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The Wisconsin Farm Center supports farm families facing difficult decisions regarding farm finances, succession planning and personal struggles. This poem is a compilation of conversations the author participated in over a period of years while providing consultation services for farm families under various forms of stress.
I will never have a normal life.
But, somehow, I think this is what I want to try:
Find someone to buy part of the farm
And let us live here and do what we have always done.
My daughter is about to come back from Afghanistan.
Her school was cancelled so she has all summer
And could help out some, I suppose.
Not much else to do. My other daughter says
just wait till all the kids are home,
Then figure out what to do.
When I get Wayne where he is kinda livable
then Mom starts in
and we all come round again to the same mess.
I was talking to the neighbor who says
Mom thinks I listen in on her phone calls
but I don’t.
Had the grandson last week, which was fun,
might get him back, maybe.
Other than that waiting for the ground
Around the house to dry
And the weather to warm up a bit
So I can work some dirt.
I want to garden for the daughter –
With two kids Lord knows she’ll need it.
Still not sure what or how to do
Just what everyone wants.
But I am going to talk to some farmers
Around here, see if they can help with the crops.
Son Ben found a job, but it is in Texas.
Not sure when he is leaving but could be this week yet.
Friday I am hoping it dries up some
And we can get some heifers outside.
Wayne is getting shots in his back Tuesday.
When we were talking, when all were at my house –
The big outfits that buy land
And let the people live on there –
Tell them I am ready to talk.
Not sure of much.
Son Ben is gone,
Left this morning after chores.
So it has come to this:
Kids grown. Body shot. Social life shattered.
Wayne says he has got to do some thinking.
I asked him questions but he is unsure of what to do.
I told him about getting hired help or something like that –
He said he has to think
But time is limited for that
And our fields are so wet.
I talked to a realty guy in Spooner
Got a bunch of ideas
He is sending out feelers
Will let me know in a few days
Still uncertain for what
But I am looking.
Wayne’s brother is going to talk to him today.
He is bringing Wayne home
From getting shots in his back
And will talk about stuff
See if he can get in Wayne’s brain.
Well, how life does change in a short time.
Our son has been gone since Easter
Last night on the phone I asked him point blank
Are you coming home for the winter?
His answer No – only to snowmobile
Then go back south
So here I am again
Wayne lost it
When I told him the neighbor come by
Asking what we are going to do
Told him all depends on our son
But now I know his plans
The banker says he will leave the note open
Just like a regular note
So we have options
Now I have to go tell the neighbor
Our son is not coming home and I
Need to start thinking about what was talked about
Wayne in bad shape today
His back again
I told him we need to do something
Can’t keep on going like we are
But he was in no shape to listen
I went to mow lawn and he came out back
Stopped me to ask are we going to plant corn
And I said I guess – so he is plowing now
We have one field done and two small ones to go
If the rain would just hold off a bit
It would be nice
Wayne was not happy yesterday
But today after riding the tractor
Doing the plowing
He seems better
This is what it looks like:
We owe the bank 73 thousand
FHA another 26 and still 30 thousand to Dad
The banker says we should talk
And I want to but with grandson here
And whatever I can get done
We got the heifers outside
Still have 30 cows to milk
But the silo is running empty and
Rented out half the farm
And just got the down payment on the other half
We close in November
I am okay but still get the panic attacks
Now and then.
Wayne is not worth talking about
But he knows this is what we need to do
He just can’t comprehend at times
When the kids see him
They get so upset at how he acts oh I hope things change
I wish I could get away
I am looking at part time work
Like maybe a school aid
or clerk at the country market in Spooner
I talked to the manager
All he has is night shift
Well, I am fine,
Won’t talk about the other half
His brain trauma is taking its toll
Tries to tell me things people say
That they never did
The cows will be going on the 22nd
The kids are helping me
Wayne is a daily struggle and now
His good friend from hunting and snowmobiling
Died travelling out west
Just laid down to nap and never woke up
Would have been 52 in August.
It is hard but I guess I am surviving
Wayne better wake up
I am tired of his act
Maybe another med change might help
Just letting you know
The cows are gone
Yep, just left a few minutes ago
I told the buyer send the check after the first of the year
Never saw Wayne move so fast when the trucks pulled in
Sure never moved that fast before
So now just cleaning up junk and hauling to recycle
I want a new house
Move my Mom in here so she isn’t alone
The county says the house not worth fixing
So I am figuring in a book
How to afford a new one
Boy you wouldn’t believe
How bad it gets
Wayne can’t be reasoned with and now
We have four funerals to get to
Got one tomorrow in Tomahawk
Then another near Green Bay
Wayne says he’ll come too
But I wish he would stay put
I need time away just to think
I wish his new meds would kick in
The pharmacy forgot to renew his morphine
And no one noticed
So he was in withdrawals yesterday
Wow that was bad
But I am still here and he is getting oxycodone
Keep me in your thoughts
Ready to pull my hair out
Does that seem normal?
The old house got torn down today
So we are living in a shed out back
Wayne helping a neighbor chop corn
And I hope I got everything back to the state
All that paperwork
So we can start on a basement and wood burner
Winter coming you can feel the nights turning cold
Oh I have to tell you
This is so nice
Compared to what we had
Wayne still trouble
Only goes out to doctor appointments
And when he does
I go out for a walk
Just stand in the sun and look back
At the new basement house
I wish the weather would hold
Just this way all winter
But I know Wayne is far from well
I never hear from son Ben way down in Texas
Hardly ever see the girls who live nearby
I know the big lake storms are coming.
I know I will never have a normal life.
Daniel Smith is the author of the poetry collection HOMELAND (Bottom Dog Press). He lives, works and writes in southwestern Wisconsin.