I have this unkempt circle of flower “stuff” in my front yard. There was a circle of stones, perennials and overgrown grass that formed what was, at one time, a cute little garden around our protruding water pipe. I, being the dreamer of gardens yet to come, have fantasized about what this little plot of ground could be.
I thought, if I remove the stones, mulch the grass, and put up a little white fence, maybe it would improve the look of it, you know? Understand I know very little about gardening. Like, I have these visions of grandeur, but my actual ability falls far behind my ideal. So a couple of days ago, I thought … hmmm. I could dig up the rocks, fill in the holes, and maybe put some herb boxes out around it like a faux fence.
When my dad moved in, he had a couple of odd wooden boxes he had used for storage. I asked him his plans for them, and he said to use them for whatever. So, I drilled some drainage holes, filled them with top soil, and planted some herbs. I started the project, and it wasn’t long before Dad showed up.
“What’cha doing?” he asked, strolling out of the house, baseball cap in place.
“Just planning on digging these rocks up,” I tell him, starting to leverage them out with my shovel. Dad watched for a minutes, then came over.
“Give me that thing, you’re going to hurt yourself.” I obliged, more because it’s easier to let him have his way sometime, I’m learning. Plus, I figured it would make him feel useful.
He surprised me. He dug those rocks out, and I picked them up and tossed them into the back of my SUV to use around the fire ring in the back yard. A couple were too big … we had to call in my teenage son (the young buck, as Dad calls him). But before I knew it, the rocks were gone and I began hauling dirt from last summer’s pool project to fill it in.
As I did, Dad went behind me, tamping the dirt down, leveling it with his shoe.
“There’s a lot of weeds here, don’t you think?”
I agreed. I told him I was going to mulch it down, and he nodded. “That’ll be good,” he said, bending down and pulling out some of the grass. He stood up, all six-foot two of him. looking skinny and old and grey. But he looked at me, and smiled. “This will be nice,” he said. I smiled, and agreed. I told him my herb plans, and he volunteered to help me make the boxes.
Tonight, I was outside watering my two existing boxes. I showed Dad the peas in the backyard, took him around to see if any strawberries survived my lack of encouragement from last summer, then we landed by the new project in the front yard. “You’re gonna need at least four boxes,” he said.
“I don’t know, I think three will be good.” He disagreed. We went round and round for a few minutes, and he finally measured, dug around, and decided that if we made the new boxes a big longer, we could alternate long-short, and have a “pretty nice looking spot.”
I watched him, while he figured it all out. When he first moved in, I was pretty sure he was losing his mind. He would repeat himself frequently. He would wander, and do things that were totally … odd. I tried to tell myself he was lonely. He needed people, and needed something to do. Tonight, he was determined. accurate in his measurement (he actually relented and decided three would be better than four boxes), and laughed frequently as we talked about the project. He declined but enjoyed me trying to get him to taste my “almost wild” chives. He bent down, and pulled more grass.
“That looks better already,” he said. “It would only take me about 1/2 an hour to pull this, you know?” He kept pulling.
I sighed. “That would be great, Dad,” I told him. I’m still going to mulch, but it will look better without the long grass.
Before long, he was bored with that. “Tell that boy to grab a golf club. I want to see if he can hit that ball like I think he can.”
My dad’s a long time golfer. He tried with me, to get me to enjoy the game. But golf is one of those games that you only get everything right 1 in a 100 times. At least, it feels like that. I’ve never pushed any of my kids that way. But Dad was insistent, and while E had no desire (and rolled his eyes at me multiple times), he tried. Dad tried to help him. I showed him what I knew.
It’s been years since I’d done that. I remembered it all, like it was me standing there with the club. I remember the feeling, the technique, the feeling of my dad standing over me, telling me what I was doing right and wrong. Ethan tried. And before long, he was hitting it way out in the softball field.
Before I knew it, he was running out, gather in the golf balls, and hitting them again. And again. I went inside, and the next thing I knew … he had broken his first golf club (hitting, not throwing it against a tree like most golfers). He was grinning … proud … something he didn’t even want to do dug a little into his heart.
Having my dad here hasn’t been without challenge. We’re all still learning to figure out the rhythm of life and how things can be … should be … might be. I think a lot about how to balance the needs of my husband, my kids, my dad … my life.
But tonight … tonight was one of those times that I was glad he was here. Giving him purpose again … giving him projects that help him feel a part of the family … seeing him pass on his love to his grandson… it was a good night.