Today my Pops turns sixty-four. This is a shout-out to one of the best men in the world…
Some people are artistic with paints. Others express their creativity with wires and beads, twisting raw materials into art for our bodies. Some people have a flair for words, painting pictures with language. My dad channels universal beauty with simple garden tools and his own two hands.
Until several years ago, it never occurred to me that creating gardens was an art. Now I think that gardening is one of the greatest, most primal art forms. Daddy is spectacular at this. He has an eye for flowing lines, and a gorgeous sense of color distribution. He paints rainbows in gardens. Roses come up orange, pink, red, peach, and white, set off by dark, glossy leaves, and rich, brown earth. He orders pounds of worms, and sets them free in the gardens, where they churn up the earth and make mulch for the plants. He has even been known to order crates of ladybugs, setting them free to eat the aphids that persistently wreak havoc on the flowers.
His vegetable gardens are delicious; green and red peppers, aromatic tomatoes, fuzzy-stemmed kale, raw carrots that trail dirt and transparent roots when you pull them up. He planted a thick strip of Oriental peonies at the end of one of his vegetable gardens, adding pink flair to the terraces, and rich perfume to the air. He prunes, and he plants, and he plucks, and he grows, and all around him, life comes to life, suffusing our own lives with beauty.
Daddy also has a wicked sense of humor. It is absolutely inappropriate, and always administered at the most inopportune times, but this makes his sly comments that much more hilarious. My mother always shrieks and swats him, but she can’t stop laughing, either. My sister and brother got his humor as well, and they all keep me in stitches whenever we are together. I can feel laughter in my chest right now, just thinking about their humor.
He is the most generous soul I know. He has always wanted to be rich so that he can give all of his money away. Even when he wasn’t rich, he gave his money away, usually to us kids, so that we could travel, or buy new school clothes every autumn, or have bikes, or rollerblades, or boxed Rice Krispie treats three times a week. It has often occurred to me that my life has been beautifully shaped by Daddy’s generosity, because if it wasn’t for the continual flow of cash into my bank accounts when I was traveling as a younger woman, I never would have traveled to France, or Switzerland, or Thailand, where I learned meditation. Meditation lead to writing, and now my passion for writing is full-blown, satisfying, and integral to my life. Thank you, Daddy, for giving me every opportunity to see the world, and as such, shaping my life a way that feels right.
I remember one time when I was in college, Daddy drove out to Seattle to take me grocery shopping. He often did that. One of my friends was with me on that occasion, and he insisted on buying her groceries too. She refused and refused, embarrassed, but he finally coerced her into letting him do it. We both went home with bags and bags of food, and ate well for at least a week 😉
I remember another time when I was a young girl. The whole family was in the car together, driving to a restaurant. The night was cold and windy, and rain slashed the windshield. As we drove down this long, winding road, a drenched woman came into the headlights. She had a thin scarf covering her head, meager protection from the torrential downpour. As we got closer, we saw that she had a child with her. Our car was full, but Daddy insisted that we pull over. So we did, and we took the woman and her child all the way to their destination, water dripping down their faces, but relief palpable in their voices and the way they relaxed against the seats.
Daddy can seem pretty hard to those who don’t know him, but get him around a baby or an animal, and he completely melts. Innocent little creatures affect him instantly, and his normally serious face breaks into a heart-warming smile. He starts baby-talking and cooing, and the love is reciprocal. Puppies start wiggling their butts, and babies crack smiles. One little boy who used to take refuge at my parent’s house once called Daddy “The nicest old man in the world.” He wrote this on a card he made for Daddy, with a depiction of my father as a gray-headed stick figure with a huge smile on his face.
My parent’s have always been fantastic about taking in those who have nowhere else to go. We have housed orphans, new mothers, newborn babies, drug dealers, drug users, sorority drop-outs 😉 , homeless best friends, disowned children, wayward relatives, and any other manner of outcast you can imagine. And Daddy is always the driving force behind this decision, making sure that no one is turned away from our home hungry or without shelter. People turn up on our doorstep day and night, summer and winter, and because of Daddy’s open heart, they always have a place to stay and something to eat.
Some of the best moments in my life are when I see my Dad smile. This is the truth. When he is holding a baby, and laughing in joy, my heart sings too. All my worries melt away, and in that moment, my universe is perfectly aligned. His smile is gorgeous, and even at sixty-four, he is a very handsome man. Sometimes when I’m scowling, or concentrating, or laughing, I realize that I look just like him.
I have this funny feeling that Daddy has invisible wings on his back. Deep down, I think that he can fly, and that he often does. Something tells me that beyond this mundane life on earth, he is one of the freest souls I know. I suppose it comes from glimpses I’ve had of him during my lifetime- his effulgent smiles, physics-defying mental escapades, brilliant dreams, and open heart. I know Daddy may look like a normal man lying on the couch, surrounded by piles of books, but I sense a divine, laughing, free soul in there, and I am so happy to know him.
I love you, Daddy!!! Happy Birthday!!!