Early one morning, about 18 years ago, my mom called me and said that I needed to come home. She stated that my dad had woken up and could not see anything at all. We lived approximately one and a half hours away, so my husband and I headed to the farm.
Dad was still farming at the time, and when he woke up at 5:00 a.m. to get ready to go to the barn, he could see absolutely nothing but black. As soon as we reached the farm, my husband and brother went to the barn and milked the cows and did the chores while mom and I got dad up and dressed and headed to see his doctor.
After doing a full assessment, they diagnosed my dad with Central Retinal Vein Occlusion, which affected the whole eye and unfortunately was not reversible. I should add that dad had lost his sight in his other eye when he was 40 year old due to glaucoma.
This diagnosis was very severe, since this meant dad would have to make some major changes in his life. My brother and husband offered to keep doing the chores and keep milking the cows for dad, but he said that he felt that would not be fair—that we needed to have a sale and sell the cows. But he asked if he could keep his black percheron horses and chickens.
We went ahead with dad's wishes and sold off all that he had asked and we kept the horses and chickens.
One of the other major things that dad had to give up, obviously, was his driver's license. Being legally blind meant that he would have to rely on someone to take him anywhere that he wanted to go, and giving up that independence was truly a challenge.
Dad handled all of this like a superstar, and we all had to learn to keep doors shut in the house and chairs pushed up to the table. Basically, nothing could be changed as he set out to learn how to get around on his own.
At that time, my husband and I had a four-year-old son and a brand new baby girl. My son and dad were already very close, because Jordan, our son, had spent most of his weekends and any time he could at the farm helping grandpa do chores.
One evening, just a few weeks into all of this chaos, dad asked if we would be willing to move back home so that Jordan could be with him all the time. Wow! This was the girl that was never going to move back home, and now I had my dad asking me to do just that.
This flag shows the love that has always been present in my family, as we stood together through all struggles, and even moving back home! Faith, Family, Farm!
My husband and I discussed it and knew we had no other option. My parents needed us. So we put our house up for sale, and my husband and kids moved home immediately to stay with dad while I stayed at the house and continued to work and try to get the house sold.
Thankfully, the house sold quickly and I was able to move in by April, so we started making plans to build a house on some of the land that mom and dad owned.
Jumping ahead to the late summer months, my husband found a job closer to home, and my daughter was going to my aunt's for day care. My son and dad were at home all day taking care of each other.
One day, having left work early and headed home, I was amazed at what I saw. In the picture below, you see my son actually hitching the big black team of work horses to a stone boat as they were getting ready to go for a ride.
I watched as this all took place and asked them where they were going. Dad explained that they had made a trail around the border of the field and they had been taking the horses around it for the past few weeks. Really? So I asked my dad how this all happened. He told me that Jordan was his eyes and would tell him what harness went on what horse and what bridle. Jordan would hitch them up and then jump on the seat with him and away they would go. This was the faith part for me, I guess. (Note that the baby girl, Mattie, who is sitting on dad's lap wanted to go with grandpa too.)
Now keep in mind, dad had owned these horses for years and they were very well trained. Their names were Prince and Dan, and they were one of the biggest blessings to our family during this time. Prince would actually snort and stop if he felt something was out of sorts as they were driving along. This would then alert dad to have Jordan check out whatever Prince was snorting at, and they would make whatever correction they needed.
One day, I was thinking about the path that dad and Jordan had made with the horses which they traveled around perhaps five to ten times per day. It came to me that even when dad was having a rough day, not being able to do too much, he was able to go out and drive his horses on this path. I thought about the fact that at the beginning of the path, dad might be sad and discouraged, but by the end he would be smiling and happy, feeling useful and full of satisfaction that he could complete this task.
Of course you have figured it out now. The Happy Trail Farm was born, and what a trail it has been. My kids learned how to drive going around the trail. We have ridden our horses around the trail. I use it to run on for exercise. We have snow shoed and walked around the one mile trail hundreds of times.
In every challenge, there is a blessing. Dad chose to take this challenge head on and continued driving that trail until two weeks before his death. It was his job—something he could control and thoroughly enjoy. It has truly brought our family so much joy!
Happy Trail Farms challenges you to look for the happy trail in your life and to soak up every ounce of blessing it can give you.
Check out the amazing flags at FlagsRUs that help you remember those special memories in your life.
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