I'm from a farm in Wyoming. I'd never seen the ocean and wanted to have a look, my first real look, at the Pacific. So, I ventured out on my own, leaving my family behind for the first time in my life. I was 19 years old when I left the farm. My Dad wasn't happy about it; in fact, he was downright pissed about it. I was his only son, and he had two daughters. My sisters were the girly-girls types, not tomboys, so they and Mom did very little actual "farm work" on the farm, only what was needed to be done by the women. Which was work, but not in my Dad's eyes. He wanted them to be out wrangling the horses and cows, working the fields, mending fences, etc. But that work was left to Dad, one farmhand, and me.
"Dad, I just want to see some of the world. Why can't I just go out and see something other than horses, cows, wheat, and corn?" I begged him to try to understand.
"I need you here to work the farm, son. When I go on to that great pasture in the sky this place will be yours, but you have to be here and learn everything there is to know about how to keep it running," he explained, and I understood all that, I just wanted to see some of the world.
"I understand, Dad, but I've made up my mind. I'm going to go out and see what there is to see. That's all there is to it." I finally did it, My words were out, I couldn't take them back, and he couldn't stop me.
"If you leave, don't plan on coming back, DO YOU HEAR ME?" he was red in the face and stomped away.
Then my Mom gave me a hug, "I'll talk to him, don't worry about it, I'm sure he'll understand and come around soon enough."
So, I went west to see the Pacific Ocean. And am I glad I did! Yes, it's big. Yes, it's blue, mostly. Yes, it has big waves that make swimming difficult. Yes, it's very cold! But it was THE OCEAN!
The whole Pacific was right there in front of me, washing around my feet. My god that water was COLD! Nobody told me it was so friggin' cold, that you needed a wetsuit if you actually wanted to spend any time swimming or surfing in it. After a couple minutes, my feet were numb so I walked back to my spot on the beach, gathered some dry driftwood, and started a fire. The warmth felt nice until the beach police showed up and told me to put out the fire. Apparently, they weren't permitted. Nobody told me that either. Oh, and nobody told me you can't camp on the beach. Crap! That was one of my goals - camping on the beach. So, I headed back into town to find a hotel.
That was all about 9 years ago when I first arrived at the coast. Not long after I got a job, found an apartment, and started my new life away from the farm.
I'd called home and tried to talk to my Dad, but he never talked to me, not since I left home. I wondered if he'd ever talk to me again. My Mom and sisters updated me on what happened at home. Did I miss the farm? Well, somewhat, but mostly I missed my family. The city was exciting, there was always something happening there. So many people to meet and do things with. And so many women! It's like there's no end to the women to go out on dates with. I never had anything like that back home.
The job was good; I worked in a distribution center for home center products, building products, that kind of stuff. It paid enough for me to live in a small but decent apartment on the edge of the city and go out on occasional dates. What more could a guy in his twenties want?
My Dad finally talked to me on the phone, once, and we had another big blow-up. He had cut me off from all financial help. That hurt, a lot. He even said I was no longer welcome home and no longer would I inherit the farm. And that was what he wanted to talk to me about, not about how I was living, or what my job was, no questions about relationships with women, nothing, only to tell me he was finished with me, no more, the end. Period. Good-bye.
That put Mom and my sisters in tears. I could hear them crying in the background during the "conversation".
After that, the calls home were few and far between. Basically, on certain holidays and birthdays, I was able to actually talk to one of my sisters or my mother.
I worked at the same company for about 3 years and received a promotion to shipping manager, and after another 3 years, I was on my way to the Logistics department, when I got a phone call from my Mom.
During all these years I was still living in the same little, and cheap, apartment, so I was saving money and quite a lot. I kept my dating habits to a minimum and was not at all extravagant. I drove a cheap car or rode a bicycle. I was determined to make good of myself and prove I could do well on my own. But, I also missed the farm and my family.
As time passed, living in the city was beginning to wear on me, the noise of the traffic never stopped, the smell of the exhaust never went away, the unhappy faces of unsatisfied people were always within sight. I was beginning to think about returning home. But, could I? Would Dad permit me to even come onto the farm?
Then, about 8 years after arriving at the coast, I got a phone call from my Mom, "Sweetheart, you need to come home, right away, your father's sick," she told me.
One of my sisters also called me and told me, "I hope you can come home but I want you to know, even as sick as Dad is, he is still holding a grudge against you, and hasn't changed his mind about you taking over the farm when he is gone."
During my years in the city and working full time at the distribution center, I had also been taking evening classes in animal husbandry, farming techniques, and ranch management. My plan was to return home and show Dad that I had the knowledge to run the farm, and probably run it better than he had. Maybe then, he would change his mind about me leaving the family behind.
A couple days later, came yet another call came, "Sweetie, you need to return home now. Your father is in the hospital and the doctors don't know how much time he has left." My mom was crying as she was telling me about his condition. One of my sisters came on the phone and told me more about it and she too started crying.
"Okay," I told my sister, "I'm gettings things taken care of so I can leave right away. I'll be home tomorrow." I caught a flight out first thing in the morning, then a taxi ride home.
I prayed for my dad and hoped he would live long enough to talk to me, not that I was concerned about not inheriting the farm, but because I wanted to tell him I was sorry for walking out on him the way I did. I wanted to right the wrong and make sure he knew I loved him and always had.
The weather was awful on the trip home - fresh snow had just about buried the airport, and the city, so my flight was delayed. I arrived home about 3 hours later than expected. When I got home I found my mother, sisters, and a couple aunts and uncles.
"Am I too late?" I asked when I saw all of them in the house.
"No, we're here just for a break from the hospital. Your uncle Mark is there with your dad right now," said Aunt Jane, my mother's sister.
My sister said, "You should go there right away. I'll go with you, come on, let's go".
All the others followed us a couple of minutes after we left so I could have a couple minutes with Dad without a crowd around us.
My mind was spinning with thoughts of dread that he might pass at any second. We got in her car and hurried to the hospital.
Finally, in his room, I found my dad connected to many hoses and wires and I still don't know what all that stuff was, but he appeared to be at least somewhat aware of the people in the room.
"Dad," I sat next to his bed and took his hand in mine, and just about whispered because it was hard to find my voice, "Dad, I love you so much. I want to apologize for being such an ass all those years ago. I was stupid, an idiot, and an ass of a kid who thought he knew better. I'm so sorry, Dad."
He squeezed my hand, looked at me, and smiled.
"I have missed you, and Mom and the girls, but you know, mostly you. I've missed you telling me what to do, when to do it, how to do it, why I had to do it, which was always the same reason, 'Because I told you too, that's why'. I've missed you so much, Dad. Can you forgive me for running out on you?" I was in tears at that point, so were my sister and uncle.
"Yes, my son, I forgive you, I love you," the words were just loud enough for all to hear, and by then my Mom and all the others were in the room, and they all heard his last words, "I forgive you, I love you". Everyone cried. Each one held his hands and gave him a kiss on his forehead. And then Mom kissed him on his lips. That was the last kiss, and then he passed on to that great pasture in the sky.
My Dad's last words will remain at the forefront of my mind the rest of my life - "I forgive you, I love you".