Dad on the Porch

Hello beloved readers! So, I signed up for a course called “Exploring Your Creative Writing Potential” for which I’ll be doing eight assignments over the next six months. The point of the class is try your hand at different writing genres and to find where your strengths lie.  I’m very nervous about the short fiction and poetry segments, but am excited to get into the habit of writing more and sharing it with people.  I’ve been terrible about updating this blog because it’s hard to convince myself that I have something to share.  Well, now I have something that I’ve worked hard on instead of the usual blips about hiking trips (which are great, but unless something happens like a snake curling itself around my dog’s leg, the trips tend to be the same once I try to explain them–maybe I just need more practice explaining them…).  Anyhow, here is my first essay from the course:

 

Sometime during my teenage years my family adopted the tradition of drinking on the porch at night. This new custom conveniently coincided with my father’s growing habit of imbibing a daily glass of wine. I’m not sure why he started drinking wine so frequently; I have almost no memory from earlier in life of him drinking at all. Most likely it was a result of health issues that forced him to cut back on everything else, leaving wine as one of his solitary indulgences.  Fortunately for me, my parents were happy to supply me with a glass during my early college years. I’m sure they knew that the porch was the only alcoholic venue I frequented, which, if anything, probably worried them.

I loved every evening on our long brick porch.  Sitting shaded from the southern evening sun, we looked out past the oak tree and its rope swing, down the sloping yard to the row of pines, and over the broad valley stretching east to the rolling purple mountains.  Dinner with my parents was usually spent quietly, all of us looking out over the valley, with the sometimes general chatter of which neighbors had died and where the yard’s resident roadrunner had taken up roost.  After dinner my mother usually went in and my father and I were left to drink our wine until it was too dark to know the bottle was empty.

It was during these times when my father would share the stories he carried.  Outside of the porch he almost never spoke of the past—whether by conscious effort to live in the present of for fear of releasing certain emotions, I’d never been sure.  But on those evenings he would tell me about growing up in his small southeastern town, how he fell in love with the trains that pulled through, about listening to the St. Louis Cardinals on the radio in his room, how he commuted to the next town for school. He would tell me about coming to the northern part of the state for college, about learning to fly a plane so he could visit home, and about his journeys around the country while serving in the Navy Reserve. I was always amazed at how little I knew of his life before me.

As I grew older he began to unload his more serious burdens—he told me about his fears in aging, the regrets he’d had.  One night he told me about his father—a man I never knew, and had never known much about, other than that he had fascinatingly wavy white hair in his later years.   He talked about working at the general store with his dad—about the grains and rolling ladders and quirky regular customers in a small town. He talked about the bank his father ran—about learning the stock trade and playing trading games when he was only ten.  He talked about leaving home, and about missing his father’s companionship.  For the first time that I can remember, he talked about losing his father—details and emotions that I’d always been curious about, but questions that I had been too scared to ask.

“He was my best friend. There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t think about him,” my father said, before falling silent.

At this, the only statement I remember from the evening, I began to cry, and I remember being thankful for the dark porch that hid both of our tears.  I realized that I was sad because I felt sorry for my father, who had been without his best friend for thirty years, and because I knew that this is how I would someday feel.  This was the state of grief that I would spend part of my life in when my father is gone.

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Spring in the mountains

This is my favorite time of year in Ketchum.  It can still be pretty chilly and windy, but it’s usually warm enough to go for a long hike or bike ride.  It’s also a wonderful time for just relaxing on the porch soaking up the sun and view, reading, and maybe taking a nap on the couch (as Matt prefers to do).  Today, I spent a good part of the morning reading a book about beekeeping after taking Hank for a walk, and then spent the afternoon preparing some plants to care for during the summer.

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This year I went with six small basil plants, one parsley, one small cherry tomato plant, and some pansies for color.  There’s still one more pot and plenty of soil, though, so I can pick out one more plant if I’d like. Hopefully this year’s basil will be enough to make pesto with (last year I didn’t go big enough to pick some every couple of days).  As it warms, it’s also nice to keep the door open, but alas, there was no screen . . . . until I bought a fancy walk-through screen that even Hank has now learned to negotiate.

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Good job buddy, now you can go play outside in the 3×4 foot space designated for you on the porch.