Day Four, Five & Six
Sarah lives on a farm with her husband, Keith, and two children, Carmen Anne, five, and Isaac Arthur, three. I was confident she would have a comfortable welcoming bedroom ready for us. Because I try to visit two or three times a year, I knew the bathroom was exactly ten steps from Mike’s side of the bed.
When I drove out of the city at 4 o’clock that afternoon, the temperature was 80 degrees. The bustle and confusion of the new freeway construction faded to peace and calm in the rolling hills southwest of Minneapolis. On our drive through the Valley of the Jolly Green Giant, we reminisced about the elegance of southern Minnesota fall colors.
Halfway down Sarah’s driveway is a rock garden. Mike was comforted by the sight of his Yellow Birds, perching high above the flowers. Dinner was ready and again the children ran outside to greet us with hugs and help carrying our bags. On our bed they had carefully placed little bags of their favorite candy and welcome grandma and grandpa drawings on our pillows.
Third bedroom, third bathroom.
The moment Sarah heard Mike was coming, she was ecstatic. He hadn’t been to the farm for years. She asked if he would make clay tiles to surround the new fireplace in her office—a stunningly reconstructed chicken coop. Mike looked forward to working with clay again, but warned Sarah that he could only do a limited version of his usual work. “I have to admit, I just can’t do it anymore,” he told me. Sarah purchased the clay from the New Ulm Community College, where they generously agreed to fire the tiles after they dried; she created a quasi-studio for Mike at one end of the garage.
Mike and I were present the morning Carmen Anne went to school for her very first day of Kindergarten.
WIth his sister off to school, we observed Isaac as his personality gradually emerged at lunch and play time with more language and stories of his own, taking up his full space in the world. I noticed his competency and joy in making noodles; his vibrancy reminded me of planting the perennials far enough apart in the garden so they each have a healthy share of water, nutrients and sunlight, with ample growing space around each plant.
Isaac was growing right before our eyes. He took an unusual interest in Grandpa Mike, wondering out loud about the tripping, stuttering way Grandpa walks. “How come you have a cane?” And for the words that were sometimes hard to understand, Isaac listened more carefully. He instinctively helped Mike out of a chair, or offered his hand to help him climb up the
few steps to the front door. Frequently asking the obvious question, “Does it hurt?”
He followed Mike to the garage to “help” with the tile project.
The day after we arrived at the farm, Geoffrey called to say the baby had arrived, 7 pounds, 15 ounces, and all is well.
In no time, Carmen was home from her first day of school. How many chances would I get to do this?
Mike had the tiles rolled out, shaped, etched and partially dried when we left the farm and drove back to Minneapolis to greet the latest baby girl.
Tanya and Janine admire the newest member of the family.
We had planned stay with Geoffrey and Tanya for a few days before returning to Sarah’s. Mike likes to “get settled” and comfortable with each new bed and bathroom, but instead, we had another irresistible opportunity to “push the envelope.”