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I had just been

On an amazing adventure

I worked on

The wheat harvest

To follow my Dad’s path,

To walk in his shoes,

To find out

What had led him

To change his whole life

And reclaim

His soberness

His family

His job

His life.

 *

Combine cutting wheat

I had returned to Houston

After spending the summer

From Oklahoma

To North Dakota

Following the wheat

Living a nomadic life

Exploring new worlds.

Combine moving to next field

*

I had been writing letters

To a number of friends

To stay grounded.

I had called

Whenever we stopped

At a place where

There was a phone.

One of my biggest

Supports was Donna.

We’d been friends

For many years

And she had been there

Whenever

I needed her.

 *

So when I got home,

We planned to spend time.

She wanted to hear

All about my experience

What it was like driving

A big truck,

Pulling a wheat combine

Combine on a trailer behind grain truck

On a trailer.

I had described it

In letters,

But it wasn’t the same

As being able to

Spend an evening

And tell someone

All  about it.

*

I called her.

She said

And I remember

This vividly:

“Say, I’d love

To get together.

I’m house sitting

For some friends,

I have to watch their dogs

I have to do a couple of

Loads of laundry.

I’ll cook you dinner,

And get a couple of movies

And we can watch those

While we visit.”

*

The whole thing

Just felt wrong.

Too many moving parts,

And no place to

Really talk.

I had presence enough

To say

“Donna, that feels

awfully busy.

Why don’t we do it

Another night

When there’s more time

To just sit and visit.”

*

She acted sort of surprised,

And a bit put out.

Like she had been

Doing me a favor

To offer me the time slot.

We never rescheduled.

She never found out

What my journey

Had been like.

 *

The only thing

I can figure out

Is that she didn’t

Really want to know.

Ouch!

Why?

I couldn’t guess.

*

We were never the same

After that.

**************************

Photo credits:

Photos by Dan L. Hays Copyright, all rights reserved.

“Good Question” e-magic @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

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My Dad disappeared

For about a year

When I was seventeen.

The last I saw him,

We left him

Passed out drunk

On the living room couch.

Relatives came and got

My Mom, sisters and me

Leaving Dad

Who wouldn’t quit drinking

Who wouldn’t accept help.

I thought

I might ever see him again.

 *

Later

He returned to our lives

A changed man.

He sobered up

Got back his old job

Built back his old life.

*

But twenty years later

After he died

I realized

I never knew what happened

When he disappeared.

When he was on the edge

Of killing himself

With the drink.

Rumor had it

That he worked

The wheat harvest

Something he had done

In college.

Wheat Harvest

*

I started to write

The story of what I thought

Might have happened.

I realized

The piece I was missing

Was what it would be like

To work on

The wheat harvest.

*

I said to a friend

“Someday…

Someday,

If I ever want to

Really explore

My Dad’s story.

I might just have to

Work the wheat harvest.

My friend Pat

Listened quietly.

 *

Later he said

“You’ve talked about

working the wheat harvest

three or four times.

I just want to mention

Someday – if you want

To work the wheat harvest.

I have relatives in Oklahoma

Who do that each year.”

*

I did what I do

When hit with

The unexpected.

I sat there

Numbly,

Quietly.

And then said

“Thanks for telling me.”

Talk about upping the ante

On a spiritual quest

To walk in

My Dad’s shoes.

My friend had

Certainly done that.

Now I was left

To put it all out there,

Or leave it as “someday.”

*

I finally called Pat

And asked if he would

Do me a favor.

Check with his relatives

To see if I might

Join their harvest crew

For the summer.

*

Meanwhile,

I tried to figure out

If this was

Completely nuts.

Quit my job,

Go off and work

On a harvest crew

To find out about

My Dad’s story.

I checked it out

With Scott – a good friend

Who was really grounded.

He’d give me a solid answer,

Besides, he was

An accountant.

Logical, linear.

I later realized

I was secretly hoping

He’d tell me

“This idea is crazy”

So I could give up

The whole thing.

Instead he said

“Makes a lot of sense

I think you ought to do it!

It will be part of

Your healing.”

Major gulp!

*

Two months later,

I was living in a trailer

In Lone Wolf Oklahoma

With six high school farm kids

Learning to drive a huge truck

Used to haul grain.

And following

My Dad’s story.

*

Bunk trailers and work pickups

Cara - the grain truck I drove on harvest

It was the adventure

Of a lifetime.

We followed the wheat

As it ripened.

Living like nomads.

It was a world

I had never seen before.

Living in an old house trailer

In one place for two weeks

Then moving,

Trailers, trucks, combines

A caravan

To the next farm

As the wheat ripened

From Oklahoma

To North Dakota.

Combines and tractors

*

Combines dumping grain on trucks

I learned many things.

I grew up in the city

But had the heart of a country boy.

I love driving a tractor

Or a wheat combine.

I don’t do well on little sleep.

Living in a trailer,

Farm boys are not

Particularly neat

When Momma’s not there

To clean out the tub.

When pulling wheat from

A plugged up combine

The dust really itches,

When it gets down your neck.

