Monday, June 22, 2009

Dad’s Day

Sigh. Dad wasn’t here for Father’s Day this year, and we got home too late to call him. He and Mom are out of town this week visiting her sister, and while Sue had a few things to do at work in Columbia this afternoon, I drove over to their house to check on it.

While I was there I rolled up my pants legs, kicked off my Birkenstocks, and unfurled the garden hoses. It’s been hot and humid here, and Mom and Dad’s plants looked like they could use a drink.

There is nothing like standing barefoot in the yard of the house where you grew up, where your parents’ hands (as well as your own) have tended the lawn, planted trees, bushes, flowers . . . everything.


Their landscaping isn’t a breathtaking showplace or opulent display of knockout plants fresh from the garden store. But it is beautiful and comfortable.

Still barefoot, I walked through the grass to water in back and started to feel philosophical. I felt so much at home.

The sycamore tree is the same age as me. The honeysuckle on the fence, the sweetgum, the walnut tree are older than me. The flower bed in back planted with bright pink impatiens and cheery begonias, and ferns, and columbines. The quince bush, the daylilies. My dad’s taken care of most of these for forty years.

Images of my dad working in the yard flooded my mind. When I was a little girl; hot days, working without his shirt, his back wet with sweat. Dad in an old flannel shirt, raking leaves and picking up walnuts in fall. Dad showing me how to do stuff. How to get my hands dirty. How to make a hanging basket of airplane plants and wandering-jews. How to knock the dirt off of a weed’s roots before tossing the weed into the discard pile. How to plant annuals with a trowel. How to mow the grass. How to arrange rocks into a border for a flower bed.

Yes, my mom taught me a lot of this stuff, too, but much of the backyard’s design and labor has been my dad’s.

And where did he get it? From his folks; from Grandma.

And when that thought occurred to me, I felt strongly the connection that has come to me, to all us grandchildren of Edna, from our fathers. Like the magic of genetic recombination, the gardening vision and techniques are altered and modified with every generation, but like the life force itself, the urge to garden, to comprehend and care for and love a spot of earth, is an instinct that continues unaltered in purity and intensity.

And I felt a little blue that I wasn’t able to fix a dinner for my dad today, but I’ll just use this extra time to decide how I want to fix his belated Father’s Day salmon dinner. Salmon’s his favorite.

I’m so glad I have a Dad I appreciate, admire, like, and love.

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