This I Believe

Bernie - New Hampton, New Hampshire
Entered on May 11, 2006
Age Group: 65+
Themes: family, legacy
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“…the Apparel Oft Proclaims the Man…”

November 30, 2005

My Dad, XXX, was a large man with a long waist. He never showed his weight as the overalls that were his typical attire hid any noteworthy body shape. He was always relaxed as though to portray a steadfast certainty for what he was daily laboring. Managing an apple orchard while keeping up with the financial needs of a 1940’s family seemed not to phase this monument to trust. I once peeked at a financial book he kept and discovered an income of under $1,500.00 in 1940. Wow! did that seem like a lot of money. I never did dare look again, for I knew well, how decisive his reprimands were. I once broke a window with a baseball and hurried to find Dad and share the fact I had not planned to be bad.

My Dads long busy day had always been known by his absence. The chores and the orchard tasks took time. But we always ate meals together. My two older bothers and two older sisters, attended eight years at Hanaford Elementary one- room school until my oldest sister, Melba, was away living with Grammy Carrie while attending high school in Laconia.

I can still remember finally being able to get off the hill that noon in May of 1945 after a three foot snow fall had snapped so many maple branches with their new buds swollen. The snow packed orchard was in full bloom and; though beautiful, foretold the loss of a crop. The heavy snow fell mostly above 1,000 feet so the folks in the valley were not aware of our predicament. My Grandma, Carrie Smith had been buried in the cemetery at the far end of the Macintosh Orchard in the late afternoon as the snow began to fall. I didn’t realize how final her passing must have been for my Dad. He was to lose his Mother and witness the demise of an entire apple season overnight.

My Dad worked hard and seldom took time to even smoke his favorite pipe filled with Sir Walter Raleigh. I had loved the joke, “If you ever find Prince Albert or Sir Walter Raleigh in a can, please let them out.” But my Dad continued to handle Eastern States feed deliveries for the farm neighbors. I was sure proud his initials were on every burlap sack, 100 LBS.

I never thought he would neglect his own health when my mother was away for several weeks at the Lahey Clinic in Boston, for her back operation in ‘46. That following summer when finally a good crop of apples weighted the trees more and more as the harvest drew near, it did seem strange that my Dad wanted to show me the boundary lines of Rockledge Farm rather than brag about the bumper crop hanging so bountiful in the orchard on September 25, 1946.

That night, my mother struggled with back pain to find some means to discover my dad’s grasp for an extra breath he never found. I became an adult that day and never looked back to the innocence of youth again. At but twelve years of age I became a man, with no ‘teen years to develop into an adult.

My Mother bought me a new pair of overalls.