“Patience is also a form of action.”
— August Rodin
We never stop learning lessons as life unfolds, but some of the seeds planted early in life serve us well as they take root in experiences, both large and small. Spending lots of time in the barns as a kid exposed us to the virtue of patience.
A new litter of kittens discovered in an upper mow while playing with my sisters is tucked in a special place along with some of my earliest memories. I reached down to that nest of kittens, and my older sisters shouted me to a halt. They were wise in the ways of such finds and insisted no touching.
A few years later, my beloved sidekick dog was hit on the road while running to find me at the dairy barn. Luckily, my oldest sister was filling the hay bunk and saw it happen, rushing the tiny dog to our neighbor and veterinarian. Chip would need surgery to stabilize a broken pelvis.
When Doc let my Dad know the surgery was complete and appeared successful, I got on my bike and pedaled to Doc Smith’s clinic behind his home. Shirley greeted me and then Doc met me in the waiting area.
“Now, I know how much you love this little Peke, but I’m going to have to ask you to hold off on visiting,” he said. My badly injured dog needed rest, and seeing me would prompt her to want to get up, wag her tail and try to reach me.
“Can I come back tomorrow?” I asked, trying hard not to cry. Doc shook his head, telling me it was going to be a long recuperation and I needed to be very patient.
A few weeks later, with a kindness I will never forget, Doc offered praise, saying my patience was good medicine, and he was amazed by Chip’s recovery. The day we brought her home was cause for celebration.
Dad taught us patience in many ways, farming through the lens of successful diversification while four daughters each tried to bend his interests their way. Sheep? No. Pigs, yes, for a few years. Goats? Only for one daughter who was allergic to cow’s milk.
Horses? No, unpredictable, dangerous, hay burners, every single one. Tractors had come along just in time to save civilization, Dad often said with a grin in conversations about horses. He recalled, as a very young boy, seeing an uncle dragged through fields all the way to the barn by spooked workhorses.
More than anything else in life, Dad wanted to keep his children safe. One of his favorite tactics to buy time, Dad would slowly fill his pipe just so with Sir Walter Raleigh, tamp it in his precise way, then slowly light it and puff a bit before answering a question he’d prefer never to have been asked.
“Maybe someday,” he often answered. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
He was asking for patience and likely hoping tomorrow would erase our latest wild-haired notion. Two larger-than-life figures in our lives taught us so much. Dad and Doc Smith likely had a meeting of the minds along the way to guide us, both with a gentle touch. Sometimes, the greatest thing we can do is to do nothing at all.
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