Thanks Dad!

When I was about 12 years old my mother remarried. For the five or six years before that, mom was a single mother, and my brother and I were often left on our own. We had sitters, but I think we were pretty wild as children. With their marriage, our step father gave us a healthy dose of something that was missing from our lives-stability.

I remember that we called him Mr. Hopper, and after they were married, Mr. Hopper pulled us aside and said that we couldn’t call him Mr. Hopper any longer. Carl, or dad, but not Mr.Hopper. We chose dad.

Dad was a full 20 years older than mom and he could have been my grandfather. He came from a time when men were strong and silent. Picture John Wayne in a western and you’d have him. He wasn’t warm, and you didn’t get too close to him. He gave us lots, but overt love wasn’t one of the things he was good at.

He gave me other things though. I mentioned stability- he owned his house and had lived there for years, which was the opposite of living in a different place every year for the five years before he and mom married. Though I don’t do it anymore, he gave me a love for hunting. I still have a picture in my mind’s eye of walking through rice stubble with him and my brother gunning for pheasant. Dogs too. We had hunting dogs and I’m still a dog person. He also gave me my my first cup of coffee and my first taste of scotch, both of which I thought were awful, but have since come to enjoy.

Of all the things he gave me, I value gardening the most. For as far back as I remember, he had a garden. It wasn’t a big one, but there were a few things he always grew. Tomatoes! We lived in a hot climate so he had Beefsteak and Ace that he pampered and fed with cow manure. He also raised Torpedo Onions. He had squash and a few other things too, but the tomatoes were the most in shadow

I never got to do anything in his garden. It was his, clearly. But I watched, I saw and I guess I learned a bit about how to garden by seeing what he did. When I moved to San Luis Obispo, I had a few vegetable plants at home, but also a community garden plot around the corner. That’s when I started. I just planted things and they grew. I’m sure that the reason I was able to grow a garden was seeing him do it.

Over the years my gardening has grown. The plots seem to expand year by year; more space is carved out for edibles and ornamentals. Our big back yard now is more than half garden. Dad wouldn’t recognize the Kale in the garden, nor would he value the flowers. He might wonder what variety of tomatoes those are, why the furrows are built up so high, and how the drip system works, but he would enjoy it too, just as I do.

While this garden is most definitely my creation, I owe some of it to him. Thanks dad.



4 Responses to “Thanks Dad!”

  1. I love your voice here! I’m sure if Carl’s spirit is still alive, he will see this and feel the love and smile inside.

  2. Dan Conrot Says:

    Such a fitting remembrance – tomatoes fertilized with gratitude.

    • Yeah Dan, it’s interesting to think about him and have gratitude. He was tough and distant too, but I guess we’re all a mixture of positive and not so positive.

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