Standing Small

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The abandoned barn sits on a gravel drive which curves into a well-traveled road at the edge of town.  I always “almost” forget about it until it looms a stone’s throw away,  lonely in its befallen glory, with rotting wood of perfect red struggling to boast its last hints of dignity as it succumbs to the cruelty of relentless Northern Illinois weather. Nobody comes, day after day, year after year, to tend to its weary boards.

I felt the soul of that barn today.   I thought that I sometimes feel like that lonely barn.   Surrounded by the chaos that presents itself from sunrise to sunset, and sometimes even through the night,  I am sometimes still alone.

Several of my friends became grandmothers this early winter.  And with my vicarious celebrations (I do look forward to one day sharing this fate!) comes the stark realization that time is passing.  Like the barn, I am aging.  I cannot stop the wiry grays from infiltrating my dishwater hair.

When we took the family to visit Dan’s mom two Sundays ago, she was slumped  on the couch, fast asleep on the shoulder of another resident.  It had been a while since we had been out to see her; there was a marked difference in her mobility.  As Dan reached to assist the woman that had held him on her lap and nursed him to toddlerhood, she startled awake and let him hold her steady on her feet.  Though the light of  her smile pleads to tell us differently, she no longer recognizes me or my row of ducklings.  She is grateful for the company, yes.  Something about her, though, understands that we are her people. For that hour, she played cards with her grandchildren, ate a bite of pizza, and feigned understanding of the questions that she likely did not realize that she was asking.  As we left her in her chair, I glanced back to see the sun fading; her eyes reminiscent of the hallowed windows on the lonely barn.

Our child came to us in a fury of screams.  The years have passed and, through many services, the door often does not open.  It is held shut by something: past trauma; lack of attachment; a primal wound too deep to heal.  A lonely barn, surrounded by people.

I looked back at the landscape as I drove a bit further into town.  From a distance, the loneliness seemed to fade.  The barn became part of a vibrant university community.  I retraced my path, parked the van, and approached the barn.   With just enough room to retreat safely if I were apprehended, I stared.  How frightened, how alone that barn looked when I was standing beside it.  The memory of a flowering vine threatened me with its sharp, up close, seasons-since-bearing-beauty barrenness.

My dear longtime friend lives just across the road from that barn.  When she faces the direction of the field and looks out at the barn, I like to believe that a small bit of its loneliness goes away.   When we make ourselves available to others, when we stand alongside, when we understand that we may not understand…I like to believe that that, alone, has to be enough.

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About 1maniac1989

From childhood, I have wanted to take care of children, to bake cookies, cakes, and bread, to hear music, and to tend to flowers in my garden. I am blessed and lucky, and I am able to do all of these things. I live with my beloved husband, Dan, and our many precious children, in DeKalb, IL, which, perhaps in my opinion only, is the most beautiful place on earth. Sincere thanks to anyone who has taken the time to visit my blog.

4 responses to “Standing Small

  1. I know EXACTLY where that barn is. Jeff has painted it once, I believe, or at least another red barn. I told him just weeks ago that he should go paint it again because it is really showing its age and neglect. I am so glad that you were brave enough to drive right up to it, close enough to see the barren flowering vine, and then to use the barn to describe loneliness and connections. I am so glad that you are writing, Patty, and even more glad (selfishly) that we are friends. Thank you for sharing your gift with your readers.

    • Well, I am thrilled to hear that someone else has noticed our lonely barn. Perhaps it’s not so lonely after all. And I love our friendship. You are one of those rare birds with so much to offer others. As ever, thank you for reading!

  2. Diane DeMers

    This is so wonderfully written, Patty…you have captured (as you always do) the yin and the yang of life. Thank you for sharing this.

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