Today is a very happy … sad … bittersweet day. Our oldest son, Caleb, born in April of 1997, has packed up his belongings and with his brother and a friend to help, started the drive to his new home, Chicago.
I don’t like writing about sad things. This month is 5 years since my dad’s passing and I hav still not written about it yet. I’ve started writing about it dozens of times but I never get very far. Maybe because I took care of him as he was sick and dying, fighting to get him the best care possible, or maybe because I’ve been primarily responsible for Mom’s care (who suffers from mild dementia) and care of the farm and the Trust it is in … or maybe I have a hard time processing my emotions and the continued difficulties and pain … I don’t really know. I will get to writing about Dad eventually.
But this is about Caleb. Caleb has been an ideal son … every parent’s dream. Well behaved, smart, funny, warm, kind, hard working, you could not ask for a better child. A dream in school, a hard worker on and off the farm. A lover of the Iowa Hawkeyes, even though he chose not to go there for college, against my wishes. Iowa offered him scholarships that would have covered half of his college education, but Caleb did not want any debt or to put his parens in deeper debt so instead chose the full ride scholarship that NJIT offered him. You see, a selfless kid, rare these days.
While attending NJIT Caleb lived at home and commuted to school. Two and a half years ago he moved out of the house … literally a couple miles down the road, so we lost him but not really. He was often here for dinner, always here for the Iowa basketball and especially football games (he NEVER missed a game) and always spending time with his younger brother and best friend Jonah, being virtually insperable (Jonah is almost 5 years younger). During college (he studied and obtained a degree in Civil Engineering) Caleb got a paid internship with Pietrzak and Pfau in Goshen (not far from home and later his apartment) who eventually hired him full-time out of college. Caleb LOVED working there and they treated him very well, and if he ever moves back will be very very happy to hire him back.
But Caleb has only lived here, and has wanted to experience something different. Knowing his Mom is from a north Chicago suburb of Kenosha, Wisconsin and his parents attended (and met at) the University of Iowa and lived 3 years in Kenosha, he was intrigued by the Midwest and Chicago. So a few months ago he started looking into opportunities to live and work there. Working with and employment agency and LinkedIn it didn’t take long for Caleb to find a very good job in the city and with the help of Eve’s beautiful cousin Linda, a flight attendant for United and longtime resident, he was able to find a very nice apartment in a nice neighborhood. So the date was set that today, March 3rd, he’d move to Chicago.
I didn’t want him to go. Well, I have very mixed feelings. I want him to experience what he and his mother experienced, living in a different place, working in a different place, meeting and working and being with different people. But, neither his Mom or I wanted him to leave us. Selfish? Yeah, selfish. But we didn’t discourage him. In fact, I said very little to him about it, while his Mom frequently cried. I guess i was in deep denial, always secretly hoping that at the last minute he’s change his mind. But knowing he wouldn’t. I finally spoke to him about it today, like Dad and son. I told him how proud I am of him, and how I feel about this move. I did lay out to him things he may feel and experience, because about 34 years ago I was in his shoes, moving from the northeast to the midwest. I told him after a period of time if he isn’t happy he can come back and there is no shame in that. He understood and agreed. I think he will be back eventually. In the meantime he’ll make some great memories and experiences.
I can’t help but have a flood of memories wash over me. The day he was born, how he was 2 weeks late, took hours upon hours of inducing to come out, and the first night because his Mom ate broccoli he had terrible gas after she breast fed him so they laid him on his stomach for relief and stayed up and watched him all night to make sure he kept breathing (and my Dad made me work planting despite my being awake 48 straight hours). I remember the time I picked him up from preschool and he so seriously discussed with me the whole history and relationships and powers of Pokemon. The so many times we played Mario Golf on Nintendo or EA Sports NCAA College Football on Playstation. The many Iowa football and basketball games we attended over the years. Visiting teachers at school and learning how well he was doing. And all the times he helped me on the farm, including watching him learn and operate the large field forklift that I started operating at age 11. I don’t know who was more proud of that, he or I (he often told his Mother how he dreamed of operating it, like his Dad). Or just having dinner together as a family, or visiting his grandparents down in South Carolina or Aunt and Uncle and cousins in New Mexico. Or the time during the flood of 2011 where he and his brother tried to get in a big Rubbermaid container to row across from our house to their grandparents. Then there was the time I caught him when he was in grade school investigating on the internet plane tickets and hotels for the Rose Bowl (which didn’t happen).
So many wonderful memories.
I wanted him to farm with me. He wanted it too. But, he saw how often his parents worked so very hard and yet received so little for it. He didn’t want to spend his life in as much debt as his parents. He loved the work and the lifestyle but not the lack fair compensation for it. Lots and lots and lots of money is made growing and selling food. Sadly, the farmer isn’t the one making it. And it’s so unnecessary. It’s a matter of abject greed. And often cruelty as well. I’ve seen those that are the haves get off on those that are not in farming. It’s often a sick culture. And my son, to his credit, didn’t want to be a part of that. I dreamed of he and his brother working with me like I did with my Dad. And since the farm is still operating, though it’s model has changed, it still may happen one day. Just not today.
So, we said goodbye to Caleb today. We will see him on Zoom and FaceTime all the time, and talk on the phone too. He and his Mom are best friends. But he’s not right down the road anymore. Today I had to accept reality.
And as Eve and I got in the van after taking final picks and watching him drive off … I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.
Please enjoy the pictures and thank you for reading and being a part of our lives.