 *

And special things happened.

    I got to visit the filmsite

From Dances With Wolves.

We saw Mount Rushmore,

Me at Dances With Wolves filmsite

My first pic of Mount Rushmore

Both affected me deeply.

All in all

It was a magical summer.

*

It gave me the truth

About what I believe

Happened to my Dad.

How he had

A spiritual awakening

And realized

He had to return

To clean up his past.

I finished the story

I wanted to tell.

I wrote it as a novel.

It will be called

“Nothing Left To Lose.”

 *

But as I look back

What Pat said

When the idea

First came up

Turned out to be the truth.

He had said

“Dan, you think you’re going

On the wheat harvest,

To learn about your Dad.

I think this trip

Will be about you.

You will learn about

Yourself.

Heal yourself.

Claim your own power.”

*

He was right!

I often look back

On the wheat harvest experience

As a turning point in my life.

When I claimed the truth

Dan the writer

Of my path

Not to follow the business world

   Of my Dad and my friends,

But to claim my birthright

As a writer

Dan the writer

A teller of stories.

And a country boy.

I am completely convinced

I did the right thing

In going on harvest

To walk in Dad’s shoes.

Because I found – myself.

********************

Photo Credits:

Photos by Dan L. Hays Copyright – all rights reserved.

“The Wheat Harvest” the slowlane @ flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.

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“Asking For Help – A Strength, Not A Weakness.” We had the most amazing discussion on tonight’s Dialogues With Dignity radio show.  Be sure to give it a listen!

 

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Written April 12, 1990

How do you know when it’s time to say goodbye?  To move on?  To go separate ways?  There comes a point for many people, whether it’s with the true love of your life, the gang at church, your oldest friend, or a group you used to hang with, when something is just not the way it was.  So what to do?  And when to do it?

Some times people leave early on.  When it looks like it’s going to be some trouble, some work, to continue.  When the honeymoon phase is over, and you begin to see all the warts and wrinkles, and they become irritating.  There’s a problem with this method, though.  It can end up in an unending cycle of hello-goodbye, because everyone, every group, has its imperfections.  So the early leaver can end up playing the opening bars of the dance with a different set of partners every night, unable to make the connection of cause and effect.  Yet they usually don’t really say goodbye, because they pick up the next dancer too quickly as a way to avoid dealing with the pain of the last.  It is an attractive trap in some ways, because it leaves the dancer free to roam, free not to commit, free to be alone at the end of the evening.

So what’s the answer?  Step out later in the dance – somewhere closer to the middle, leave when the passion fires are at a peak?  When the action has hit the trumpet blast of creative intimacy, closeness, congruence, or however it may be defined?  The last memory will be of a dynamo experience, certainly.  But when are you sure that it was absolutely the top?  What if this really wasn’t the peak of it, if there was just beyond view one even more substantial interaction which could have led to an even higher plateau?  My God, what regrets that could bring.  No, there’s real resistance to leaving when things are in full bloom.

So what if we can feel definitely that things have hit the pinnacle because events are certainly on the downside, the slide has begun toward the end of the dance?  Isn’t there something in us that beckons “we can get it back, it can be that way again, like it once was?”  Maybe it can, and the temptation is strong – it must be, for many try.  But if we play the percentages, how realistic is it to expect successful rekindling?  How many times has anyone seen it, or experienced it?  Does it really work that often?

After all, what would cause it to wane?  Something went wrong somewhere.  It would be very unusual if whatever went wrong didn’t leave hurts, scars, wounds – to one side or the other – usually to both.  So at least one side is going to be leery of moving close again.  They might want to, even be compelled to, yet sometimes the hurts are so deep that you can’t forget, can’t go back, can’t recapture the spark as much as you might want to because you keep looking over your shoulder for the boom to lower, and you have to finally admit, when all attempts have failed, that there is nothing for it but to let go and cut the cord.

Yet sometimes we wait and resist even then – we continue to dance after the partner has left and the lights are out.  Then when we happen to meet them, the other party has the slight cloud over their eyes – the distant look as if they are emotionally standing far across the room – when they give us the “Oh, hello,” that sounds like what you would say to a Sunday School teacher you had just met.  The time when head, heart and gut begin to correlate that it is really, truly and definitely over – the energy that once passed between the two of you has closed off, shut down, and is gone.

At that point, hanging on is holding fantasies.  If you are still in that relationship, you are the only one who is.  The other has moved on, no forwarding address.  The conclusive evidence comes if you tell them the most all consuming, deeply significant item of your life today, and they act politely but mildly interested, say “Oh, how nice,” and turn to other matters.  Then it sinks in you really have hung on too long.

So we try different styles, methods, patterns of leaving – or not leaving – experimenting with different times of quitting the dance.  We begin to learn that love hurts less the one who cares less.  We grow cautious and learn – or we repeat patterns.  We hold on or we let go.  Yet if we grow there still comes that inevitable moment – it might happen – when we know, we just know, it’s over.  And then we look once more at them, with that quiet calm of acceptance, mentally wish them well, and say –

Goodbye.

 

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