The Planted Row: Remembering what really matters

Stan Wise
Farm Forum Editor

When I was a small kid on the farm, I was often left with my grandmother.

She had a lot of patience with me. She would let me pull out all her pots and pans and use them as building blocks. Or I would spend hours making tracks in her carpet with my toy tractors. Or I would build giant pillow piles and jump in them. She would even tolerate the occasional pillow fight with my cousins.

She was the caretaker-in-chief for our family farm. If we had an injury or illness, she was always consulted.

I remember once I had a terrible sunburn that started itching. It was the worst itching I’ve ever felt, and if I scratched, it not only hurt but also made the itching worse. No lotion could soothe it. (I have since learned the condition is called Hell’s itch.) It was miserable torture.

My grandmother pulled out a worn book of old home remedies, and it suggested we mix ice water and milk and apply it gently with a cloth. It was immediate relief.

Two weeks ago my son had a bad sunburn and soon experienced the same condition. He tried lotion after lotion before mentioning it to me and my wife, and he was in a pitiful state. Thanks to my grandmother’s help all those years ago, I knew just what to do.

Through my whole life, my grandmother has been a source of wisdom, patience, and compassion. And for as long as I live, “home” will always be her living room.

This week she celebrated her 99th birthday. My dad reminded me that 50 years ago, as she celebrated her 49th birthday, mankind was walking on the moon for the first time.

That revelation struck me.

She was born almost 50 years before the moon landing. It boggles the mind to think of the changes she witnessed between being born in 1920 in rural Mississippi and watching the moon landing on TV in 1969.

When she was a girl, there was no electricity, no telephone, no radio, no bathroom, and no car at her house. For entertainment, her family played the piano and sang to each other. At 49 years old, she had electricity, a phone, a radio, a bathroom, a car, and a TV. The world was so connected that she could see what was happening on the moon.

She has lived through 50 more years of change since then.

She has seen footage from our robot explorers on Mars. I can hold up a phone that fits in my pocket, see her face and speak with her instantaneously, even though we are separated by more than 1,000 miles. All the world’s knowledge is easily accessible from a device that fits in the palm of her hand.

She’s still the kind, caring woman that she has always been. She could have any entertainment she wanted in this wide, connected world, but for her birthday she wanted nothing more than her friends and family to gather around her and sing to her.

It’s a reminder to me that, even though the world is always changing, what’s important never changes. Her life spent caring for the people around her — family and neighbors alike — reminds me that all we really have in this life is each other, and all that really matters is what we do for each other.

Everything else will fade.

Fifty years from now, all that will really matter is who shows up to sing to us on our birthday.