My first months back on the farm had been filled with a wave of mourning that flattened out into the work at hand. Dad had died in June and I had left my career the week of the funeral to help my mother who was ill. Initially I had felt a duty even a calling to do what I was doing. My expectation was I would work the farm, help Mom, and explore some art projects. I had moved from the city back to the rural area of my childhood. It smelled sweet of dusty end of summer grass. The air was temperamentally quiet then turbulent with no set predictors. The view from the house covered the west forty and the south. All the sky I could want. It took me about three seconds to forget what my apartment had looked like.
Now that family had left for their homes in various states it was just Mom, Jimmy, and me. Mom, she was a person of routine. Same time up, pill times, nap time, five thirty supper and bed at ten. She hadn’t varied in the thirty eight years I’d been around. Still able to walk she was doing her best. I was rototilling the garden and harvesting. Today I was tying onions up in the greenhouse to dry. Dozens of them hung from their dry tops the golden skins still holding dirt. Yellow onions had an intoxicating warm smell. I was enjoying the moment and suddenly remembered three o’clock pills. My watch said three minutes after. I hit the door and jogged to the house. She was sitting in her recliner with the television on for distraction. She rested often and still smoked.
“Here ya go Mom,” I offered the pills from my palm to hers. She took them and I told her I was going to the basement. The door was just behind her chair. The farmhouse was a series of additions made to the original pegged log square. A true homestead whose parts were welded together with a gray coating of stucco. The basement stairs were plain wood open to the back. No frills. At the base was another half door set into the concrete wall. Dad had dug the root cellar by hand himself. Which meant he had to carry all the soil across the basement and up the outside basement stairs. He’d been someone who could work endlessly sometimes complaining but getting the job done.
The space was about six feet deep and five feet wide. Roughly framed with wood but no floor. It smelled lightly musty but not bad. I had brought down more fresh buckets of sawdust from the grainery which now covered the floor a foot deep. Wooden baskets were ready for onions, flower bulbs, apples, and squash when the time came. Right now I had the carrots and beets in with whole corn still on the cob. Everything I touched was the very essence of my father. Mom, if she still mourned said nothing and showed nothing which was her way. She never talked about him and I didn’t push. I let the pain of that thought settle. There wasn’t enough light for working in here. I would have to get a flashlight to keep here when I needed it. Jesse my dog checked in but he hated the basement and left for the upstairs once he was satisfied he knew where I was and what I was doing.
I decided to quit for the day. The outside work anyway. I never seemed to live a day without dirt under my nails and on my clothes where I tended to wipe my hands without thinking. A smart person would carry a rag. Dishes awaited me, vacuuming, and clothes to bring in off of the line outside. I let out a sigh of ” I guess that’s what it is.” and went upstairs.