One does not grow up in southern Iowa without learning the sense of the soil. It is its own universe, giving root and life and potential, only to be plowed, prepared and planted for the next growing season. Nothing remains. Everything returns. So it was the soil that caught my attention last weekend as my sister Marilyn and I drove north from Des Moines to Fort Dodge.
The corn was tall, long green-leaf flags flying, brilliant blue sky above and diamond-black dirt below. My plane had circled the Iowa State Fairgrounds three times before descending, long enough to remember walking the midway with Marilyn Snook Walker in the 60s, recalling a campfire conversation with Doris Alley Pollock in the 70s and wondering if Marvin Eugene Tuttle was working the show arenas at that moment, grin on face and shovel in hand.
I had come home to help, in some small way, complete what needed to be done at Mom’s apartment. Marilyn and Bob had done the heavy lifting—heart, soul and body—and some piece of me knew this weekend was pure grace. Having shouldered that mystical mantle of carrying the Thompson family forward, my older sister had carved out a long weekend from a demanding schedule so we—she, my younger sister Sue and I—could be in one place, at one time, to sort, sift and move on.
We drew numbers for the coal-oil lamps: no coincidence that Mom had reserved four. We drew deep breaths on finding swatches of our Grandmother Atwell’s wedding dress from 1901 and her funeral dress from 1970. We drew strength from a thousand clues that we had come from a couple that loved each other passionately for nearly 70 years.
The second afternoon, my cell phone rang with a call from our brother Gary, recovering in a rehabilitation unit following a serious fall. Each sister took a turn, bringing his spirit into our space, laughing about buckeyes and pictures and small surprises. Marilyn spoke last, assuring him that Mom and Dad ultimately wanted only one thing: that our family would continue as family.
There is no question in my mind.
We stand on solid ground.