Remember back in 1943, when I was fifteen, I told you about my big inspiration? I wrote it down: I was going to write a book especially for you, and call it “The Round Barn.” You studied my note, laughed and nodded, and agreed that, “yes, the round barn would have a lot to say.” But then you died, just five years later, and amidst my grief was regret that I hadn’t written your book. I was glad that I had brought you my painting when you were in the hospital, even though my professor hadn’t liked the brown sky. You sat in your bed, admired the mother cow and her nursing calf, and didn’t criticize any of my color choices. Somehow that picture didn’t survive the hospital visit either, though I still have the preliminary sketch.
I’m older now than you were when you died, and well –I’m just now finishing your book. I know what you meant about life getting in the way! As it turns out, it’s got more stories than it ever could have had while you were alive –four fat volumes, from the path that led to your becoming a farmer, to daddy selling the dairy in 1972, and beyond. How I wish I’d asked you for your stories when I first thought of it! I’m missing so much, like the stories of our best herdsman, Bernard Kassilke; and I want to know what it was that the employee who lived out on Shopiere road refused to tell me –although your side of it would undoubtedly be different from his!
I suppose there are chapters that perhaps it’s just as well you never got the chance to read. You’d not like the intrusion into your personal life –and of course you wouldn’t have known of those conversations between Grama and Mrs. Smith, overheard by her little pitcher, Eloise Smith. You’d want to set me straight on some other details as well, agree or disagree on my interpretations of your private papers –which changed depending on where you were in life! –although you’d sternly tell me they were intended for God’s eyes alone.
I think you’d recognize, in the pages of “The Round Barn,” the legacy you left, and be pleased.
But then you’d urge me not to write any more, and advise me to get back to living my life; that now it was the book getting in the way –you were always good at giving thoughtful advice. And you’d like to know how everything turned out after you were gone. Of course, perhaps you already do, up there in heaven. Or perhaps you’re too busy planting seeds in the clouds. For even Heaven needs plants, and water, and surely some lime in the soil. And a cow and nursing calf. Otherwise it’s not Heaven, isn’t that right?