An author friend of mine wrote about how as a young girl she was able to go to work with her father or visit him at his company. Though he was a successful businessman, owned a large office building and had dozens of people who worked for him, she knew she not only had the opportunity, but the open invitation to walk through those large doors, straight into his office. As a result, she felt confident in the accessibility of her father.
My childhood didn’t look like hers. I never had the opportunity to go into the office of my father, walk past employees or go on business trips with him.
My father’s work was steps away from the backdoor. He ate dinner at home. He was there, consistently, predictably, every night for supper unless he ate in the field. His business trips were to the stockyards, feed store and farm credit union. His memos and information came by word-of-mouth at the local elevator or the farm down the road that sold seed and fertilizer where local farmers gathered.
There were a few jobs where I wasn’t allowed to be around. But for the most part, my father was there and available. Although I’m certain that I rattled on way past his active listening, he never sent me away. There was always an available spot on the fender of the tractor — and available feed buckets to help carry to the trough.
Just like my friend who felt so important when sitting in her father’s office when he was conducting business, I felt like the luckiest kid alive when my dad took me with him. We went to the stockyards downtown and bought cattle, or to the feed store, or the hardware store to pick up a part, or to the elevator. And always on those drives, there was that constant old country radio station barely playing in the background.
Market prices were announced on the hour, and Merle Haggard and Tammy Wynette twanged out those old “love ‘em and leave ‘em” songs. I’m sure my dad knew I would stick my hand into his ever-present bag of Brach’s pink winter mints. They looked like hardened disks of Pepto-Bismol, but I’d eat them until my tongue was red. We didn’t eat out because we’d have our meal at home. But if there was an old Coke, candy or peanut machine, Dad was going to reach into his pockets and give me a quarter or two. Maybe he thought I’d stay out of his mints that way.
Way of life
There was no talk of “take your daughter to work day.” It was just our way of life from day to day. Farm families know they’re blessed. They realize the precious commodity of time they’re sharing together, day in and day out.
Perhaps none of us fully realizes the long-lasting, positive implications of parents who are present through the day, 365 days a year. Even if you’re working, you’re working side by side.
If you’re just watching, you’re learning. If you know you had better not make a sound, you’re learning respect and patience. There weren’t distractions like screens, phones, iPads or multiple conversations.
You were fully engaged and fully participating. That made you feel fully affirmed.
McClain writes from Greenwood, Ind.