A lot of us will claim similarities this weekend with our dads. That’s the proud part. But how can you explain the differences?
On this Father’s Day, 2017, I reach out with this to extend greetings of the day to all those dads out there who have paid the price and showed the way. One by one, and as different as we are, we all feel that sort of fraternity.
And on this day, if it’s said once it’ll be said a million times, “I’m like my dad”, or…”He’s just like his dad when he does things like that”, or…”He’s a chip off the old block.”
But are we? Are we all that much identical to the man that imprinted our personalities and habits – traits and character.
I admit that there are many things and behavioral patterns that I learned from my dad. I like to grow things, fruit trees, and a garden, for instance. Dad always had a half dozen apple trees in a small orchard that he kept for fall eatin’ and pies that my mom would make.
And dad would raise such a big garden that he couldn’t possibly use it all…because it was hard for him to say ‘no’ to ideas like having rhubarb, or ocra, or asparagus – anything that popped into his head.
Me, I just plant sweetcorn and a couple of rows of strawberries – things that I like to eat and plan to use efficiently, freezing to use later in the winter.
My dad was an easy mark for people who knew him, and his generosity. They’d stop at his house during harvest time and tell him, “Glenn, I’d sure like a mess of those beans”, or corn, or berries, cherries, apples or peaches. Dad was never able to say ‘no’, and every year the same people came back to ask again, knowing the answer.
As I got older and now grow my own garden, there are still people who stop by – the countryside is their market. There’s a big sour cherry tree in my orchard that’s been there for years, and attracts a lot of attention when it’s ripe, and the other day there came a knock on my door.
“Hi,” he said. “Noticed that your cherry tree was ripe. I knew your dad. I wondered if you’d let me pick a bucket of those cherries.”
Here’s the difference in Dad and me.
Dad would have said yes in a heartbeat, and headed for the barn to get the man a bucket.
Me, my mind immediately sees the guy falling off the ladder that you need to pick cherries, breaking a hip and filing suit over his injury.
“Actually,” I answered the man. “I have plans for those myself and I’d rather you not.” I explained the reasons for my turning him down.
He was persistent.
“You’re not much like your dad,” he said, irritation in his voice. “He never cared.”
Actually, Dad did care but he was just too soft to tell people ‘no’.
I offered to show the man that a spring frost had severely shortened the cherry crop, anyway. There probably wasn’t a tenth of the normal crop. He wasn’t deterred.
“That’s too bad,” he gave up. “But all I want is a bucket of cherries. I know you dad wouldn’t have minded.”
“Hey,” I chided back. “I knew my dad, too, and he would probably have helped you plant your own cherry tree next spring. You want me to come by and help you do that? I will.”
The most amazing look came across the man’s face. He grinned, finally, and said, “I don’t want a cherry tree. I don’t know anything about what to do with a cherry tree. All I want is the cherries.”
Of course a big reason why Dad was so charitable with his garden was the entertainment value of talking to people like the ‘cherry man’. Dad had nothing else to do and enjoyed chewing the fat with people like that. He liked cheap fun, and nothing represented more fun to him than people – all kinds of people.
While I’m not exactly like my dad, I often think about why. I don’t think it’s a matter of selfishness, where a bucket of cherries are concerned. No, I think more it’s that Dad often quoted that phrase that said rather than to give a man the same fish every day, why not teach him how to fish? He said that to teach me to be responsible for myself.
He wasn’t a risk taker. Dad was so conservative in his views on most things that today’s culture would have caused him great consternation. He worried constantly that he would live to see a day when we would lack the basic instinct and ethic to actually feed ourselves.
He never liked popular music, like the old Harry Chapin tune about time spent between dads and sons, but I know he would have believed it none the less. It wasn’t the message that bothered Dad, it was usually the messenger.
Over the years I’ve found myself following many of his examples, and the reality that each of us is responsible entirely for what we accomplish in life. You want it? You work for it. The way to have cherries is to plant a cherry tree.
Or, if you enjoy the entertainment that comes with those who just want a bucket of cherries…a good time is what you make of it. And no one enjoyed the simple pleasures of life, and people, more than my dad.
He was a simple man in a simpler day. He rarely even locked his door at night.
And I don’t even go to bed.
A different chip…off the old block!