Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Eulogy of Sorts

He’s got one of those fork-tipped weed diggers
Sitting in the afternoon sun out front
Vin Scully calling pitches on the grainy AM radio
“Damn crabgrass, gets into everything” he’d swear
As I sat down on the lawn to watch him fight
The endless battle with our weeds.

It was nice sitting there with him outside, I’d dig a bit too.
“Talk his ear off” Mom’d say
I don’t know what I said…
Only that he listened patiently
Meantime effortlessly solving much bigger problems of his own
Or at least, it seemed that way as he climbed his corporate ladder
Securing his family’s future then spending the weekend
Acting as if nothing was more important than yardwork, baseball, and whether I should pierce my ears.

I’ve wondered over the years, who taught him
To nurture things, people so carefully?
The mom who left when he was five?
The dad whose death in a fire called him home from the war?
Grammy, whose chickens he fed and whose wood stove he stoked?
Something he learned in those early Quaker meetings,
Or maybe from the wife he treasured for 56 years.
I guess I should have asked him but I imagine his answer easily now
“It’s just the right way to do things” he’d say
As if everyone should know it.

But there was something more to it about Dad
The way you couldn’t help talking to him
And how much it would help when you did.
Later on he’d tell people how politely I listened to his advice,
Then went right ahead and did whatever I chose.
He wasn’t shy with his opinions, and indeed, I didn’t always agree on his approach
But I got to talk it out, whether I was ten complaining about a dodge ball game
Or forty struggling with a manager I didn’t trust
Whether you were a family member, a mentee,
Or just someone who sat down next to him on a plane
He’d gift you with his genuine interest, his full attention, a couple of well placed questions…
Pretty soon you’d be feeling like
You were getting at the root of things.

Dad would say you can’t just pull out crabgrass easy like a dandelion
Because it sends all those runners underground.
It takes an especially patient gardener to do that much digging
Year after year,
A gardener who cultivates the best from those he planted,
And those who passed through.
I expect I’ll go on talking to him now
Hell, no one knows me better
(Although he’ll have an even harder time getting a word in edgewise)
Its easy enough to find that spot in the sun with him still
And I expect I’ll go on gardening in his stead
He is well rooted in me now.

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