I wrote the following letter, which still chokes me up, because I don’t remember being close enough to Dad that I could open up in this way:
Thursday morn, July 14, 1966.
Dear Dad, this might be kind of messy ‘cuz I’m just about ready to leave for work. I’ve been sewing and reading and so involved in either one that I never took time to write.
Tuesday I went to the show with Mom and the kids. It was pretty good. I’m really sorry to hear that traction didn’t work too good for your back pain. I haven’t talked to Mom again, but here’s hoping something is being done for your comfort. People ask me every day how you are doing. Last night I went to the bowling alley for a Coke and everybody I talked to was all full of concern and said how they wished they could help
This isn’t much of anything, but that ole clock is ticking away and I really should be going. Take care and I think about you a lot.
The following Sunday, while at the farm, I wrote again.
Dear Dad, It’s almost 3:00 and this is the first time I’ve sat down to rest since 5:00 when I started working. I gathered from what Mom said that your leg is causing quite the pain. All I can say is, I hope it isn’t too bad and pray that you’ll heal soon.
Work is a little hard for me right now. As in anything I’ve ever done, I have little confidence in myself and I tense up thinking I’ll make someone mad at me if I goof up. Naturally, when I’m not relaxed I make more mistakes than I should. This is mostly true on the proof machine. I’ll probably be on it till the new one comes in next month.
It’s a little too warm for comfort, I suppose when I finish this I should fix the guys something cool to drink. My guy got here at 1:00. He had all his tools in his truck, but had to go back to Neligh for some more.
The last three days I’ve had awful headaches, probably just tension. They decrease my appetite, so that’s good I suppose.
Life is hard with my boyfriend leaving in a few days for Guard training. Another friend is going to ‘Nam in October. I really should close. Sending my Love,
Embarrassed after being fired from the bank, I went home to the farm that August of 1966. “Mom, Dad, would you help me move to Norfolk? I want to work and go to school.” I took a job at a chicken processing plant until my 18th birthday. Later, I worked full-time and paid my way through one year of “junior” college, presently known as Northeast Community College.
That fall, Dad apparently passed out and fell headfirst into the moving elevator. He had a concussion and a severe gash on the back of his head. I wonder if he was on pain medication and this incident is what convinced him that he needed the recommended back surgery. That November the neighbors organized a corn-picking bee for Dad. The news article stated that twenty men, with cornpickers, elevators, wagons, tractors, and trucks had gone to his aid. Dad had his final back surgery, where bone was fused from the hip, later that November at the Veteran’s Hospital in Grand Island.
In my haste to be independent and to “just get away,” I never dreamt that 25 years into the future I would feel the magnetic pull to return to the land, when the meadowlark started to call me back to my farm home. But that’s a whole other story. Completed through trips down memory lane and periodic camping stays, the Antelope County farm of my childhood died in 2006 when the whole quarter section turned into a cornfield.