Sunday, June 19, 2011

I lucked out in the dad department. Lucked out big time. My father was born to be a dad. Impossible to think of him without beings to care for and nurture. Now that the four of us are all grown up he nurtures the hell out of his grandkids. He's there for birthdays, holidays, in the audience at their recitals, soccer games and school plays. And he nurtures his garden; patient, steady, attentive, on hands and knees, weeding, watering, transplanting.

What do you say about a guy whose favorite book is Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss? Who would himself sit on an egg for months if he had to because that's just the kind of guy he is?

My father is gentle and funny and thoughtful and smart. He loves books, flowers, bridge. He loves to make bread and soup. He never met a carbohydrate he didn't like. He has slowed down with time, but the truth is he was never very fast. his virtues are more about endurance and patience than flash or speed. He lives from a deep well of generosity.

These days he can often be found in an armchair falling asleep behind the New York Times. A working-class kid who loved the Brooklyn Dodgers, he aspired to read his way through the library, beginning with A. He has always revered knowledge and learning. We had many many family outings to the Science Museum or to Art museums. HWhen my youngest brother got a PhD in Science, Dad was so proud he cried.

There were four of us and we each got different things from Dad according to our different personalities. With me he read and talked about books. he taught me cribbage. We went to Art museums together, and we stayed up on election eve together, filling in all the little boxes of electoral votes in the chart the Boston Globe provided. We hiked the White Mountains of New Hampshire together--he'd wake me at 5 in the morning and we'd drive for a couple of hours, stopping at a diner for breakfast and continuing on for a long day in the mountains.

He took my brothers to ball games, and attended their sporting events. He played games with all of us. He loves jigsaw puzzles and crosswords. He timed my sister's sprints with a stopwatch. He took them on their own hiking trips and museum visits. He has breakfast with my brothers once a month, drives two hours to my sister's house to hang with her kids. The grandchildren climb all over him. They call him "Papa." He is putty in his granddaughters' hands.

There aren't really words to describe this man. He is basically a column of potent love with some skin around it. The light shines very fiercely out of his aging face. He has had some hard times in his life, but nothing has dimmed or diminished that essential sweetness. There aren't really words, and there are no gifts that can be given to adequately say thank you for this. It is a gift that has to be passed on.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Okay, it's been forever since I've blogged, I know. Christopher mentioned it to me last night. And a nice reader wrote in inquiring if everything was okay.

Everything is okay. Everything is in process: bodies, manuscripts, work life.

Begin again. It's not quite nine in the morning, gray soft fog blanketing everything, the early birds done with their singing and C off to one of his last few days at work. I'm here with my cup of coffee working on the poetry manuscript again and working my way through what I swear to God will be the final revision of The Recruiter.

We put in a garden a few weeks ago--we were late doing it, but it has rained all the way into the month of June here, unseasonably late, so I think we'll get away with it. If I were more techno-savvy, I would post pictures of our raised beds with the chicken-wire fence around them to keep the feral cats from using it as a litter box. We have lettuce and kale and sunflowers, all started from seed, and a pepper plant and a tomato plant, started from seedlings. Every morning and evening C hangs over the fence and gazes at the plants. First they appeared as tiny green stars in the black dirt--pounds and pounds of topsoil, lugged in huge bags from Costco. Now they are recognizably becoming something. In a few weeks we'll be making our salads with them.

My father is an avid and patient gardener. I have been a notorious neglecter of plants. So many pots of lavender, purchased with high hopes, set out on the front porch and forgot to water. So many fragrant corpses, returned to the compost bin. I have managed to keep my potted ficus alive for twenty years. And grown a huge fig tree from a small sapling--just a stick really--in our front yard, and a big fruitful persimmon, also from a tiny start.

I guess the metaphor here is with creative projects. Some of them flourish, some of them don't. Some seeds stubbornly refuse to even poke their heads above the soil, and you are left staring at a pot full of empty dirt. others are eaten by unknown pests who come in the night and nibble holes in their beautiful leaves. Some seem to grow almost independent of me, like those fruit trees--stick them in the ground, give them a little water when they're young, and they give fruit for years and years. I don't know how it works, not really. I just know that this is what I do; I tend the work. I witness it, I futz with it, I obsess over it, I neglect it and come back to it--I always come back. And not everything that I tend grows. There have been some heartbreaking disappointments. But in the end, I trust that if I keep coming back, something bears fruit. And I want to be around to savor it.