In our case, it was the chickens.
When I was a wee young thing, my Dad decided it would be fun for us kids to raise a few chickens. Having been born and raised on a farm with a love for animals he wanted to share that experience with us. I fondly remember browsing the chicken catalog (yep there is such a thing) trying to decide which breeds to raise. I, of course, wanted the funny looking ones with the wild hairdos that would lay colored eggs.
Many moons passed and eventually we kids grew up and moved on. Dad maintained the menagerie for a while but eventually gave it up. The barn was torn down. The barn lot returned to a real yard. But the memories of those crazy critters were ours forever.
In 2002 my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. Towards the end of that year it was starting to look like the uphill battle may be lost. There were lots of discussions about the good old days. Like the time Tom the turkey stayed outside protecting the flock during an ice storm and we had to dig him up and bring him in the house to thaw him out. Or the time the goats chased a visiting child and when she tried to jump the fence her shoelace caught and the next thing you know she was hanging upside down. Sounds horrible, but boy was it ever funny to watch.
We reminisced about how much we enjoyed sitting down and looking at that chicken catalog together. When we talked about it, there was a sparkle in Dad's eye that I hadn't seen in a long time. He said, "We should order a catalog." I thought, what the heck, lets order one. If the man wants a catalog by golly I'll get him one. So I did. The next time I visited he told me he'd been thinking about it a lot. He wanted to know if I had ordered it. I said yes, and I was surprised he hadn't already received it. We chatted a while and before I left I checked his mail. There was the catalog! Needless to say I extended my stay that night and we "picked out" all sorts of our favorite breeds.
By this point, he was no longer seeking treatments and was on hospice care. The next time I visited, he sheepishly said he was going to order some chickens. They would be delivered in early March. If you could have seen the look in his eyes, you would understand why there was no way in the world I or anyone else was going to tell him he couldn't have them. So in early March of 2003 the post office called and said "You have a package here that's peeping." With my uncle's and cousin's help, he kept the chicks in a plastic kiddie swimming pool right there in the living room next to his makeshift bed. They brought him great pleasure, as chicks are awfully cute and comical at that age.
Dad passed away March 24, 2003. It wasn't until then that we stood around scratching our heads saying, "Uh, what are we going to do with all these chickens?" Both my brother and I were living in the city at that time and we were pretty sure chickens weren't going to fly with the homeowners association (pun intended). Fortunately, my uncle graciously bailed us out and said he would keep them.
It's almost five years now. Five difficult years of living without him. My uncle is getting ready to retire. He and my aunt would like to do some traveling. We've settled in here at the farmhouse. It's time. Time for the chickens to come home to roost. And time to order a new chicken catalog so my son and I can pick out our favorites.