Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Oct.19, 2007

The old garden hose

Seven years ago this coming week, my parents moved from their farm to Manhattan. Although they had talked for years about how nice it would be to move here to be closer to my family and to K-State activities, when it came right down to it, they didn't want to leave the farm.

And no wonder. The farm, purchased by Dad's grandparents nearly a century before, had always been a part of his life. And when he and Mom married in 1946, it became a huge part of her life as well.

But as Mom and Dad got older, it became clear to brother Dave, sister Gaila and me that it was becoming more difficult for them on the farm. Dad had diabetes, back problems and prostate cancer, and Mom was wearing herself out caring for him. Living 30 miles from the nearest doctor and pharmacy didn't help the situation.

So, in July 2000, Gaila and I began searching for houses in Manhattan. The first house we looked at had a basement accessible only through the garage and a fireplace that had been enclosed inside a closet. Strange! The next one was dark and dingy. A house close to the zoo had rickety steps leading to the back door. A couple of houses in the northeast part of town were acceptable, but were located in the flood plain that was inundated by water in 1993.

And then we saw the house we thought would be perfect for Mom and Dad. It had three bedrooms and two baths on the main floor and a finished basement with a bedroom, bathroom and living area. The main floor would be perfect for what the folks needed, and the basement would be a good spot for Gaila and family when they returned to Kansas each summer from their home in Bolivia.

Although the folks thought the house was OK, by this time, they were starting to get cold feet.

"I don't want to go," Dad said. We all understood. We didn't want them to move off the farm either. A move wouldn't be just a goodbye for them - it would be a goodbye for the rest of the family as well.

But eventually, the folks agreed that it was for the best, and offers and counter-offers were made until the house in Manhattan was theirs.

In mid-August, we began the daunting task of packing the mountains of minutiae that made up our family's life - dishes, knick-knacks, photo albums, linens, framed pictures, clothes, clocks, books. Dave and I and our families spent weekends wrapping items in newspapers and Bubble Wrap and boxing them up. In the meantime, nephew Michael and his girlfriend re-painted a couple of bedrooms in the new house and I hired a cleaning service to scrub it from top to bottom.

On moving day - a beautiful October morning - husband Art and oldest daughter Mariya left the farm early, taking Dad's pickup loaded with tubs, tools and gardening supplies.

The rest of us - youngest daughter Katie, Dad, Mom, Dave and I - sat in lawn chairs on the sidewalk, waiting for the movers to arrive. When the big truck pulled into Mom and Dad's driveway. I gulped and tried to hold back the tears.

"This is it," I thought.

The movers were efficient, moving all the furniture into the yard first to assess how it would fit into the truck. Dave and I decided to go into our hometown of Burns to get some last pictures - of the water tower, the welcome sign, the Methodist church, the café, the main street, the old high school. We had already taken pictures of the house, barn and other outbuildings from all possible angles in the few weeks preceding the move.

When we returned to the farm, Mom and Dad were still watching the movers' progress while Katie played on the swings. Even the folks' three cats got in on the action, taking up posts on the desk and the various other pieces of furniture now strewn around the yard.

As the movers were completing their work, Dad noticed a garden hose still attached to an outdoor spigot. He got up and struggled to unscrew it. I tried, too, but it was stuck tight. I told him gently that the renters would take good care of it and we could buy him a new one once they settled into their new house. For some reason it struck me that this old garden hose seemed to symbolize his life on the farm. It was old and well-used, and it didn't want to leave either.

But it was time.

The moving van left, loaded with most of our parents' earthly possessions. Dave followed in the folks' Cadillac, with Katie, Mom, Dad and their two male cats, Oreo and Midnight, safely tucked among more belongings. And I followed Dave in our Cavalier, stuffed to the gills with even more items and their female cat, Boots.

As we slowly drove out the lane toward the highway, Dave and I honked our horns - something we did every time we left the farm to return to our own homes.

And always, Mom and Dad would be standing on the sidewalk, waving until we were out of sight.

But there was no one to wave that day. After that day, there was no going back.

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