Next Time

By: Dennis Bates

When my wife and I were much younger and her grandparents were still alive, we used to stop in and visit with them as often as we could. They lived on a farm in north central Iowa which they hadn’t personally farmed for years, My wife said she didn’t remember her grandfather ever farming it real actively, but they lived simple, basic lives and seemed quite comfortable, so it must have been active enough.

My wife still talks about visiting the farms of both her grandparents when she was very young, and she has very fond memories of just playing dress up with her  grandmother’s clothes or seeing the newest kittens mewing in the barn. She boasts that she was the only one who ever got to take the kitties into grandpa’s house. Grandpa let her, but he didn’t let everybody.

If you still have grandparents, or older parents, you are missing one of the richest blessings of life if you don’t visit with them. They are a storehouse of fascinating information about the “old days” and an endless source of your future memories. I wish now I had spent more time with my parents and grandparents as well as my wife’s. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t remember something about one of them, and the wonderful thing about memories is that they’re mostly good. The rough edges smooth out over time.

One of the things I remember about my wife’s grandfather is that we always talked about going fishing. He showed me his beat up old tackle box which had only a few hooks, some sinkers, and a couple of well worn lures in it on several occasions. The way he described his favorite fishing holes to me, I had to swat the mosquitoes from my neck even though they weren’t actually there. I could see the my pole bending and hear a fisherman’s three favorite words: “I’ve got one!”

Her grandfather and I even had good natured arguments about who caught the biggest fish the last time we imagined going. It was always a conversation I looked forward to.

But we never got around to actually going fishing together. One of us always had some reason why we couldn’t go this time. We couldn’t stay that long; we didn’t bring the right clothes; they haven’t been biting…there was always something. But when we left we always vowed: “Next time.” And sooner or later you run out of “next times.” Her grandfather died before we ever got to “next time.”

So when they had a farm sale of all the things my wife’s grandparents had accumulated in their life time, my wife bought the old iron bed that her father used as a child. Others bought a few antiques from the house. Still others bought glassware and somebody else bought the old car kept in the barn.

I bought the old, beat up tackle box, and I had to pay the princely sum of fifty cents for it, but it was worth a lot more than that to me. Besides the few rusty hooks, it was full of all the “next times” that never came because we were too busy to make just one of them a today. Since then I have used that tackle box by myself, but every time I open it, I wish that one of the next times inside could somehow be a now.

Now’s actually happen.

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