Kicked By The Goat Shidu
I went to a local farm yesterday in Trenton, SC, investigating intentional communities. We paid for a brief tour and enjoyed it tremendously. I’ve always wanted a farm, and have had a small one in the past when I was home schooling my son. On the small farm I had we raised chickens, goats, ducks, with a half an acre vegetable garden where I grew corn, squash, tomatoes, and beans, and there was also a large pond for fishing.
Looking back on our lives, as we are prone to do, that time on the farm was in many ways idyllic. I was with my son all day, every day, and it was a time that was the inspiration behind the book Kicking The Goat Silly and if you read the book you know there were some dark times, but overall I miss the farm and I really miss my son.
Yesterday, part of our tour included feeding the animals on the farm. The horses were beautiful, but since they are bigger than me I didn’t step into their pasture, the sheep were sweet, and of course, I loved the ducks and chickens, but the goats got to me. I learned how to milk a goat, which is something I was happy and grateful to experience, but the large male goat, with the huge horns, awoke something inside of me. I’ve heard the term olfactory memory since my friend, a psychology major, introduced me to it about thirty years ago, and I’ve experienced many over the years, scents reminding of elementary school or my grandparents kitchen, but that damned goat opened a door of memories that left me crying for hours.
I suppose I haven’t really smelled a goat or a true barnyard since our lives changes and my son and I moved off the farm. He was ripe into adolescence and the often-accompanying rebellion when we moved, and I suppose that time on the farm was the last calm place before he died a few years later.
When I saw the goat, a large Nubian-mix goat, very reminiscent of my own goat, Silly, I wanted to go to the pen immediately. The lady giving the tour took me through the maze of gates and into the pen. As I scratched between his horns, smelling the musky odor, I was transported to a different time. I remembered trying to wash the musky scent out of my son’s clothes as he often played with and wrestled with our goats, growing stronger after many brain surgeries and infections, and I could never quite get the smell out of his clothes, or the cloth-covered chairs where he’d sit to play video games. The musky smelling furniture, the clothes, and my son are all long gone, but for just a moment, with the scent, it was as though time had reversed and I was there again.
I didn’t wash my hands for a long time, and I am an avid hand washer, because I didn’t want to lose the scent, the transformation through time, but life moves forward and those days are gone, and are never to be returned to unless I can find someone with a time machine. Who knew a goat could trip your world up so desperately? I should have known, but I was caught unaware as the scent on my clothes and hands kept reminding me of days long gone.
I lamented the fact that my son was dead, I cried over the fact that I tried to be smart and didn’t have more babies, I snuffled over the fact that I will never have grandchildren, and am soon looking into my fifties. I worried over being alone with no kids stopping by and checking in or just calling to chat. I wrapped myself in a quilt and cried like a baby. I should have known the power of a goat, having written Kicking The Goat Silly, but I was caught helplessly unaware as I imagine a deer feels when the headlight shine on him.
Shidu is the word for the childless parent; thanks to a very good friend I now know this word, and I am totally grateful for discovering there are other folks struggling under the weight of being childless. We are not like others who have never had a child, we had a child, but for one reason or another, we are now childless. I miss my son, and wonder how he would be as a man as his 31st birthday approaches.
My brothers have children and grandchildren now, and I can’t help but wonder how my life would be different if my son had lived. I was smart about the bearing children thing, I didn’t have another because I knew the weight of that rest solely on my shoulders, but now, looking back, I declare myself a fool. I listened to the world and decided pets were a cautious attempt at living, and bearing more children made me weak. Now, as I view my life going into my fifties with no children, and although I have some awesome nieces and nephews, I know I made a grave mistake. I tried to be wise, and smart, and took my birth control pills, but life has shown me that I should have procreated.
I try not to jealous of families, but I have to admit it hurts, the stupid goat reminded me of how it hurts, and I was pleased to see that people like me have a name, if not much recognition on Mother’s and Father’s Day. A noble laureate, Mo Yan, has spoken out for a need to support Shidu parents, and coming from China, with their one child law it makes sense that there is a need for support. I am just grateful that there is a name, because I have long lamented the rules in the Bible that widows and orphans should be taken care of, but we who tried, loved, and lost have no mention.
So here’s to the nameless goat I met yesterday, I thank him for reminding me, and I thank him for his gentle way and the musk on my skin. Although olfactory memories can leave you crying like a baby, I am grateful for the heartbreaking memories, tears, and snuffling like a little kid, at least it’s a reminder that I’m still alive and that is a good thing.