Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Father's Day

What's Father's Day like when your dad is no longer on earth?....

I've faced that question for four years now.  Father's Day for the last, almost decade has been the race at Michigan International Speedway, (MIS), for Kurt and I.  Father's Day wasn't spent with our children or my dad, it was spent at the racetrack.  Before that when the boys were involved in Little League, it was spent at a baseball tournament somewhere, usually Coleman.  And again, Father's Day wasn't really spent with my dad, though we did always try to stop over after the games.  If I go back farther yet, it was a cookout somewhere, with small children, (mine), and other family members tumbling all over each other in the backyards.  And farther back still to my teenage years, quite often we would head up North to the "Cottage" on Sand Lake for the day.  And the farthest back would probably be Crystal Lake with the neighborhood for this day.

While I remember my dad taking us shopping to the drugstore in town, so I could buy my mom a piece of jewelry, carefully picked out for its gaudiness and allowance price range, I don't remember ever doing similar for my dad.  Maybe Mom took care of our neglect on that end and had something for him, from us on his day.  I just don't remember....

This year was different.   We gave up going to the race at MIS this year.  We have a new grandson, so our son now has become a father, a duty he takes on with much more reverence and maturity than I am sure either of us did when he was born.  Two children out of the state, meant phone calls, but as their dad is not much of a "phone" conversationlist, the calls barely lasted 5 minutes.  We grilled ribs, and I made the first strawberry pie I have in years on this date, as I was actually home, and this year I have strawberry's from my long suffering patch.  When we bought our home, shortly before we married, the lady who owned it previously, had three long rows of strawberries, at least a hundred feet in length, each, and 3 feet wide.  She had sold strawberries, and even before we moved in, around Memorial weekend, because we had, had an early summer, I came over to pick the strawberry patches.  It seemed that was all I did for two weeks straight was pick strawberries.  I gave them away to everyone, and because all my family had patches of their own, strawberries just accumulated.  For a few years thereafter, I put ads in the local paper and sold strawberries, but since I didn't like picking them, and I, by then had young children, my aim was to get rid of the strawberry patches down to a size that worked for my family.  I succeeded all too well, and over the next decade, eliminated the strawberry rows, so that only errant plants would pop up in the midst of flowers. Then began two decades of trying to get new patches started and never having really great luck.  We would get berries one year, and the next we would have almost none.  Five years ago after having years of no really good berries from my own garden, I was determined to start a new patch and have it be as good as my mom's. No matter how I try to start new patches of strawberries, it never seemed to work, and I could never equal what my mother seemed to do so effortlessly with her big patches.  I love strawberry pie, and have since the first time my mother tried the recipe off a Philadelphis cream cheese box, and it has become my kids and their spouses favorite summer time dessert.  Dad loved strawberries and would eat them with every meal in season.  Of course, he ate raspberries, blueberries and peaches just about the same way.

I was riding my bike yesterday and came around a bend and the long forgotten aroma of toast wafted to my nose.  It was such a distinctive smell and it was no longer morning, in fact it was right around noon, which struck me as odd.  As I rode into the smell, another one greeted me, the smell of ripe fruit.  I realized, with a jolt, that what I was smelling was strawberries, and someone was having my dad's favorite meal of strawberries with cream and toast.  I can't recall how many summer morning's Dad had a big bowl of strawberries with cream and a slice, (or two), of toast.  He didn't stop at breakfast either.  If Mom hadn't made any kind of strawberry dessert, he had strawberries, cream and toast as dessert, three times a day.  He loved, and more importantly, appreciated fresh fruit when it was in season, a lesson, I have learned after much trial and error with my strawberry patches.  So, this year I rejoice that I have strawberries and can make not one, but two strawberry pies, and still have a few left over to eat as I pick.  Its no fun otherwise, and while it may not be the 20 to 40 quarts of fresh berries of my youth, it will do for me, for this year.

Looking back, I don't remember all the great things my dad did for us, and I don't remember specific Father's Days, but I do remember that the things were good things, and that's what stays with me.  I grew up part of a country neighborhood, which sadly is mostly no more, but I grew up loved and happy.  I am sure my parents worried and I am sure there were bad times, but they don't stand out to me.  The good times blend together in a mosaic of sunshine, warm summer days, lake water, and strawberries. 

My kids will have their own memories of what their dad did with them on Father's Day and what kind of a dad he was, and someday my grandson and future grandchildren will do the same.  I hope the memories are colored with the bright reds of strawberries and happiness....

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