Organically my Dad

Dad was an organic farmer before most people even knew what that was.

He could have sold his great organic produce at a farmers market if he wanted to be a merchant — but, he didn’t.

He could have been a master gardener if he’d taken the classes to get certified — but, he wouldn’t.

But point him at a pile of decomposing leaves and he was in heaven. Even though our yard features one of the biggest maple trees I’ve ever seen, that wasn’t enough leaf accumulation for Dad. He used to drive around and pick up other people’s bagged leaves. Because of that, more than 20 years later, his garden — now Mom’s garden — has the best soil I have ever experienced.

I can plant something in my garden and something in hers. Mine might fail but hers will flourish.

Dad was happiest when he was firmly planted in his garden. From tea roses to potatoes and rhubarb, Dad grew the best of everything. There were cut flowers on the dining room table and fresh-from-the-garden salads for supper.

I didn’t inherit Dad’s love of vegetables, but I did get the gardening bug. My style is a bit more free form — let those volunteer daisies, violets and coreopsis grow where they want to grow. This year, I had to curb the daisies a bit as there were more daisies than grass blades in the lawn. Dad would not have approved because he also kept a meticulous lawn.

I tugged the daisies but I let my spreading crop of creeping thyme take over one section of lawn. I have no love of grass and one day figure it will all be gone from yard.

What won’t be gone is Dad’s spirit. I’ve got one rose bush he planted still struggling to pop open a few buds 30 years after he planted it. And my lilac hedge is a testament to the saplings that came from his yard.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Mom and the kids miss you, but we’re still enjoying the fruits of your labors.




Ford Fairlane

On misty, drizzly nights like this, I think of the first car I ever owned — a 1968 Ford Fairlane.

Well, I kind of owned it.

Because my oldest sister Peggy needed a car to get to college, but couldn’t afford one, Dad looked around at the bank accounts of his other kids and realized I was the only one with money in the bank. So, by his decree, we bought the car together.

Did I want that car? No. I didn’t even have a driver’s license yet. But Dad decided that was the only way Peggy could afford a car so he told me to hand over my hard-earned babysitting money. The deal was that Peggy would own it the first few years and I would inherit it when she graduated.

Another really bad deal — I had to pay half the bills on car repair while Peggy was in possession of it. Of course, when I got the car, I had to pay for all the car repairs.

Not only did I not want this car, it did not want me. When I finally did gain possession of it, I couldn’t afford to drive it so I was mostly riding my bike the three miles to community college. I figured I would just use the car when it rained.

Bad plan.

That car would start at 20 degrees below zero, but not in the rain.

At the first hint of moisture, the car would refuse to start. Somehow (Dad probably decided), the fault was a cracked distributor cap. So I bought distributor caps, one after the other. Nothing worked. So I endured many soggy pedal-fests in pursuit of a higher education.

Because Therese was only a year younger than me, she really wanted to drive that car and I let her use it once to go out with her friends. She came home later that night and confessed to me that somehow she had sprung the passenger side door.

“OK,” I said, and went back to reading.

“You don’t understand,” she yelled, upset at me because I was not upset at her.

But I did understand because before I had taken over possession of my own devil car, I had backed into a tree in my dad’s station wagon and he never let me forget it.

Luckily, my brother-in-law and Dad were able to pop the door back into place and the devil car lasted long enough for me to pass down to Therese. It died shortly after, I’m sure in mourning because I was no longer around to pay the bills.