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‘If I could ...’

My grandmother lived most of her life as a farmer’s wife. While there were many things she loved about the farm, inherently, she was more of a city slicker.

She never complained about life on the farm — after all, everyone she loved was there. But if she’d had her druthers, I believe Grandma would have opted for the bright lights of the city, rather than the star lights of the country. She never said it, but as I’ve grown older, I just know.

Once a year, my grandmother would leave the slow-paced life and her family behind for about a week and travel to Colorado with her best friend. It was a big deal for her and an even bigger deal for a young granddaughter who cried every time she left. I remember her getting ready to go, the look of absolute bliss on her face, and the smile she wore as she waved good-bye to us. If I had been inside the car as it pulled away, I’m probably sure I would have heard an “aaahhh” as she left behind a rambunctious trio of kids; a farm full of animals, crops, dinner preparations and worries; and a farmer husband whose idea of a “trip” or a “vacation” was a drive to Kewanee to go to the S&H Green Stamp store.

Bearing gifts, Grandma would return in a week with a different look, a different attitude and a different perspective. We’d hear stories about going out to dinner, a variety of excursions and new people she had met. She’d tell of conversations she and her best friend had, and she’d relay their antics along the way. Inevitably, she’d get a faraway look in her eyes when she spoke of the next trip that was already being planned for the same time next year.

On the other side of the coin, my grandfather didn’t like to stray too far from home. Other than going to Kentucky as a World War I soldier, I don’t think he ever left the state of Illinois; and other than a trip or two to LaSalle or Kewanee, I’m not even sure he really left the county very often. Home was the farm, and he was quite content to be there.

They say that opposites attract, so I guess when Grandma and Grandpa fell in love and tied the knot, their ideas of where they would live and raise their family didn’t matter. I’m assuming it was understood they would live on a farm — after all, farming was all my grandfather knew, and even though my grandmother was a nurse, she could continue her profession anywhere.

As I think back, I now see the sacrifices my grandmother made for her family and for the love of my grandfather. But would she have rather lived among the lights and sights of the big city instead of the dark and quiet nights in the country? I think so. Would she have rather gone out to eat at restaurants, rather than cooking a farmer-sized meal for her family. I’m almost positive. Would she have rather gone to the theater, the museums, the attractions instead of chasing lambs and bottle-feeding kittens? Probably. But she never complained. Other than one week out of the year, she did what she did because she made a commitment to my grandfather ... I have to admire that.

As an adult, I often wish I could go get Grandma and take her on a trip somewhere ... anywhere. I long to be able to stop by the farmhouse and ask her to go into town for coffee. I wish we could board the train and head to Chicago to see a play or go to the ballet. If I could ... I would do those things and more, however, my grandmother died when I was only 13.

So what’s my point? Last Sunday was Grandparents Day. If you still have your grandparents, it’s never too late to show them how important they are in your life. What I wouldn’t give to treat my grandparents to something special. I would urge you to do it now, so you aren’t left with the words — “If I could ...”

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