I am eight years old, sleeping in a camp bed on the landing of my house because it is too small for me to have a room of my own. Snuggled between my mum and dad I feel completely safe, enveloped in the certainty that whatever demons dwell in my dreams they cannot harm me because Mum and Dad are at my side.
A version of that security remained with me but was destroyed the day my father died. Mohammed Manzoor suffered a sudden, unexpected and fatal heart attack 20 years ago. He was 62 and I was three days shy of turning His death changed everything but the way it affects me today as a year-old man is different to the impact in the early years of his passing.
I first mourned his physical absence. I tried to hold on to memories of the sound of his voice, the things he used to say, how it felt to hold his hand and squeeze his feet. I would sit on the edge of his bed and cradle his feet on my lap and as I massaged them we would talk. When I think about my father, I remember the feel of his feet more than the sound of his voice.
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The years passed and I grew to realise that, with his death, I lost more than the man. My father arrived in Britain in the early s and for 11 years lived in Britain while his wife and children remained in Pakistan. The death of a parent is like the fire-bombing of a library containing unique manuscripts.
In place of those manuscripts, I have unreliable scraps of memory. With the passage of time the real person fades and their inherent complexity is flattened and simplified, leaving my father as either a saint or a tyrant depending on my frame of mind when the obvious truth is that he was neither, and both. Children want to make their parents proud. That is possibly especially true for the children of immigrants, we who were raised with the knowledge of the sacrifices made by our parents so we could have the lives we now enjoy.
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When my dad died, I lost the possibility of ever making him proud. I have many memories of him worrying about what I was doing with my life, but I missed out on the chance to reassure him that in the end things worked out. What is it like to hear your father say he is proud of you?
source I will never know. In my 20s and 30s I had a recurring nightmare. In it, I am at home and suddenly, out of nowhere, my father returns. Sometimes he is injured, as if returning from some war, other times he resembles a zombie, but the main thing was that he is alive. Then, around the time I was planning my wedding, the dream returned. My family were unhappy with my chosen bride and during those difficult times I wondered what my father would have made of what I was doing. I knew the man who died in would undoubtedly have been hostile to me marrying a white non-Muslim but everyone I knew whose parents were alive had seen them mellow with age, often becoming surprisingly tolerant.
Maybe that would have been my father — I had no way of knowing. One day, earlier this year, I was playing on a beach with my daughter, Laila, who was three at the time. She was drawing a circle in the sand. I thought that once I had my own family that I would miss my father less, but it has had the opposite effect. I feel his absence keenly because I know Laila does too — she knows she has three living grandparents and she knows there is another one who, in her mind, is with the angels.
Dad and mom set up everything as a Life Estate.
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In our case, this means the land was deeded to all of us kids and as our parents they retained life use of it. They agreed to pay all expenses and get all the income. For example, my father has since passed away, so right now my mom rents all the land to me and she pays taxes and gets the cash rent income. I am paying for land that is already deeded to me. Constant change and passing down responsibility has been the difference maker in our family.
Growing up, my father sent me all over the country to learn about cattle and agriculture. But, I understand why now. My dad did not want his son not understanding how every part of the operation worked at a young age. He would often bring up stories of our neighbors with sons who were 50 to 80 years old and had no clue when the father passed away how to run the farm. However, the key factor was that he was alive to provide the guidance and allow me to make the decisions.
He ultimately watched me make a lot of mistakes and achieve some successes.
However, there was hands-down no more co-signing of notes. It was my business to run, profits and losses. I built our farming operation to 7, acres of farmland and pastures for Ficke Cattle Company. I did this through relationship building and learning to adopt new practices to create more efficiencies. One of those practices was no-till. In , I started no-tilling.
For one growing season my dad would not talk to me about the crops that he was so dismayed about planting into the weeds and stalks. It turned out that first year of no-tilling was a very dry year. However, on my end, the no-till acres doubled in production over his tilled acres. Needless to say, dad was a no-till fan after that.
In , things dramatically changed again and needed to. I believe that when my back blew out that year, God was sending me a message about the future and what really matters about family farming. The farm boy was forced to re-think his life. During college, I was still managing all 7, acres. Then I decided to offer the farming opportunity to my nephews — Matt and Ryan. In turn, I took a position managing a medical clinic in Lincoln, Neb.
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Agriculture was always in my heart though and I have been blessed to see agriculture from so many points of view. Because of my experiences both on and off the farm I have been inspired to embark on a new journey. Today, I am back home running an approximately acre farm that I rent from my mom who continues to have life use. My goal is to restore and improve the soils back to the way God intended.
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A couple years ago we started implementing cover crops on our operation. We are also taking row-crop acres and putting them into season-long cover crop grazing scenarios and ensuring our native pastures are performing at their maximum potential. I am also doing consulting across the country on cattle and transitioning farms and ranches in a more holistic manner. My passion is taking what I have learned and helping others learn from my mistakes and successes along the way.
Most importantly, I feel like we are doing the right things again. We are enjoying the smell of sweet clover and alfalfa.