This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. First, I must apologize for the absence of a January broadcast of this series. I was busy saying goodbye. I’m not going away. But my house sold, I moved, and thus said goodbye to a couple of old friends last month– one of them the farm. It’s a long story. I bought the house with a mother and daughter that, like me, had fallen in love with the derelict farmhouse and thought it large enough to hold us all. We planned to restore, remodel and repair termite damage before moving in. Then the daughter and I were hit with complex and devastating health problems that took away the mother’s time and my energy, and the place lay fallow for some time. After my cancer surgery, seeking a quiet place to heal and not wanting to burden the two who were still struggling, I moved into the half-finished farmhouse, holed up, and started a small garden. The rest you’ve heard about in bits and pieces, scattered through many of my radio ramblings. So far, so good. But three people had bought the house; just one was living there. The house and land were too much for me alone. So when an opportunity presented itself, we sold, split the proceeds and went our ways. It was a lovely place, I did a lot of healing there, and I cherish its memory.
Oddly, though, I don’t miss it. I’ve moved now into a lovely country home, a rent house in the middle of a large acreage, that is warmer, tighter, newer, and guess what. When shingles blow off the roof, I don’t have to fix them. I don’t even have to care. I just call the landlord. I’ve owned my own home for decades, but I had no idea what a worry it had become. I may never go back to that. Perhaps I’m being hasty. But we’ll see.
To me, renting has always carried with it the connotation of living in town, and I really don’t want to. The Ozarks countryside better suits my spirit, and lets me keep growing a garden, which suits my soul. So in saying goodbye to one place that I often described as living on the edge of heaven, I’ve said hello to another. As I remarked to a friend recently, Heaven evidently has more edges than I thought.
The other goodbye was a more regular one, a goodbye to an old friend.
Lucille Johnston Faulkner of Cassville, over in Barry County, was the mother of my best friend from High School and a teacher in the Cassville School system, so many students remembered her and showed up with their own goodbyes. She married and gave up teaching, and she and husband Kenny owned and operated the vast and cavernous Johnston’s Variety and Hardware, on the square. After Kenny died, she married Luther Faulkner and they, too, had some sweet years together. All along the way, she quietly did good works, offered good advice, and helped a good many folks. They were there too for her send-off. After Luther’s death, she moved to be near her daughter and my friend, Judy Findlay. I went back east to see them last year and had a good long visit with her. As when I was growing up, we could talk about anything that might be on our minds and get into some very lively discussions. Of course, Judy and I by then were also old and set in our ways, and our ways had made us Democrats, which irked Lucille. “I just don’t know what got into you girls,” she said, shaking her head.
Just after the holidays I got a call from Judy, who said, “Mother’s failing, and I don’t think it will be long. I wonder if you could say something, or sing something, at the services. Mother so liked the Missouri Waltz.” So I sang it for her. and I wrote another song about her life, and what a light it was to others, and sang that as well. For she was a light to me in my growing up years. She took my naive and high-flown notions seriously, and questioned me about them, and forced me to think as well as dream. She expected something of me. And that made a difference in my life. So my goodbye was both owed and earned.
Like the house, I don’t mourn her passing. Just as I am pleased to offer the house’s new occupants my sincere good wishes, I was happy for the chance to honor Lucille. She will be missed. But she was 92. She had a good, long life, and came back at last to the Ozarks soil on which she and I and the rest of us over there got our start. And it occurs to me now that the weather as I left the farm was much like that at the cemetery up on the hill. Rain poured down as I drove away for the last time, just as it poured rain on us as we said our goodbyes to Lucille, diluting tears for some, and washing us clean of the pain of loss. Today it puts me in mind of how the spirit of these hills has always reached out to the heartsick and weary, always made a place of respite, a sweet place where we might say the helloes and goodbyes of our lives. What else would you expect from a place with so many edges of heaven. This is Marideth Sisco, offering this post from yet another edge of These Ozarks Hills.