Home is where the heart is

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen
  • 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing/Public Affairs
The saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words." For me, this adage holds especially true when I look at one specific picture.

Since I saw it last October and every time I look at it since, I reminisce about the place I left in order to serve my country and about the memories I hold from there. It's amazing and thought-provoking how one place has helped cultivate all the things that make me the man I am today - and how one image can release so many memories from a dark, tucked-away corner and bring them to renewed clarity.

It's almost haunting at first, but really it's just a picture of an empty shed. The once-cluttered shelves full of tools are now covered with just a thick layer of dust, and where the cars had resided are now home to just a few blotchy, faded oil stains on the concrete floor.

Nestled between three cornfields on a 200-acre farm in Iowa, this 45-by-60 foot wooden shed had, like a mother to her child, sheltered the nuts and bolts, the tools, and the vehicles my family used to get their work done for 37 years.

For almost 13 years the farm was my favorite place in the world, and even though I never lived there, it's still the place I call home -- though I never really told anyone that.

From the time I was seven or eight years old I spent entire summers there with my grandparents and my cousin, who's five years my senior. To pass the time, we would play trading card games, X-box, baseball, swim in the river, or build random things out of scrap pieces of wood.

It was on the farm where my cousin eventually sparked my interest in baseball, which would play a major part in my life and bring me so much happiness. Even though I wasn't very good at first - a point made after I missed the ball with my glove and caught it with my face instead - he continued to coach me and grow my love for the game. 

As my interest in the game peaked, it wasn't uncommon for my grandparents to find us practicing, out between the old shed by the road and the tire swing next to the old gnarled apple tree. Those summers helped set the foundation of my skills and eventually led me to an exceptional middle and high school career pitching 85 mph fastballs.

My knowledge and love for the game, as with just about everything else I know how to do, I learned at the farm. I learned how to drive, fix cars, wood work, lay concrete, mow lawns, shoot guns, paint, skateboard, and work - all at the farm. 

But those are just the physical things I learned on the farm. While these physical skills and strengths paid dividends in my life, like when I helped build the addition on my great-grandmother's house, ultimately it was the mental strength I learned there that impacted my life the most, such as when my great-grandpa's legs had to be amputated.

These mental abilities helped me know the difference between right and wrong, stay out of trouble, and overcome adversity. These skills, along with the support of my family, helped me overcome my lingering feeling of regret for not spending more time with my great- grandpa before he died, and gave me the courage to stop being scared and stand up to my stepfather when he was abusing my mother. 

Essentially, it was on the farm where I learned how to be the man I am today. The time spent with my grandpa, grandma, and my father while on the farm or on the 45 minute drive to and from is where I learned the morals, values, dedication, and hard work ethic that would help guide me to serve this great country.

When the time came and my grandparents sold the farm, the pain was so sudden, as if I had been given a right hook to the gut. Bam! It hit me hard.

There had been talk of selling the farm for a long time, but I never thought it would actually happen.

When I first got the news we sold it, I didn't know how to take it. After seeing that picture it all sunk in; the emotions, the memories, and the realization that I'd never be able to return to the one stable home I've ever had in my life.

No longer will I be able to spend my holidays there, fish in the river, climb the old, gnarled apple tree, or build more additions to the farm. No longer will I be able to just sit out on the hill in solitude when I'm stressed out.

As the holidays approach I hope that, even without the farm, they will still feel the same.

My last chance to say goodbye to the farm will serve as another important live event for me. The news owners of the property have agreed to let my family use it one last time during my wedding this upcoming summer.

Even though I may not be able to return to the farm in the future, I will forever call it my home. With the start of my new family, I hope to find a home as impactful for my children as the farm was for me.