These are memories that have made a lasting impression on me:
- When you drove me around during my summer visits in your white company car with burgundy seats. You would point out crops and trees and ask me what they were. You’d pull off on dirt roads and walk me out in the middle of a field to observe the health of crops or to let me see and feel cotton before it was picked. I can still remember the smell of your car—musty with crop soil and dry heat—as we rode around on those trips, which I loved.
- When you would take me to Dunbar Foods and introduce me to all of your co-workers. Especially the older Black and Latino men. I was rarely introduced to people of color in Iowa (which is 95% white), or at least older people of color. I remember them being warm and friendly. I’m sure I romanticized them, as having always been old, friendly, and probably wise; the same way people used to romanticize Indian chiefs.
- When you would take me out to your garden and explain about seasons, how tomatoes and sweet potatoes grew, and how to rotate the garden. Most of this I did not retain, but I loved that you kept such an amazing garden for three decades, and I always though I’d love to grow one myself someday. The vegetables we’d pick and bring back to cook were the best I’d eaten and I’d always go back to Iowa and tell friends about how good they were.
- When you took me to Civil War cemeteries, had me lay in front of a tombstone, or would take me to the church cemetery where my relatives were buried. I knew about the idea of death from television, but you were the first person to introduce me to death in real life. You were the first to make me realize that I, too, would take a dirt nap one day. You also managed to do that without scaring me or causing me anxiety. I’ve always been accepting, even excited, of the possibilities (or lack of) that go along with death.
- You sitting in front of your computer in the evening, researching old photos and documents about family history and the civil war era. You worked at lifelong hobbies and interests that added value to your life and to many more besides yourself.