Many people ask me how I do it. There isn’t a trick to running this farm. Just hard work and determination. That’s what it takes; un-wavering determination to run this place. If you know me, you know I’ve got it. My husband sometimes calls it bull headedness or stubbornness but whatever you call it, I got it. Don’t tell this fiery red head from the flatlands of southern Pa; she can’t do it because she will show you she can…thanks to my Grandparents.
That’s where it comes from; my Grandfather, William Retallick, known as Pap to me. He died when I was 11 years old. But in that short amount of time I had with him he left such a profound mark on me. Both of my Grandparents did really.
I spent weekends with him and my Nan. I can’t tell you about my Pap without telling you about my Nan. They went hand in hand. They were never far apart from each other. Their marriage was a marriage made in heaven, a true example of what love is.
My Nan could cook like nobody’s business. Nan would have me in the kitchen cooking with her. Never anything too fancy like French sauces or elaborate recipes. Just plain ole meat and potatoes, homemade applesauce, potato salad for a cookout, or yummy homemade pies for a special treat. Never following a recipe, she would say, “Just throw in a pinch of this and a dash of that”. It is never any wonder why I can’t make anything ever as wonderful as she did. I was talking to my Dad about it not too long ago. I told him that when and if I get to heaven, I am going to give her a big hug and kiss and ask her to make me one of her Sunday dinners. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Anyway, that is what Nan taught me…how to cook and of course, how to clean. My Nan was the cleanest person in the world. I think you could have eaten off of the toilet seat in her house. Think I am lying? Ask my family and friends who remember her. They will say two things when you mention Mabel Retallick’s name. “Boy could that lady cook”! and “Boy, wasn’t she a fanatic about keeping her house clean”? If she were alive and came for a visit, she would be disappointed in my house. She would walk through the door and ask me where the cleaning supplies were. Not that I am a hog or anything but I sure don’t measure up to her standards. I don’t know anyone alive today that does. I really don’t know how she did it.
My Pap was a giant to me. He was tall and strong. Tall in height but a deep inner strength that even as a small child I could recognize. We took walks, went fishing, fed the birds, watered the garden, picked tomatoes, played cards and checkers together. In those small moments together he taught me life lessons.
Good sportsmanship I’ll never forget. He never ever just let me win any game we played together. I’ll never forget playing checkers and asking him to let me win. He said no and asked me how I would ever get better at it if everyone just let me win. I threw the checkers and with that he said it would be the last time he would ever play checkers with me. He never did either. I learned two lessons…good sportsmanship and I have to work for something I want because in life very few things are given to us. (One side note…no one has ever beaten me at checkers since the age of 11 and that is not an exaggeration either.)
I remember complaining about mowing the grass or something small that he had asked me to do. He listened patiently to my complaints and excuses. He then looked at his watch and said, “In the time it took you to complain about it, you could have had it done already. If you put ½ the energy into completing your job as you do trying to get out of it, you will go far in life.” I learned…quit complaining because nobody is listening or even cares and hard work is far more productive than laziness.
The biggest gift he gave me was determination. With the small and quit way he said, “You can be anything you want to be as long as you are determined”. I took it literally. That determination has gotten me through my life.
One other thing they gave me. Pap would say it doesn’t matter if you are a faithful church goer. What matters is if you know how to be a Christian the other 6 days of the week. After he passed away, I would hear my Nan pray for him every night when she said her prayers. They gave me faith and I know that I will never walk alone in this world.
I may never have a lot of money in my bank account or lose those extra pounds. I have more gray hair and wrinkles than I wish I did. I may be a past city dweller flatlander who most locals here in rural Tioga county find comical. But I’ll take my blue ribbons from the county fair or small soap business that I built up from nothing as steps in the right direction.
So as I fumble around here at the farm with some sneering, pointing their fingers, and laughing, I know I’ve got something they don’t. The words and wisdoms of my long since passed away grandparents and their faith in God to carry me through the hard times.
Yep, I am a flatlander but a determined flatlander…go ahead and laugh…just get out of my way while you’re doing it.