It takes a right smart bit of wood to keep Farmer Billy warm all winter long. I noticed that Billy’s supply had dipped dangerously low, and with another cold front coming I worried he might run out. Since I’ve been banned from the fireplace after a dreadful critter incident, I have plenty of wood at my house, which was why I loaded my truck and headed to Hardscrabble Road.
Pulling into the drive I noticed a man walking across the driveway. There is always someone there but this time I thought, that looks like Kelle’s dad.
Low and behold it was.
I adore her dad. He reminds me of my own: weathered skin, calloused hands, blue collar, and the ability to fix anything. I see goodness in him. Something I can’t really explain, but there’s something about him that makes me wanna squeeze him.
So I did.
When he wrapped his arms around me, Poppa Jones couldn’t have known how badly I needed a hug, or that I had spent the previous day weeping, my heart breaking with grief that was so heavy I could barely breathe. It was the three month anniversary of Mom’s death. One minute you’re working, the next you’re wailing and wondering what in the world is the matter . . . then you look at the calendar and you know.
Those who have experienced loss understand.
Those who haven’t, will. One day you will.
This is why hugs are important, why people matter. Everyone. Every. Single. One of us is going through something. More hugs my friends. More hugs.
But I digress, back to Billy’s.
Billy wrapped his hands around a wheelbarrow just as another visitor pulled in. She approached and said, “I asked the lady on Facebook if I could stop by and she said yes.”
Peeking around Billy, I said, “Here I am. Welcome.”
More smiles and love to bind my heart.
The lady (I’ll call her Daughter) guided her mother behind the house and to the gate that keeps the goats where they belong. Her mother has dementia, she explained.
I nodded. While I didn’t understand the journey she was on, the transition from Daughter to caregiver is difficult.
Billy nodded too. He understands more about “that awful sickness” than most.
Visitors are common at Billy’s. Kids. Grandkids. Scout Troops. Preschoolers, even infants visit Billy’s place, but I have never witnessed an outing like this.
The rooster, Johnny Cash, stood on tiptoes and crowed loud. He annoyed me. He isn’t usually vocal but baby making season is just around the corner and he’s got to show the girls who is boss. I grabbed a bucket and pinched mustard green tops so that our guests could feed the chickens and goats.
“Mom and I have an outing every Wednesday,” Daughter said while placing her hand inside the bucket and retrieving a clump of greens. “Here Momma, want to feed the chickens?”
You had to be there. I promise, at that moment the sun literally shone brighter. I stepped back and watched. The love between them pricked my fragile heart. Both smiled, eyes sparkling. I even took a picture for them. I’m big on pictures. When it is all said and done, a photograph can be your most prized possession. Your memory may fail, but the image remains. Remember that when someone wants to take your picture.
There was something in the beauty of a Mother’s wrinkled delicate hand reaching for her daughter that I cannot forget. When Mother reached for Daughter, I fought tears, willed them to return deep into the well from which they began.
I can’t recall a single time when my own mother reached for me. Not as a child, teenager, or an adult. Surely she held my hand, perhaps to walk me safely across the street. My mother battled cancer for over a decade and even though she may have been so brave that she didn’t need a hand to hold, I did.
When I replay the image of these two hands, of the tender caresses, the light touch on a mother’s shoulder, a caress on her back, I pray that God will please – when the sorrow of this world has passed- please, let my mother reach for me the way I witnessed today.
Standing in the goat pasture, with Johnny Cash crowing beside me, I wanted that kind of mother, one of gentle caresses and bright shiny smiles. I also want to be the mother who reaches for her daughter, always reaches, never stops.
I needed that kind of mother, have craved that kind of mother my entire life.
That is the mother I mourn when I grieve.
“This is a lot better than our trips to TJ Maxx isn’t it Mom?” Daughter said.
Placing another bucket of greens between them I said, “I think you should do this every Wednesday for as long as you want.”
Even a nod.
Wouldn’t weekly trips to Billy’s be lovely? That is the magic one finds at Farmer Billy’s place, where you enter as a stranger and leave as family. This, my friends, is why I encourage you to reach out to your own Billy Albertson. They are everywhere. My purpose was to deliver firewood so that Billy would be warm during the cold snap. Instead, it was I who received the comfort.
Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Order signed copies or, email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.