As I was making lasagna in the kitchen for a late supper, I could hear Dylan and India’s boisterous laughter from the patio. It had been a good day. Dylan had planted the two pear trees he brought me for Father’s Day. India transplanted cuttings from houseplants to take back to college while I fertilized the vegetable garden.

It had been a month since we’d all been together, and with India heading back to West Virginia University soon, it was the last time for a while. Christmas probably, so we instinctively drank it in. 

India revived her old joke, “Isn’t amazing how all fathers are born on this day?” A couple of years ago on July 4, she puckishly wished America a happy 2018th birthday on social media, only to be corrected by a dozen people who internally lamented the state of education these days.

Naturally, I thought about my own father. Gone 27 years now. And when I looked at Dylan planting one of the trees, I saw so much of the grandfather he never knew in him. The square hairline, the shape of his face, big arms. Even the way he stood. 

I hear my dad in my own odd snort of laughter sometimes, too. I’ve lived seven years longer than he did, and I consider the things that I’ve done and seen in that time and the time I’ve had with my kids. I thought about such moments with my dad. There weren’t as many as I’ve had with my kids. Dad was spread thinner between six kids, so the rare evenings when he’d hit me fly balls behind the Methodist Church up the street, or the time he stretched a rare fishing outing an extra day to spend with me — well, they’re treasured memories. 

We all think we have more time than we do.

I wonder what memories my kids will have of me. Will it be the museum trips where we wondered at the beauty within the best of mankind? Will it be a quiet conversation we had about the workings of the world that suddenly rings true? Will it be a moment shared around the pond, watching goldfish battle for food, as we talk about the happenings in each of our increasingly separate lives? 

Their roots are here, but they’re spreading.

“Your Grandpa Norm would have loved you,” I tell them.

His gray-blue eyes would have sparkled at their mischievous energy. 

I make it a point, whenever I can, to share my memories, to tell them about those who came before, their best qualities, their foibles — the great-great-grandfather who rode with the Cossacks, their great-grandpa Spilloway who rode horses like John Wayne and anything with an engine like Evel Knievel. Grandma Bertha’s sly sense of humor and the way she’d yell at Grandpa Ben if he had one too many at George’s Bar.

“You’ve got chicken eyes again!” 

For better or worse, but mostly better I think, this is our blood. 

At 5:30, India dashed off for a shift at the nursing home. She’s a CNA. Dylan pounded in some fenceposts to stake the trees against the predictable gale-force winds that come with life. 

I sliced some watermelon and we savored the juicy sweetness. 

He had a two-hour trip ahead but he didn’t want go. He stretched, stalled, admired the landscaping he’s done in the last two years. He called over Gus the Wonder Pug who was already morose, knowing that his buddy was leaving. Finally, it was time. We said our “I love yous” minus the hug and waved to each other as he pulled away in that tank of a pickup of his. 

Life brings us together even as it pulls us apart. 

I sighed and walked across the yard to turn off the soaker hose at the newest flower garden. Walking back, I paused at the pear trees. In time, they’ll bear fruit. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

Tony Bender is publisher of the Ashley Tribune and is a North Dakota columnist.

Load comments