When I think of my father I think of apple trees, his apple trees, all four of them, and how his work with them seemed a kind of meditation, all these years since. So many years. I'd bring my dolls out and sit with him as he pruned, or thinned. Or I'd climb up in the trees: not far to fall. Not much talk — a quiet man.
I can recall few conversations with him: he taught me how to tell time, a complicated lesson which involved the sun and the rotation of the earth. I was six, and didn't understand much. But I remember sitting beside him on the couch while he went off on what seemed to me far-reaching tangents, all too advanced for my first-grade understanding. There was an awe, and a fear of him, a serious man.
He tried to teach me to row a boat while camping in the San Juan Islands, and I failed, utterly. We fished together; again, a quiet study.
I wonder what our adult conversations would've sounded like — I like to believe that we'd have sparred on issues of philosophy, politics, the need for art. Which side would he choose? He could debate anyone under the table. (I have one of the medals he won as a champion on the debate team in college.)
My fear is that we'd have been polar opposites in our philosphies, that he'd disapprove of poetry. But then, what do I know, really?
I do know, though, unquestionably, that we would have talked gardening, and apples. I know he'd have the remedy for my six-apple tree.
Every year on Father's Day, I lie under the radar of families celebrating.
I work in my garden.
I keep quiet.