My dad is 80 years old. He lives with me. He doesn’t live with me because I need to take care of him; if anything he takes care of me. He lives with me because he took care of my mother for 12 years before she died and was utterly lost alone. He never really asked much of me so when he asked for my family and I to move in with him, I couldn’t say no. I knew the road would be bumpy but he’s my dad and love conquers all right?
I really don’t know how to describe my father other than to say he is a grumpy, opinionated man with a great big heart. I’m not really convinced he’s really grumpy, I think he just acts like it because he can. At 80, he tells me he can act any way he pleases or say anything he wants because he has seniority. “Well Dad, what was the reason you could say and do anything you pleased 40 years ago?” Oh yeah, I forgot. You said you could do what you wanted 40 years ago because you were “the parent”. Growing up, my father had a reason for everything; and his reason (if it was unreasonable) always came with a free smile.
I believed everything my father said as I was growing up. He would never have thought of lying to me. His strong voice and piercing brown eyes told so many truths of long ago. I marveled at how brave he was enduring such hardships of his youth. My father told me of the horrible winters in Puerto Rico when he would have to walk to school in his bare feet in the snow. He spoke of the time he was hunting in the jungle for food and a lion charged him and just when he was about to be eaten alive, the lion roared so loud that my father pushed his hand into the lion’s mouth, grabbed a hold of the inside of his tail and turned him inside out. He said turning him inside out was very messy.
Perhaps turning the lion inside out and making a mess is what has made my father “very messy.” In my father’s 80 years of life, he has learned to put “something” on every flat surface in my house. If the surface is horizontal, he has something on it. Currently in my kitchen I have vegetable seeds, garlic for planting, a water hose nozzle, a Yankee’s hat, 2 pair of eyeglasses and a bath towel on my kitchen table. In addition to the not so standard items on my table are the “standard” items of a dirty breakfast and lunch plate, a dirty coffee cup with dried on cracker crumbs, a couple of spoons, three half-full glasses of juice or iced tea, and a piece of uneaten toast. On my stove, in addition to the splattered grease on the stove top, is the frying pan and spatula used to cook eggs On my breakfast bar I have two screwdriver, an old torn towel, car wax, a box of some sort of fertilizer, plant food and a small shovel used for planting.
Yes, that is what I came home to just today at noon. I looked around and was so angry and frustrated that tears immediately filled my eyes. As I angrily picked up all of the mess and put things where they belonged he walked into the house with his shoes full of mud. “The produce is looking good even after that initial frost. I think I saved most of the garden. The cabbage looks good at least.”
There he stood in his “gardening” pants, mud on his shoes and hands looking proud as hell. What could I say?
“Yeah Dad, I can’t wait to eat the tomatoes you planted.”
He walked out of the side door muttering, “I’m going to have to cut the grass tomorrow if it doesn’t rain.”