Tending the Garden
I could never see my father. His face was always obscured by tree branches, or his back was always turned. I would wonder: Why am I not able to recollect a single moment when my father and I were bound by a single thing; a common ground? Later, this question would fade away as I, surveying the landscape, would catch glimpses of him, a tiny speck in the great, earth-toned flats that were his garden. In his element, he was clearly visible. His knees were green from kneeling in the grass, and the outline of his piercing grey beard illuminated by the April afternoon sunshine.
On an uneventful day which could be everyday, I find myself pretending to need a glass of water, which is secretly an excuse to leave the room that I am in, in an attempt to get a closer look at him.
He remains, somehow, distant.
He is in his garden, amongst his creation. His eyelids sink over those warm and weathered eyes. His flannel shirt is rumpled, and there are holes in his trousers. His brow furrows in deep contemplation, thin wisps of long, brown hair drooping over it. He turns and speaks to me, cautiously now. Always lurking in his strain of voice, or the strain of silence which we often share (which often divides us) seems to be the fear that I will turn out just like him: a man who, by all accounts, has acted cold and uncaring toward his son for his entire life.
Often times, as I watch him praise his foxglove and tasty greens, I wonder why I have not received similar attention. I then realize that it is his silence; his non-intrusion, that he has influenced me so. It is not what he did, but what he knew not to do, which has helped me to grow. Seeing emotional growth as a very important and independent aspect of life, my father has stood back and watched silently, careful never to involve himself, but only to point me in a few specific directions and to watch with a slight, bemused smile upon his wise old face.