November 2023

Fall Colors

It was quiet on the farm that night. Mary was gone now, as was his Lab, Rocket. With the Green mountains in the distance, Will looked from his back porch over acres of pasture. Will Stockwell had to admit that though he loved his place, he was lonely and couldn’t tend to things as he once had. He sold off the last of his livestock, and though his workload had lessened, there were still fences to fix, painting to do, and hay to mow. 

His daughter had talked with him several times about moving to an assisted living home in Rutland, but Will Stockwell was a proud, independent man, and he didn’t want anyone taking care of him. But on second thought, he wasn’t doing his best self-maintenance. When was the last time he had cooked himself a meal? How clean was the house? 

Maybe it was time, he thought. If anyone knew changing times, it should be he, who had lived on a farm for the last forty years. Didn’t the seasons change? People were born, grew up, and died. It seemed simple when he thought about it that way, but moving into a place with many city people seemed a bit much at this time.

His daughter Abagail would be coming from Boston in a week, so he knew he had to be ready for a discussion. She would surely bring it up. Easy for her with her fancy house and family living in the suburb with good jobs and healthy kids. Could she put herself in his shoes, or maybe boots were the better word? He doubted it, though he knew she cared and had his best interests at heart.

It was time for his nightly bourbon, and he reached for his half-gallon bottle of Jim Beam. He noticed that his nightly drink had turned into two or three, which concerned him. He had never been much of a drinker, but he grew tired of his thoughts, and at least the liquor took him in different directions. Old age wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, he thought as he filled his glass with ice.

When Abagail arrived, they drank black coffee in the sparse kitchen. Will waited for what he knew was coming. She began,

You can’t stay here, Dad. I think you know that. The place is falling apart, and you don’t look good. I know you don’t want to go, but it’s time.

Will looked at her, the daughter who had been so successful and made him and his late wife proud. He realized she was right. His arthritis was worse, and his mood was going downhill fast. He said,

OK, I’ll go in the spring when the fields bloom and the sun is out. When the stream by the fence runs fast, I’ll go. When I see the trout running, I’ll go. 

Abagail had tears in her eye, but she stood firm. She told him,

 I’ll make the arrangements.

After she had gone, he remembered how much fun he and Mary had had chasing butterflies by the stream in the spring. They had always had a connection to nature, what with their summer hikes and snowshoe journeys in the Vermont winters. He knew those days were gone now, but it certainly didn’t hurt to think about them. He laughed when he thought he might be able to see a tree or two in Rutland from the window of his assisted living place.

Getting the place ready to sell wasn’t easy, as there was a lot of work to do. His neighbor, Ben Stills, helped, as did some other people from the small town where he lived. He paid to paint the house and tidied up the grounds.

In the evenings, he drank bourbon, listened to the birds, and watched the sunset. Luciano Pavarotti accompanied him on these evening reveries, which weren’t unpleasant. 

And then it was May when it was time to pack up and go to Rutland. The farm had been sold, and Abagail was waiting in the car.

As the car pulled away from his rusted mailbox, Will looked at the house, barn, and rolling fields that had been his home for over a quarter of a century. He felt sad, but perhaps not as much as he thought he might be. Maybe Abagail was right. Perhaps it was time to make a change.

To Be Continued…