Peaches in my father's garden


Last night I was reading about Alex Rodriguez having lived his whole life in the shadow of a father who abandoned him at age 9.    Was thinking about the garden his father failed to plant.   The seeds of trust and honor that never fertilized.

I then read my good friend, Mark Epstein’s piece in the NY Times Sunday Review.  First, I love Mark.   Just love him.   He is so much crazier and brilliant and funny than he lets on.  Maybe our favorite time together was squeezed into my little Alfa convertible driving around San Diego with the top down, with the music cranked (we were listening to the most subversive of Dan Bern), like we were the rock stars we are afraid to be. Ok, we are rock stars, just don’t dress the part.   The Jew-Bu rock star shrink who can make you feel like you are completely alive and the photographer rock star who was hiding behind his camera until just last week when he came out with a metal funnel for a megaphone.

Mark wrote about the traumas we anticipate and recover from.   He wrote about his mother recovering from his father dying, then sharing a secret of another husband in another life she had buried.   He wrote that allowing grief to breathe is ok.

My brother, mother, and I were all around my father, holding his hands as he took his last breath at home in 1998.   The first thing my mother said to all of us right at that moment was, “He was a great guy.”  She then packed up his clothes and got on with her life.   It was not that she didn’t miss him.  It was not that she felt cheated that he was gone on his 74th birthday and she is now about to celebrate her 85th birthday.  It was just that my father had planted so many seeds and was still alive in that garden he had planted inside all of us.  We just had to appreciate all that was still alive about him, not just the part that was gone.   Not that we did not mourn.  Not that missing him will ever go away.   It is just when they say, “stay hydrated” - they are talking about watering seeds in the private gardens our father’s planted.    Meanwhile, my mother has her foot pressed hard on the reaper and is still harvesting like each day is peak season.  The grim reaper is at bay, afraid of the scarecrow.

This morning Jackson crawled into bed and I planted a seed for his garden.  The seed about playing by the rules, not cheating, never telling lies.   He got it, but there is only so much seed sewing you can do with a 5 year old.    We switched to talking about the peaches that appeared this weekend. Jackson does not like peaches.  I told him the peach I had last night literally knocked my socks off.   Told him if he took a single bite it might knock all his clothes off.   Then we headed downstairs.  Crawled slowly around the corner of the kitchen on our knees until Asher finally discovered us with peaches in his mouth and the milk from his cereal dribbling down his chest.   We all started laughing.   Was laughing more when we were all eating peaches, socks flying off of Stephie’s feet, and the rest of us dancing around naked.  Indulge those peaches in the next couple of weeks.   Each one is a beautiful perfect seed from my father’s garden.

Soundtrack for this post - while I am listening to "Blurred Lines" this summer like some addiction - Robin Thick, Prince, and many others all circle back to Sly Stone.   Listening to, "Just Like A Baby" - from There's A Riot Going on.

Then....just as I was about to hit publish just now, I stumbled on this other Dan Bern song, "Kid's Prayer,"  which ends with this advice:

Talk to your kids

Play with your kids

Tell them your dreams

And your disappointments

Listen with your kids

Listen to your kids

Watch your kids

Let your kids watch you

Tell your kids the truth

Best as you can tell it

No use telling lies

Your kids can always smell it

Cook for your kids

Let your kids cook for you

Sing with your kids

Teach your kids the blues

Learn their games

Teach them yours

Touch your kids

Find out what they know

Be sad with your kids

Be stupid with your kids

Learn with your kids

Cry with you kids

Be yourself with your kids

Be real with your kids

Embarrass your kids

Let them embarrass you

Be strong with your kids

Be tough with your kids

Be firm with your kids

Say "No" to your kids

Say "Yes" to your kids

Take it easy on your kids

You were a kid

Not so long ago

There are things you know

Your kids will never know

There’s places they live

Where you will never go

So dance with your kids

Paint with your kids

Walk with your kids

Tell stories to your kids

Watch movies with your kids

Eat popcorn with your kids

Tell secrets to your kids

Stop for rainbows with your kids

One day your kids

Won't be kids

And maybe they'll have kids of their own

Let’s hope they talk to their kids

Play with their kids

Tell them their dreams

And their disappointments