This is a re-post of a story from a few years ago. I’m sure many of you have never seen it and with Father’s Day tomorrow I’m posting it in memory of my dad.
A Father’s Gift
Straightening, I stretched my back and wiped the sweat from my brow. The seemingly endless rows of corn offered shade, but blocked any breeze that might offer relief from the sweltering mid summer heat. I longed for the shaded coolness of the creek bank—could almost feel the cold rush of water flowing over my feet, as I delved into the fantasy world of the book I’d began reading the night before. The image lasted no more than a moment before reality reasserted itself.
Grumbling, I once again bent to the task of removing the morning glory vines from the fully mature stalks. As I contemplated the insanity of the chore, anger moved over me the way a dark cloud covers the sun. It swelled in intensity with every vine I pulled. By the time I’d reached the end of the row, a raging storm had brewed within me and it’s fury begged for release.
Dad stood at the end of the field, leaning on the handle of his hoe. He watched me, as I pulled the vines from the last corn stalk. To my anger-shrouded mind, he seemed an evil overlord and I imagined he’d invented the chore simply to torment me.
“I could hear you mumbling all the way down that row.”
It was embarrassing to know he’d been listening to my grumbles and I had the most absurd feeling that he’d somehow invaded my privacy. This of course only added to my anger. “It’s too hot and I don’t know why we’re doing this. It’s crazy and useless.”
“If we don’t pull the vines, they’ll choke the corn.” He spoke reasonably, as though any idiot would know this.
“The stalks are fully grown. Those vines aren’t hurting it at all.”
“The ears aren’t fully set.”
“I don’t care. I love morning glories and I’d rather see their beautiful flowers blooming than this ugly corn.”
“Morning glory flowers won’t feed the pigs come winter.”
With every word of this argument, I could feel my peaceful afternoon of reading on the creek bank slipping farther and farther away. My anger wanted to shout out at him, but I pushed it back. I was only fifteen, but far from stupid. If I went so far as to scream at him the way I longed to do, he’d only think of some other way to torture me tomorrow. Glaring at him with an emotion very closely resembling hatred, I turned my back and started down another row. Maybe if I worked fast enough, I could still salvage part of the afternoon.
Unfortunately, the work continued till the sun began to set before we trudged wearily to the house when hearing Mom’s call to supper. Every day for the next five, my younger brother and I followed Dad to the field, pulling vines from dawn to dusk. My brother worked quietly while my complaints about pulling the colorful flowers grew louder and more frequent with each passing day. Dad never said anything. I suppose he figured as long as I was getting the job done, I could grumble away.
On the last day, I walked lightly to the field, a spring in my step. There was a cool breeze, compliments of the night’s passing storm. It blew over the stalks causing them to sway and ripple in one mass of beautiful green. It was like watching waves rolling over the sea.
“It’s lovely.” I said aloud.
I thought of the coming autumn and the chore of picking all that corn, throwing it into the wagon and then riding the wagon back to the corncrib in the barn. It brought a smile to my face. It was a chore I loved and never tired of. There would be no complaints coming from my mouth during those workdays. Dad stared at me for a moment before heading for the far side of the field where there were only a few rows left to weed. There would be plenty of time today for reading and my mood brightened even more as I followed behind him.
Two days later I stood on the front porch and watched, as Dad dug holes along the garden fence that bordered our drive. He’d been gone all morning and just returned. I couldn’t imagine what he was doing. It was too late in the season for planting. Mom came out and stood beside me.
“What’s your dad doing out there?”
“Looks like he’s going to plant something.”
“Well, go tell him lunch is ready before he gets too far along and forgets to come in.”
I sauntered across the soft grass, enjoying the feel of it on my bare feet and stopping short of the gravel driveway. “Mom says to tell you lunch is ready.”
“Okay, I’ll just be a minute.”
Being a teen, I was loath to show interest in what he was doing, but my curiosity got the better of me. “What are you doing?”
“Planting morning glories along the fence for you.”
My mouth fell open. “Why?” I could barely get the one word out around the fist-sized lump that had formed in my throat.
He continued to work, not looking at me, as he answered. “You said you love them. I can’t have them choking the corn, but you can enjoy them growing here along the fence.”
Moisture gathered along my lashes and I rapidly wiped it away, hoping he hadn’t seen. My voice was thick with emotion, as I asked, “Will they live, being planted this late?”
“They’ll live, I’ll see to it.”
Dad wasn’t the type of man to show outward signs of affection, and I’d often doubted his love for me. But with every vine he put lovingly into the ground along that fence, I could feel my heart rejoicing and hear the words, I love you, loud and clear in my mind. I never really understood this man who was my father and at times the distance between us seemed much too wide to bridge, but I understood this gesture. Every morning for years afterward whenever I’d step onto the porch and see those lovely purple blossoms, the gulf between us shortened. Today when I see morning glories, my heart swells with the memory of this gift of love given by my father.
©Elizabeth Melton Parsons