I left home when I was 17 and moved cross-country. For the next 16 years, over 2,00 miles separated me from my family and we would mourn the loss frequently. Visits were scarce and goodbyes were horrendous with lots of tears and painful silence for a week. This summer, God chose to answer a long-time prayer and move our family back to Oregon. Adjustments have been difficult, but the benefit of living close to family has been beautiful beyond description.
My Dad is a man's man. He loves to work, is tough as nails, is rarely sick, can fix or build anything, and heats his house all winter through a wood stove with wood he splits and stacks himself. This past year, God chose to let him fight some significant health battles. In July, he had his colon removed. This upcoming week, he'll have a secondary surgical procedure and then face another 6-8 weeks of restricted weight lifting, diet and lifestyle adjustments. He's lost tons of weight, but hasn't lost his spirit, his work ethic, or his love for life.
My Dad and Marcy had a front yard full of unsplit and unstacked wood - 5 chords to be exact. They live in the high desert and the winter comes early, so we decided to head to Bend this weekend to attempt to make a dent in the wood pile and get them set up for winter before my Dad's surgery. We arrived at 10 p.m. on Friday night and when we unloaded our sleeping kids from the van, my heart sank. Alli felt ridiculously warm and her 102.6 F temperature confirmed my fears. We couldn't believe we brought a fever to my Dad's house when he was having surgery in 5 days and needed to be healthy. We laid hands on Alli and prayed for healing.
Saturday morning dawned and she was remarkably better. A mild fever of 100 F that came down with Motrin and you never would have known her body was fighting something. We talked about leaving, but decided to stay since Alli seemed to be feeling so much better. Marcy corralled the girls indoors and kept them occupied baking apple cake (they each had their own metal bowl and wire whisk), teaching them how to sing and do the motions to "Itsy Bitsy Spider," coloring, and dancing.
While the girls played indoors, the boys (myself included) worked outside. I've always loved to work, especially outside, and growing up the only daughter of Don Klippenes, I had no choice but to learn to work and to like it. Curt and I work well together and since we had kids, we've missed killing a day outside, working on a project together.
Our son Grant was the super-star of the day. At 7 years old, he was geared up to work, but I was certain he'd peter out within an hour and go inside to do fun stuff with the girls. I couldn't have been more wrong. He put in a man's day of work and never once complained. He tirelessly pulled his wagon to the staging area, filled it with split wood, dragged it up the hill and to the back yard, and stacked it neatly on the pile. Curt taught him how to drive the four-wheeler and by the end of the day, he was driving it "all by himself" back and forth between loads. My Dad worked the log splitter and Curt and I loaded, transported and stacked the wood.
I wanted to impress my husband, so I grabbed an axe and started to chop a piece of wood. My Dad turned off the log splitter, got a huge smile on his face and said, "Come here Sweetie." He walked me to the garage, took out an unopened package and split it open with his Exacto knife. He reverently lifted out a brand new, XS Lumberman's axe with a blade so sharp I was scared to touch it. He said, "If you're going to do a job, you have to do it right. This is the perfect size for you and I ordered it so you could have your own axe to work with when you come to visit." I giggled and said, "Oh - it's just what I've always wanted!" We went back to the log pile, he showed me how to do it "right" and sure enough, I swung that baby over my head and it sliced right through that log. What a beauty! Curt grabbed the opportunity to crack jokes and spent the rest of the day throwing out one liners like, "Hey - you have a nice axe." and "I like you axe."
By days end, we posed for pictures in front of the FOUR chords of wood that we split, chopped, transported and stacked in my Dad's back yard. We came inside chilled and tired and decided the house needed to be warmed up a bit. My Dad started a fire and we all took turns joking, "Does anyone know where we can get some wood?"
Sunday morning, the boys went golfing and Marcy and I took the kids to the indoor pool for a swim. We came home and had a British tea party for lunch. The kids dressed up in Grandma's costume jewelry and Grant, as the English Butler, adopted a bad British accent and escorted his sisters to the tea table, set with Great Grandma Bernice's fine china. We nibbled on our sandwiches, cut into tiny triangles, drank our peppermint tea, practiced our good table manners and ate with our pinkies up. It was QUITE delicious!
As we drove away, we inhaled a few more deep breathes of the fresh, cool autumn air, glanced back at the huge stack of wood and my Dad and Marcy waving from their garage, and sighed with contentment at our fun fall work weekend.