers in there who needed special attention for a little while), even the half-smile on his face as he realized just how old he really was.
I would have just turned 10, and 37 certainly sounded old to me. This year, my birthday fell on Easter Sunday, a first for me.
And this year, I decided that 37 sounds mighty fine! Fine enough, in fact, that I decided to just go back to that age and stay there. It has a nice ring to it.
Wisdom. And at 37, a person is old enough to have been through the craziness of youth and has attained enough wisdom through some of those ridiculous mistakes to be considered a bit seasoned, a bit stronger, more sure-footed for the road ahead.
One observation I have made is that my father seemed more mature at 37 than many people now seem at 50, and so did most of the people of his generation. Most of them had worked since they were old enough to be contributing members of their families, many of them out of sheer necessity for survival.
My father had his nose to the grindstone for a very long time by the time his 37th birthday came along, and he did it all without complaint. He was working toward a goal, or a set of goals, and he took great pride in each accomplishment along the way.
He had worked for a tire company, then a farm implement company, coming home to work the farm late into the night.
He would get up incredibly early the next morning, along with my mother, and the two of them would milk their small string of Holsteins before he left for another day of work, selling tractors and farm implements to other farmers that he someday hoped he could afford for his own farm.
The year I was born was the year he decided to walk away from the other job and go into farming full-time. He had worked hard to build a base, and with four little girls to provide for, it must have been exhilarating and frightening at the same time.
Faith. He had faith. And I am so glad he did. It was a wonderful way to grow up. I had two parents who were always there. I had a father who cared enough to want to be there for us, every single day.
Because of that, I have a lifetime of happy memories of working hard to reach accomplishments, side-by-side. We were blessed to have one another, and I cherish the memories.
Even those little, insignificant ones that become more meaningful as years go by.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.