Yes, I went to the state fair again this year. I thought about it for a long time: Did I want to go back to work at the 4-H Encampment building this year? How would I feel going by myself after Jim and I had always gone together? We never missed a year -- this would have been Jim's 45th year. I finally decided I should go. I figured I'd kick myself later if I didn't go.
We had developed strong friendships through the years with the other people working at the dorm year after year, and the 4-H families also staying year after year. In fact, the 4-H'ers coming now are grandchildren of 4-H'ers that stayed when we started working back in 1966. The encampment building was built in 1934 by WPA workers. It has an interesting history. I'll tell you about it sometime.
I received many hugs and comforting words of sympathy; they all missed Jim and expressed their feelings to me. I was given a precious gift -- pictures taken of us since 2002 thru 2008 assembled on scrapbook sheets, touching memories of friendships made.
Jim is gone, but life goes on. The encampment building was ready to welcome its overnight guests, the fair was up and going at full speed, following the schedule day-by-day, hour-by-hour -- a fast-moving, well organized machine.
I had mixed feelings. I felt sad Jim couldn't see or hear the loud excitement we shared. I felt so alone, seeing the exhibits, walking thru the buildings watching demonstrations and stopping for a bit by myself. When I walked past the Huchinson Clinic booth where Jim always got his PSA test, I got a lump in my throat.
Let me tell you about more positive things I did. I worked 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., welcoming kids and their families, checking them in, giving them their bed tag and explaining the rules. It always amazes me how far they come. Many travel from the far west corners or far eastern parts of Kansas. Just spread out the road map and see the distance and time required to be part of state fair, exhibiting, judging and enjoyed the climax of the 4-H year.
Here is an example of what I did after I was off for the day. Sometimes I'd take a nap in the motorhome or take my walker out on the fair grounds. Jim and I had purchased walkers last year. It's easier to walk distances with one, and it has a seat.
One hot afternoon I was headed for the Sunflower Building. I wheeled into the shade of a huge bull, sat and visited with a lady named Gladys. There also was a huge holstein cow, as large as the big refrigerated truck, at the spot with people giving out free cups of ice cream with a small wooden spoon to eat it with. Can you imagine this truck pulling this huge cow down the highway from Hutchinson to the state of Pennsylvania?
I came home with a sack of free goodies, pens, note pads, emery boards and countless pamphlets. I did buy a few things: coasters for the car drink holder, bottle of Shu-Nu, a pretty necklace and a book. The book, "Come to the Fair," by Carol Murray has poems inside that are light, heartfelt verses showing love for the fair.
Of course, I had to try some of the interesting foods offered; stuffed cucumbers were delicious and the baked sweet potatoes (large enough for 3 people) were big but good. I always have an ice cream cone from under the grandstand, had a walking taco and a nacho smothered with toppings that were dripping off the side.
On a hot afternoon walk, an ice cold limeade really hit the spot.
When I was tired and felt lonely, I just sat and watched the people parade. People watching is never boring. Isn't it amazing how everyone is different. The Lord has done an unbelievable job making us all different individuals.
When I am at the fair, I can just put out of my mind things that need to be done at home. When I came home, it all came back, wham! The mail, the newspapers, check obits -- catch up time.
I'm glad I went to the fair. It was a big step into this new life I am now living, a life without Jim but his memory is with me every move I make.
The last verse in one of the poems titled "Home Again, Home Again" somehow fits:
"Out of the present and into the past, the years go by, the years go fast.
"But love survives and touches lives with memories that last and last."
Opal Flinn, Ellis, is a member of the Generations Advisory Group.