I obsessively turn off lights when I leave a room.
I know love can be expressed through auto maintenance.
I consider a shower lasting longer than ten minutes extravagant.
I think neighborliness includes a decently kept yard.
I always put my shoes away.
This is my father’s heritage in me. None of this have I successfully imparted in my own children, despite years of effort.
There were times he must have felt like I was a lost cause, too. There were times, I know, when he looked at his children and thought, “How stupid can you be?”
Like the time he handed me cash as he told me, “Go to Sears and buy a new battery for you car.”
I was in college, blissfully unaware that I needed a new battery. Not one for unnecessary spending, I trusted that if he said I needed one, I did.
As soon as I could, I went to Sears and bought the battery.
On my next visit home, he looked under the hood of my car and, clearly irritated, said, “I thought I told you to buy a new battery.”
“I did. It’s in the trunk.”
The look on his face. Incredulous. How stupid could his daughter be? Has she really been driving around with the battery in her trunk for months?
Yes, yes I had, and as soon as I saw the look on his face, I realized this had been a mistake.
Then the grin, amusement over riding anger and annoyance, as he told me that I was supposed to get it installed; it was included in the price.
“Oh. I thought it was like the oil changes. Something you liked to do yourself.”
“No,” he shook his head. “Go back to Sears and get your battery installed.”
How stupid could I be? I was less embarrassed by the laughing guys at Sears Automotive when I returned to ask them to please install the battery than I was by that look on my own father’s face.
Fast forward twenty five years.
My fifteen year old daughter, staring at me, sighs the dramatic sighs of the bored. More than once. Glancing out the window at the patio nearly over-run with grass and weeds, I respond, “I thought you were told to weed the patio this summer?”
She snaps, “I’ll get to it by the end of the summer!”
I look at her, incredulous. How stupid can my daughter be? Could she really think we meant “by the end of the summer?”
“It doesn’t work like that,” I say. “The aim is to pull all the weeds out now, so we can use the patio during the summer. Then it’s only a small job to keep up with it when new weeds grow.” I try not to laugh as I see the look on her face change. The mortification of having misunderstood something so obvious.
I miss you, Dad. Your granddaughter might be, like her mother, slow on the uptake, but she is an excellent gardener. You would have liked her.
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