Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Dad's Wisdom Grows on You

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Dad's Wisdom Grows on You

Article excerpt

"Come on," my dad would say, "let's do some gardening." It wasn't a question, but a demand - and I wasn't exempt, no matter if I said, "Dad, I'm playing baseball." Or football, soccer, or going sailing.

It was a chore.

I resented it.

It was my dad's garden, for his enjoyment, to be shared with my mom and their friends at cocktail parties and barbecues.

In Chicago's deep humidity, we'd sweat through our T-shirts and shorts, dad in a Chicago Symphony cap, me in my beat-up Cubs hat. My dad's garden was a kaleidoscope of color: pink and white fuchsias hanging from above; pansies in one bed that would be replaced once they got leggy; geraniums in pots, bright red and white, with fuzzy variegated foliage that I combed with my hand for scent; foxgloves and hollyhocks towering overhead; and dozens of roses in a bed that needed constant attention. "Roses are the greediest flower of all," dad told me. "They need sun, water, drainage, perfect soil, no clay."

"Then why have them?" I'd ask.

He'd lean down over a perfect blossom, plant his nose, close his eyes, and inhale. Then motion for me to do the same.

I wasn't impressed. I was disgruntled.

My father's science background informed his gardening. We double Dutch dug the rose bed, burying three feet of pebble beneath three feet of perfectly aerated soil. We embedded metallic dividers into various areas of the main garden so fertilizers wouldn't mix.

By the time I'd arrive at my sports game, covered from head to foot in dirt, still eager to play, my buddies would be ready for Perenti's, the five-and-dime. We'd lope over to buy baseball cards and pop Bazooka gum in our mouths. "Your dad and his garden," my friends would sigh.

"I'll never have a garden," I'd tell them. "Ever. That's a promise."

When I returned home, dad would call me over, "Come here. Let's look at the fruit of our labor." We'd rinse off peaches and lean over the kitchen sink, looking out the big window facing the garden. The peach juice would run over our faces and fingers, and we'd silently admire the flowers as they lit up in late-day light.

Years later, after my wife and I bought a house in the country, I stared out over our kitchen sink at a lawn that crept up to our stone walls. …

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