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The Last Windrow: Welcomed house guests

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Those of my generation who grew up in the countryside can attest to the value of our paternal and maternal aunts and uncles. I had the privilege of welcoming my Aunt Vera to our home last week on her annual sojourn to visit my mother, her sister, and my dad, her brother-in-law.

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Aunt Vera and I share a certain common bond when it comes to family. She is the oldest of nine children and I am the oldest of all the grandchildren on my mother's side of the family. Being born first comes with a certain amount of responsibility. Somehow we are expected to lead or set an example to those who come after. I've failed in this responsibility many times, but I understand the responsibility, and I know that Aunt Vera shares those same feelings.

Aunt Vera has made this trip for many years, and it was a pleasure to have her reside in our home for a week. I always make a point of posing questions to her, being the oldest of my aunts and uncles on my mother's side of the family, about my mother's growing up years in those Loess hills of northwestern Iowa. Fortunately for me, Aunt Vera has a mind that has retained details from her past, and we share a joy of rediscovering those times and places every time she visits.

I learned that both she and my mother were born in my great uncle's house, where my grandparents resided before they were able to purchase a farm. Uncle Jack and Uncle Tom had prospered to some degree during WWI and raised a registered herd of Hereford cattle. They helped other members of the family get established and asked nothing in return.

Aunt Vera taught country schools in many Iowa and Nebraska rural areas over the years. She traveled to those schools by foot, by buggy, by train and finally by automobile. She told me how appreciative the rural communities were when she came to a school. There were no contracts, no documents, no federal constraints to deal with in those days. If you had a teaching certificate, you were in if you passed your county achievement tests. She told me she never had a school that she did not hate to leave after her tenure.

The aunts and uncles I grew up among were like steering wheels to me. I may not have listened to the words of wisdom from my parents, but for some reason I listened to my aunts and uncles. They seemed a disinterested third party and were sometime abrupt in their advice, but I seemed to absorb those thoughts easier that those taught to me closer to home.

The last week with Aunt Vera in our home was a life treat. We talked about the old times, the current times and the future. Those of us who have shared those experiences with our aunts and uncles should mark them down as irreplaceable. Those experiences are priceless and they go way too fast. I can't wait for her to visit again!

See you next time. Okay?

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