I grew up in a privileged family; no, we did not have the wealth you may be envisioning on the balance sheet but we had bountiful treasures in life and love.
Like the typical farm family of the '60s and '70s, my father was in a farming operation with his father and just down the road another 6 miles lived my maternal grandparents, Grandpa and Grandma Chapman. The wealth I am referring to is the ability of a child to grow up with grandparents in their lives on a regular basis. In fact, until I was 16 when Grandpa Chapman passed away, I had four grandparents in my life daily. I had three until 2006 and just last week I lost the fourth one, my grandma Nellie Chapman, at the age of 96. That is my definition of a privileged childhood.
I have often said that it should not be a treat for your kids to see their grandparents, recognizing that in today’s world it is tougher than ever, but should it be? I clearly remember my “worst” days growing up on the farm were in the summer when we walked beans, cutting weeds and volunteer corn from the soybean field. I did not enjoy it at the time but as I grew older I realized that those “chores” created some of my most fond memories because I had Grandpa Loos on one side of me and dad on the other side just talking about things that mattered. What I wouldn’t give to be able to walk some beans with both of them just one more time.
Grandma Chapman was born Jan. 23, 1923, and I did a quick search to see what life would have been like for United States citizens in the early 20s. First off, women didn’t even have the right to vote until 1920, so there is that. While we think we have had a lot of bad days, particularly in 2019, we still have it pretty easy compared to life nearly a century ago.
My grandmother has been a pillar of our family from the beginning. Always nurturing, grandma was a nurse and raised two daughters who became nurses. With her passing on Aug. 19, 2019, she inspired our middle daughter to follow in the footsteps of the strong, caring women who went before her on the family tree. I never really thought about it at the time but she was the quiet leader who always led by example. The kind of leader that I feel we are a little short of today. Today there’s too much vocal and not enough actual action in leadership.
One of her great examples of quiet strength was so evident in 1983. In February, my grandfather, Daniel Chapman, passed and in June, Uncle Mike, one of her three sons, was killed in a motorcycle accident. The display of courage and resolve that she demonstrated during that extremely tough time was very impressionable on a 16-year-old kid. I recognize that women from all walks of life deal with the tragic loss of loved ones but I truly believe the thing that separates the U.S. from other countries, dating back to the pioneering families, is the strength of our women. Rural women are truly the pillars or our nation’s success, working quietly behind the scenes to make sure every last detail is attended to.
One thing that keeps coming up in our recent walks down memory lane was the frequent fish fries at my grandparents’ house. I think that is one reason that we love to sit around our fire pit today and visit with friends and family. That memory was planted as such a positive experience. Grandma Chapman clearly loved to entertain folks and brought back, front and center, the importance of spending time with friends and family. You can tell me that was a different time and place if you choose but I will quickly tell you that we do not spend enough time today in such activities.
I circle back to where I started so many of my memories including the value of time spent regularly with each one of my four grandparents. I feel confident that our kids of today don’t have “a streak” of spending time with their own grandparents that is nearly long enough. I am not familiar with many better life-learning activities than sitting on a pond bank fishing and chatting it up with Grandpa and Grandma.
The world was made a better place because Nellie Chapman lived here and she was a true example of that quiet, essential, behind the scenes leader; showing us all how to do it.
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.LoosTales.com, or email Trent at email@example.com.