My grandma didn’t like living on the farm. Well, not most of the time. I don’t know exactly why this was. It might have had to do with her glamourous sisters and one sister in particular.
My great aunt Esther trained to be a nurse in Edmonton and then moved to California. Once there, and being a beauty, she landed a couple minor roles in the movies. Meanwhile, my grandma described to me working as a janitor in the local one-room schoolhouse and later in life, milking cows on the farm as the animals swished their “poopy” tails in her face.
Hear me read this post:
I can imagine how she sometimes felt about her life comparing it to the excitement of Hollywood. But everything that glitters isn’t gold. Grandma would have reminded me that cow poop doesn’t glitter. I would’ve liked to tell her that her life lived simply was equally as valuable as a Hollywood life, just different.
Grandma loved cut flowers in crystal vases, paved sidewalks, pressed linen tablecloths, and elegant clothing.
My grandma did not like gross things. That’s why I was really surprised when she shared the following story with me.
It would have been about this time of year, late March or maybe a bit on into April. Grandpa’s Hereford cows were calving, and this kept my grandparents busy day and night. One morning, Grandma headed out to the barnyard to find Grandpa. On her way across the yard to the barn, she saw the body of a newborn calf stretched out in the weak early-morning light.
As Grandpa emerged from the barn, he nodded at the lifeless calf and said, “Born last night. Didn’t make it.”
She wasn’t particularly an animal lover, my grandma. They never had pet cats or dogs. Grandpa loved horses, but they were his interest, not hers. I don’t know what compelled her to do what she did – and to spend so much precious time doing it.
For some reason, my grandma wasn’t convinced that the calf was beyond hope. She fetched a tattered woolen blanket, laid it over the red and white form of the calf, and slowly, methodically, she began massaging its limbs and its body.
My grandpa had work to do. “Leave it alone, Emma. It’s dead,” he told her impatiently and headed off to do his next task. But she didn’t leave it alone, that goo-encrusted calf.
“I dragged it right into the sunshine where it was warmer, and I kept rubbing and rubbing that calf with that old blanket.” I remember her chuckling here and shaking her head in disbelief. “And you know, after a couple hours, that calf kicked and snorted and stood up. Clifford couldn’t believe it!”
My favourite stories are the ones that show a totally different aspect to the people I’ve loved and thought I knew. Even if the stories aren’t sweet, I like to delve into the complexity of people. I like to move beyond the pretty and into the messy. That’s where it gets interesting.
I wonder to this day why on earth my grandma, who didn’t like getting dirty or bloody or sweaty, would’ve rubbed that calf for two hours on her knees out in the chilly barnyard. All she told me about it was, “I thought if I didn’t give up and just kept on rubbing, that calf would come to life.”
Apparently, she was right.