From January 28, 2015
Piece by piece, my grandfather used to say. That’s the way to patch a hole, fill the gaps.
His thick fingers moved deftly, twisting together frayed wires, tacking in pieces of wood. Bit by bit, we moved down the miles of fences.
With the hot sun overhead and the dust blowing off the dirt road, all I could wonder is that he spent so much time talking about those damn fences. I didn’t see the point. At seven I’d made it clear that there was no way I was going to be a rancher and live my life by fences and cattle, dirt roads and manual labor. I didn’t want to have to worry about the state of the fences or put so much importance on the way to fix them.
All those summers and I never realized that those lessons weren’t about the fences.
They were about life.
Each post a person. Each wire, each slat of wood the events and ties that hold us together.
In these last years, whenever I stopped in to visit, he talked about the fences and I realized that one by one my posts were falling to the ground, uprooted from the earth. The wires binding them stretched and snapped. He was telling me what I didn’t want to see. The snow and wind had taken their toll. I let them batter my fence and tear it down. He was telling me this in the kindest way possible: by talking about those fences we’d repaired when I was a child.
You were my last standing post, Grandpa, and the wire between us was so strong, so steady until the end. So many of us here were lucky to be your posts. So many of us are at a loss of how to keep going without your constant wisdom, your gentle kindness, but Grandpa, I know what to do. You said it yourself.
It’s time to repair the fence.