A father's love takes root
As one of eleven kids, my dad grew up gardening. And although the planting, weeding, and bug patrol was shared by many hands, as a kid he wasn’t thrilled at the chore. Later, once married and with kids of his own, he embraced the idea wholeheartedly. Each summer, he would till up our garden plot and, together with mom, make out a plan of what to sow. He measured out rows using his handy string and stake technique, planting beans, beets, onions and tomatoes with arrow-straight precision, in spite of the fact that he wouldn’t be there to tend the plants as they grew. He depended on my siblings and me to weed and water the garden, since his job took him away for weeks at a time during the summer months. We enjoyed the chore about as much as he had as a boy. But we were always as proud to show him what grew while he was away as he was to see the results when he came home.
As a man who didn’t finish high school, he learned firsthand the value of hard work and education. I still can picture his face beaming when we found out about the college scholarships I had received, knowing it would bring me that much closer to a college degree. And although we didn’t talk about it then, I think he knew that just like our summer gardens, he wouldn’t be around to see that plan come to fruition. But he supported me all the way, driving me to college, encouraging me to seize the opportunity. Not a confident writer, he sent brief, encouraging notes, and made regular phone calls to check in and let me know what the family was up to at home.
We all knew he was sick and I knew he was putting on a brave face for me. He didn’t want his worsening illness to get in the way of my studies. I didn’t realize just how bad it had gotten until I returned home after my first year away. I regret I only had a few weeks with him before he succumbed to his battle with cancer. And while he wasn’t there to see me graduate a few years later, I know he was proud of my accomplishment.
I know he’s with me each time I pass a major milestone, like my wedding or the birth of my kids. And I know he’s there each spring when I plan out my own garden, and try to cajole my kids into helping. I see now that my dad wasn’t just planting a garden all those years ago; he was planting the seeds that would help me grow into the person he somehow knew I could be. And even though he’s not here to see the harvests, I know he’s proud of what has grown so far.
My husband isn’t a vegetable gardener, he’s a yard work enthusiast. Friends and neighbors may tease him for his vocation, but applaud his efforts at creating a park-like setting. No kidding. One neighbor recently brought a photographer over to have their family photos taken here.
As you can imagine, our girls enjoy yard work as much as I enjoyed garden duty as a kid, but they help their dad just like I did. They don’t care so much about the neatly trimmed trees or the height of the freshly mown grass, as long the master groundskeeper makes time to play ball or toss a Frisbee with them when his ‘shift’ is over.
Whether it’s planting seeds in the garden or collecting fallen branches for a bonfire; it really doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do it together. This Father’s Day, remember that the most treasured gift you can share is being present with your kids.