Window opens onto memories of mother
by Donald Conkey, columnist
May 07, 2014 10:18 PM | 771 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It was still dark and I was lying in bed unable to sleep. Mother’s family had assembled in her home to attend her funeral on this day — Mother had just died at the age of 92 years, 4 months and 11 days on May 4, 1999. My wife and I were in the upstairs “East Window” bedroom, a room that had been mine from 1945 until I left home in 1951 to serve my country in the Army during the Korean War.

The “East Window” got its name because one could stand at this window and watch the sun rise above the far off horizon on a clear cloudless spring morning — a window where I had stood often and watched countless other sunrises — a window that, for me, was almost sacred with its many pleasant and wonderful memories.

It was the house I had helped Dad rebuild. It was the house where Mother and I had recorded our family’s long genealogical history. A voice within me was now telling me to go stand at that “East Window” once more, and there, perhaps for the last time, watch the sun rise up above the horizon — and to look out across that land I so loved so dearly so many years before.

Looking eastward, while rubbing my eyes, I waited to watch the sun rise for the last time from this “East Window.” My eyes penetrated the darkness and I was able to discern shadows of days long ago.

I could see grandma’s house, with her garden filled with gooseberry bushes, strawberries, scallions and other spring vegetables waiting to be harvested and prepared for meals to feed family and visitors alike.

I could dimly see the old garage where Dad and I would repair machinery, and where Dad created his new inventions. I saw the old chicken coop, with its 300 laying hens, and grandmother gathering the eggs she would sell for house money year round. Next to the chicken coop stood the shed where the Delco generator was housed providing electricity for the farm in those days long before Detroit Edison lighted rural Michigan.

Behind these buildings stood the orchard my grandfather had planted soon after he purchased this land in 1890, an orchard that would provide both fresh and canned fruit for his growing family for many years.

My eyes followed the sun as it rose higher in the eastern sky, its warming rays penetrating the soil where only the day before sugar beet seeds had been planted and were now waiting for the sun’s warming magic to begin the germination process — a process that would lead to an abundant sugar beet harvest in the fall.

As the sun continued to rise, and the rays warmed my face, I again saw the rainstorm that forced me to leave this farm. Tears welled in my eyes then even as they do now.

I loved this land. Once again I shuddered as I relived that 30-minute torrential rainstorm that hit the farm at noon on July 15, 1955, a storm that destroyed my bean crop in just one hour.

I cried that night — fearful of the uncertainties that lay ahead for my family and me. Curtis, my oldest boy, was born just a few days later.

The sun was now up, the sugar beet seeds were beginning to germinate and I continued to stand in front of this special “East Window,” my mind still full of memories of those days now so very far away. I continued to look out across the lawn that used to separate our house from my grandparents’ home — the only things left were a few dwarf apple trees and Dad’s special invention — a swinging toy he named his “Happy-Go-Round.”

He built this toy for his grandchildren many years before. Now it stood in the yard, scarcely noticed, along with a plaque acknowledging the farm as a “Century Farm,” reminders of those many fun-filled days when we had gathered to celebrate special family events, including our parents 50th, 60th, and their 70th wedding anniversaries that had occurred just three months prior to Dad’s death.

My mind returns to reality. Now Mother will join her husband of 70 years in the family church cemetery — the family will return to their homes scattered all across America.

The farm will be sold but these precious memories remembered this day will remain forever, the kind of memories every person should record — while standing in front of their own “East Window.”

We’re still remembering Mom.

Donald Conkey is a retired agricultural economist in Woodstock.

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