Every Spring I think about the forsythia we left at the old house when we moved to the new, almost eighteen years ago. When we bought our first house, my father brought small tubs of forsythia that he had grown from cuttings from his own multitude of bushes. He had cut them and put them in water, moving them to the portion of the garden he called his “nursery” when they got enough root on them. There they spent one or two years branching out, growing stronger, tended by him, until they were robust enough to move. He tenderly dug them up, bringing them to my new home, my first house, helping me to plant them so I could enjoy the bright yellow every April like he did.
From him I learned the patience it takes for such things, that not everything comes immediately. You have to look into the future and see what you will need, and plan accordingly. He was always puttering around, both never still and always still. A steady stream of varied but unhurried work would be interrupted by a routine of breaks, to the point that you would know where he was when. In the Spring through the Fall, he was most always outside on the acre of land they had. In the winter, he had projects in the house or more frequently, in the workshop he had made for himself of half the garage. I would slip in the makeshift door, trying not to let too much heat out from the space heater, and sit on the stool and watch him work. Enveloped by the smell of fragrant sawdust, he taught me woodworking and a little about metal working, though I don’t have the machines for it now. He was a tool and die man by trade, and had a craftsman’s ethic to go along with it. He could copy anything he saw that we wanted, and do it better. He taught me that you always finish the back of a piece, even though it might be hidden. No one else would see it, but you would know it was as beautiful as the front.
He delighted in all the grandchildren my brothers and I graced him with, sharing the wonders of his workshop and the fruits of his labors with them. All but one were girls, and they had him wrapped around their small fingers. I would catch his looks of pride and amazement out of the corner of my “busy mother” eye. No matter how harried I got, he always could calm and cajole them. I think that when they were babies they were fascinated by his creased smile and white shock of hair, but as they got older, they competed to make him laugh.
Our neighbors would always know where to come for a special tool or advice on how to get something done. The man next door once sent his wife to Dad for a left-handed screwdriver, which she diligently came to get. Dad calmly took her into his shop and made a credible show of finding just the right one and sent her home with it. He retold and chuckled about that story until we lost him to lung cancer only a month after my last daughter was born.
Today he would have been ninety-four years young. Happy Birthday, Dad.