My dad gave me love and he taught through example. Although I only had him in my life for nineteen years, they were years filled with love of family, friends, and faith. He had a thirst for knowledge and a love of the written word, with a passion for politics that was equal to fishing and sports.
Daddy could play practical jokes with panache – and he knew how to laugh at himself.
I was thinking about Daddy as I hauled the hose down the long length of driveway, first to the front garden, then to the flower beds in back, grumbling as it caught on a stone here or kinked into a knot, stopping the water’s flow, there. Our city has watering bans; odd-numbered houses on these days, even on those. We have our own well, so we are exempt, which is good thing when one lives on a cutoff during a dry spell.
While I don’t enjoy hauling the hose to and fro, I do enjoy watering the plants. There is something rhythmic about the way the water flows and the sweet summer scent as the ground grows wet is soothing to me. I relish the sense of anticipation that comes as the puddles form, knowing that nearby the robins await their chance to splash and that if I catch the sun just right there will be a rainbow.
My grandmother liked to water her flowers; those treasures of color and texture that she awakened from seeds each spring. Seeds stored in different colored tissue, a unique filing system for someone who could not read or write. She would sprinkle, never touching the flowers, only the dirt, in the early evening. The circle of zinnias, the tomatoes and zucchini, then the marigolds on the east side of the house.
If Yia Yia’s hands ached from arthritis, someone else would hold the hose, under heavy surveillance, mind you, as she stood close by or watched from the windows.
There was a youthful summer, much like the one we are having now. Hot and dry. City water restrictions were in place and enforced.
The night was hot, even under the stars as we played, catching lightning bugs in jars. The grown-ups and whoever was visiting – for someone was always visiting – sat in lawn chairs or at the picnic table. Our car, the one with the Pen Dot license plate, was in the narrow drive, our house on one side, my aunt’s house on the other. A perfect tunnel to hide a sputtering hose.
There my grandmother stood, inching down the drive, the water on low as she clandestinely tended her flock of flowers. She was so quiet, I forgot she was there, until my father, ever the prankster, said to Yia Yia, in Greek, “Ma, here come the cops”.
I can still see her, determined in the dark, noticing the headlights slowly coming down the street, quickly handing the hose to her son and walking away, saying “you talk to them, Pete.”
My grandmother suffered no fools.
My father laughed, knowing the joke was on him.
I miss his gift of laughter, his sense of fun, and love of family.
To all you dads out there, especially my Tom, a very happy Father’s Day.