Friday, August 03, 2007
Happy Birthday Pop
Dad would have been 79 years old today. He passed away on the winter solstice in 2004 and my family still misses him daily. Dad was a passionate person – passionate about his business, his favorite sports team (The University of Pennsylvania’s Quakers), his garden, his family, and his dogs. Living in a family of women wasn’t easy for him – we were all “girly-girls” loving the domestic arts, the baking, the sewing, getting together with friends. At our house when I was young, it wasn't unusual for there to be 10 little girls giggling and laughing.
Dad was his own man - a bit of an eccentric. The lengths he would go to to support his alma mater were legend in Dover, NJ. Many times, my sisters and I would be herded into the car to endure the ride to Philadelphia to watch the Quakers play a football game. On the way home, Dad would either be happy or sad about the outcome of the game. We would have to endure the cigar smoke as he puffed away while we were coughing crammed into the back seats. (It was a long time ago - people did that back then.)
Dad was also an obsessive gardener. Being from German stock and coming of age when Victory Gardens were the norm, he learned to grow vegetables on his grandparents farm. He always had an amazing garden at our house and especially enjoyed growing vegetables, clematis, zinnias, and impatiens. The older I get, the more I realize, he also went into his garden to escape the little girl craziness. We wouldn’t see him for hours – he would pull weeds all weekend long. In the evening, we would take a tour of what he did. Honestly, I doubt I would have been able to notice the progress – but I’m sure I was supportive and told him how good it looked. All summer long, he would announce at the dinner table “I really can grow them, can’t I?” We would tell him how wonderful the beans, the zucchini, the swiss chard were.
I often think about what I learned from my dad. The list is long, for sure. Passion for something I love. Being honest and truthful. Working hard. Being kind to others. Telling it like it is. Love of family and friends. Remembering where I came from.
I often credit my love of color to my mother’s example, but that is not necessarily so. My dad loved beauty and color, mostly finding inspiration from his garden and nature. Although I would say he didn't a visible artistic side, I would be wrong. He created art through his gardens and landscape. He placed the row of impatiens in the garden just so. He chose the color themes of his annuals every year to coordinate throughout the garden. He purchased new perennial plants to add interest to his established perennial beds. I can’t count how many times – it was literally hundreds – when he would bring a bouquet of flowers into the house and place them in a vase on the kitchen table. He brought bouquets of his flowers to his office for his co-workers to enjoy. He’d expound over a scotch and dinner about the fiery orange nasturtiums, the rich red of a his spiky bergamot, the purply blue of the spiky perennial cornflowers, the luscious juicy tartness of raspberries from his berry patch, the unbelievable sourness of those bright orangey-red currents that became our winter current jam, the deep purple of his Concord grapes. Dad noticed these things and passed this love and passion onto all of us girls. We all love our gardens and the feeling we get from planting and tending a small seedling. He didn’t realize it but by his example, he was building a family of gardeners and lovers of color and nature.
Although Daddy was a gruff, unfriendly, crabby guy from the outside, he sure wasn’t that way underneath it all. He was a softie, a loving dad - I miss him every day. It is pretty impossible for me today to eat a raspberry without thinking about Dad and his devotion to his little patch of earth and his family.
Here at our house, we talk about Pop frequently. We envision him up on his star with his friend Frank watching baseball, smoking cigars and enjoying a scotch. Happy Birthday Daddy!