My daddy was often mistaken for my grandfather. He was old enough for that, pushing 60 when I was 10. Perhaps his age and being a first-time father at 49, his age when I was born, and father of an only child to boot, had something to do with it. Certainly, he tried to protect me (and sometimes one of my friends) from the Bully and her gang when they were on the warpath. Once he locked Dorothy and I in the basement to protect us. That didn’t stop the Bully from making ugly faces at us through a locked window. At least we were safe…then.
My daddy taught me to ride a two-wheel bicycle, when I was nine, way later than when my friends learned. He also let me help him mow and water the lawn. But one day that was put in jeopardy because my friends and I (the Bully wasn’t there then) overstepped our bounds in the garden.
The actual flower, vegetable and fruit gardens were Mom’s territory, but besides the lawn, Daddy had a hand in the shrubs growing on our property. Here’s what happened one day.
In the summer my girlfriends and I play outside with our dolls. Give us green grass and trees, or at least big shrubs, and we are happy. We spread our blankets on the grass, sit our dolls on top, stand up the open doll suitcases for walls and hang their clothes inside. Then we set out our dolls’ clothes and go hunt for dinner.
The raspberries, strawberries, and tomatoes in mother’s garden don’t interest us. We are after the big green. Marie grabs a branch from the snowball over by the Swans’ garage, and, one by one, picks off large velvety leaves. Dorothy, Jan, and I do the same and arrange the leaves on our doll plates. We are just sitting down to dinner with our dolls, when Daddy comes through the archway. His stroll turns into a leap of rage.
“What are you girls doing? Stop picking the leaves.” His face is red, and if he doesn’t slow down he’ll vault over the fence into the Swans’ driveway.
The four of us stare at him, our mouths suspended open.
“Don’t you know you are hurting the trees?” he asks.
“Sorry, we didn’t know,” Marie says.
I say nothing. What’s up with Daddy? We have to feed our dolls. However, our dolls’ food now seems like poison.
That evening after dinner, Daddy hauls out the lawn mower and starts pushing it along the front lawn. I step out onto the verandah, but stay back, still reeling from the afternoon. Daddy catches me watching him, stops and beckons to me.
“Do you want to try it?” His voice sounds like the normal Daddy.
I must have nodded, because he invites me over to the mower and patiently explains how it works, First, he helps me steer it, then lets go. Pushing is heavy work on my own, but I shove it forward and at his instruction and encouragement, move it around to our starting point.
(Excerpted from Chapter 3 – Practicing Gardening and Religion from The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir, © Sharon A. Crawford, 2020, Blue Denim Press)
Although it is almost 55 years since my daddy died, I still think of him. He had cancer during the last six years of his life and that was hard for a 10- to 16-year-old to deal with, especially as I had to find out he had cancer from someone outside the family. It affected our closeness. But something almost miraculous happened the day daddy died.
If you want to read more of what happened, you will have to read The Enemies Within Us – a Memoir. And timed perfectly with Father’s Day, my memoir just arrived at three Toronto Public Library branches and is circulating. The link to my memoir listing at the Toronto Public Library is here.
Happy Fathers Day, Daddy, and to all the fathers in the world.