My sweet Dad has just abandoned his “snow bird” life and decided to return full-time to the homestead, Apple Tree Farm as he loves to call it. The world of my childhood. He is 83 now, ruddy and strong, the picture of health, riding his bike several times a week, but even he was topsy-turvy upon hearing the news last month. He and his lady friend would need to move unexpectedly from their comfortable rental in Florida, which the owner was selling, and be out by October 1st. I know what it’s like to up and move your entire household on short notice, so I told him that instead of just renting another place in Florida, perhaps he should consider moving home. Lock, stock, and barrel. But I was still pleasantly surprised when he did just that.
On the land where I grew up there stands a big red barn far older than the house. Much older than me. It was the barn of a working farm that was pieced off into lots in the early 1960’s – the focal point of the property, truly – more stately than the simple colonial 4 bedroom on Washington Street. It reminds me of my father, really. Dapper and classy, repainted dozens of times, re-roofed a few, and still crisp and lean against a small town sky. He says he’ll never leave this home, and we all hope he never has to. But he has enjoyed wintering in Florida for many years now, since before we lost my mother to breast cancer on April 4, 2000. A date that slices my life in two. Before and after.
Why is it with frailty that I tell you about my father? I smile to think of it, it’s hard to explain but that is my challenge to myself; to push past the shrug. Its been a hard relationship for me since my Mom’s been gone. Neither of us ever expected to have the lovely veil between us removed. We never laid the foundation for that reality. My father and I have always had kind but convenient limits. I rush to tell you how much I love him lest you wonder; love has never been the problem.
A word to the wise. Girlfriends, if you have daughters, please hear me. Do not stand between them and their father as the preferred parent your little girl always collapses into with all of her heartbreak, high hopes, and triumphs , and leave him to only mete out hugs and attaboys. To shield and provide without ever being left to collect and counsel. Because, God forbid she loses you.
My Dad is home now, full-time at Apple Tree Farm, without the miles between us. Without the excuse that we don’t have time to linger long afternoons together beyond visiting into relationship. I pray I make it count; we have much time to make up for.