remember when we sat in the hay room feeding the newborn goats from a bottle? evan was tugging on the floppy ears of a bunny and i was probably chasing some poor chicken. our mothers, your daughters, were there sitting on hay bales listening to you instruct your grandchildren on the proper care of baby animals. i’m certain that after the baby goat was satisfactorily fed you put it back in the yard w the rest of the goats and led us over to the old cows to feed them alfalfa cubes. or maybe we dragged you out there. either way, you were always willing to spend time down at the barn with us.
your goats, at one point, were many. and you would spend peaceful hours feeding them and talking to them. you had a name for each and every one of those creatures and it wasn’t until after the strokes that you ever forgot how to address them individually. they were your kids (pun partially intended), especially after your three children had grown up and had children of their own.
and oh how we, your grandchildren, loved these goats. afternoons were spent chasing them about, petting them, tugging on their horns, and then letting them nibble treats out of our hand. we loved watching them dance and prance and kick about, frolicking about on their logs and wood structures. some were extremely friendly and we adopted those ones quickly as our favorites; they’d nuzzle us and pull at our pant legs. the other ones, shy and nervous of us at first, seemed to learn to trust and would soon follow at a safe distance, hiding behind the haunches of the more confident goats–learning about us as we were learning about them–until they had figured us out and would soon join the ranks of the congenial goats who knew they’d get more treats if they let us pet and tug and play. and if we were lucky we’d be visiting you during springtime, often easter break, where more than likely kids would be born and we could watch it happen and help tend to them and, the best part, name them. you let your goats be our goats.
and it wasn’t just the welch kids, and the lantz kids, and the driver kids that adored these goats, the whole neighborhood (at least as far as we knew) loved them too. families with children were daily stopping by to say hello to dr. lantz and visit with the goats. i always felt extreme pride that that was my grandfather and those were his goats. you got to know, not only much of mobley road bc of your barnyard friends, but most of van dyke farms too. incredible, really.
grandma lovingly supported the barn and the goats the way–i’ve found now being married myself–that you learn to support, or tolerate or just simply put up with, your lovers seemingly useless hobbies or peculiar interests. it didn’t always make sense and there wasn’t any real practical point to you raising animals, especially goats. sometimes the chickens’ eggs were eaten but no goats’ milk was consumed or flesh put on spits for celebrations. they were just your pets. dirty and expensive pets.
but they weren’t just pets and there was something quite practical about them. bc for most of your time with them those pets were your friends. and then when grandma died they were your companions and your support system. they helped you grieve. and then when you kept falling ill they were your therapy and the medicine that you needed to stay as strong and healthy as you could possibly be. without them, i don’t think these last seven and a half years would have been as bearable for you or allowed you to be as independent as you have been.
my mother told me of the last time you made it out to the barn. they walked you out there, taking breaks along the way, and sat you in a chair facing the large, lush goat yard. for some reason, when she told me of this, i imagined a wool blanket over your lap. but this was in florida where there is seldom a need for a wool blanket in the middle of the day and you are not teddy roosevelt. either way, i also imagined the moment and how you must have felt: proud of your animals and your vast land and your beautiful home; happy at what sort of passion and culture your goats helped you cultivate and share w your neighbors, your neighborhood, and your grandchildren; saddened at your inability to care for and muck around with them anymore in your galoshes and your fisherman’s hat; and ready to be with grandma again in whatever form that looks like on the other mysterious side.
I’d like to imagine that involves her on the steps of heaven, w a cup of coffee, laughing while she watches you trying to wrangle all your old goats that made it there before you.
i love you, grandpa.