Mom lets us out at Fieldstone church, and my agreeable macho dad and I set out down the hill toward the farm to ward away future malfunctioning hearts. We steadily pace under a fresh blue sky down the clay-orange road. To the left is the old Coble farm of Harold and Cora, my grandparents, now owned by some Easterner from New Jersey, idealistic about homesteading the Ozarks, taking over old community namesakes, buying up ground that comes up for sell. To the right is the old Coble farm of Vietta and Boss, my greatgrandparents, which my parents now own. It's beautiful land, gorgeous with rolling open fields, clusters of pine, splotches of woods. And, the faraway view of darker ridges is incredible.
I walk, feeling every inch a Coble, breathing in ancestry air. I love it here. My Coble heart beats in a pure, uncomplicated fashion in this neck of the woods. I understand the land through regular interaction, tromping, dreaming, meditation.
Dad and I don't talk much. Seems like I'm the one prodding him with questions to puncture the silence. Mostly, we just walk in our own thoughts, the sound of our footfall scuffling rocks, birds trilling for joy around us, a cow here and there searching for her calf.
Two-thirds down the hill, we hear a pickup truck coming behind us. Dad says that he's gotten lots of offers of rides home. Women stop to see if he's okay. Other men farmers in pickups figure it's time to stop in the middle of the road and check up on Dad's heart, alfalfa, and herd. Mom, the cardiac coach, groans at how long it usually takes Dad to finally get home due to the random drive-bys.
Sure enough, the New Jersey man brakes his truck out of co-farmer friendliness. Dad leans into the window with his customary grin and dimples. He loves the one-liner and tries to make everyone like him on charm. They usually do. I've never seen a man attempt to be so irresistable as my dad; he loves approval; he loves to get a laugh; and most of all he loves the southern game of hospitality. He wouldn't call it a game, though; it's serious business as he lectured me on the night before when I mockingly 'made a comment' about it.
It works under rules such as this: if someone calls you, comes to your house, stops you in the middle of your doing anything, you must put up with them as long as they want you to. It's rude to cut them off in any shape or fashion. My parents told me about the man who spreads fertilizer in those parts, how he can talk to them for six hours straight without thinking of leaving. Sure, there's things to do. Sure, he's a bore. Sure, they need to put out a brush fire. However, he stays until he remembers something like watering his dogs or refueling his truck or casting a line.
So, I stood there, unintroduced, on the orange gravel road and waited for the pleasantries to wane. Fortunately for me, the New Jersian is afterall a New Jersian, so after about 10 minutes, he gives a small roll and says goodbye. Dad yells the customary, "Come and see us!", and we're off walking again.
We make it to our driveway lane (isn't it interesting that at 40 years old with my own home that I call the Coble farm OUR lane, our home?) and we go up the final little swell to the house. Just the night before, Dad, my daughter, and I walked and then did a final run-race up the hill after he yelled, "Last one to the gate is a baby!"
He was showing off his new heart, and we couldn't catch the 66 year old big guy.
It was a wonderful visit all in all. My daughter and I reconnected and apologized for being jerks during our recent fights. We visited my Grandma Cora's graveyard and have May plans to fix it up and plant flowers. My brother came over and filled me with awe on how nice-italicized he is. I mean he is nicer than about anyone I know! I could give countless examples of his helping others! And, I went to my parents' church this morning where the preacher prayed for congregants by name. Imagine! My church is so large and the ministers so overwhelmed and harried by people. Even when a prayer request was sent to them for me, they never contacted me to see what was going on or how they could help or just to reassure me that they were concerned. The preacher at my parents' town church is eloquent too. I began to consider the possibility of a small church again. One that preached the Bible. One that made me think again of the goodness of doing ministry. It revived me after not receiving much inspiration lately on that front.
God is good for providing me with such a wonderful homecoming, replete with beauty and goodness and inspiration. Thank you, thank you! I'm definitely going to bed happy tonight!