I’ve been told the “firsts” after a loss are the toughest. The first holidays. The first birthdays. The first milestones. Each are reminders that our loved ones will no longer experience these memories with us.
We’ve made it through the first Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter. And truly, they weren’t as bad as I expected. Holidays weren’t that big of a deal to dad — and Christmas was just one day closer to leaving for January’s National Western Stock Show in Denver. Sure, he’d participate in the family activities. But then it was back to the barn.
We made it through Mother’s Day yesterday — grandma’s first without her son. It was definitely a different day for her.
What made it tougher was that it also marked six months since we said our last goodbye. But my almost 93-year-old grandma was a trooper as she always is. Like she told me once, “I really don’t have a choice. I have to be tough.” Truth.
Cattle shows were his highlights.
But we are now headed into the season I’ve dreaded most. Cattle show season. Dad didn’t call me out of the blue very often, unless we were headed to a show. Then, his calls were nonstop. “How’s that heifer looking? Can you send me another picture? Nolan getting his work done in the barn?”
Dad was so very proud of his grandkids. And he was especially proud that the next generation of “Couches” were entering the industry he loved the most. I’m so thankful he was able to see photos and videos of Nolan’s bred-and-owned bull and heifer for this year, before he passed. He was even looking at those photos and videos in his final days. Yes, was he proud.
I can hardly think about heading to the many shows on our schedule this year without a slight feeling of dread. Boy, I’m going to miss those phone calls coming in every three minutes until I answer the darn phone. (Nope, that’s not an exaggeration.) But that dread is also overshadowed by the many, many friends in the cattle business who are stepping up to fill in for the “Papaw” who can’t be in the barns with his grandkids.
They’re taking Nolan under their wings. They’re fulfilling their promise to my dad that our kids will always know who their Papaw was. Dad may not be there in body, but he will definitely be there in spirit. He will be there in the many, many friends who made a promise to their friend.
So if you see me in the stalls this summer and I’m having a “moment?” No, I’m not the crazy person in the barn. (Well, not any more than normal, anyway.) I’ll be fine. We all will be fine.
Like Caroline told me the other day, “We always love our family, and they always love us. Even after they pass away.”
That’s so true, sweet girl.
We will always love you, dad. And you will most definitely be there with us in every barn, show ring and long road trip this summer. Always.