Saturday, June 15, 2013

Waiting for the Grass to Grow

Growing up, I made a lot of assumptions about my dad.

Our house sat on a corner lot with a yard large enough for a baseball diamond in the back yard, a volleyball court on the side, and a basketball court in the driveway. We also had the metal death trap swing set - you remember the ones that your parents didn't set in concrete so the legs came out of the ground and you swung with giant rusty screws just waiting to jab someone's leg as they ran by. We also had a trampoline (no safety net), a tether-ball pole, a concrete slab where a playhouse briefly stood, a wood pile, and a deck under which we stored a largish swimming pool used one summer, a wagon, a few hoses, and several sprinklers.

With all of these options, you would think my brother and I would never lack for things to occupy our time. And the truth is, we never did.  But we rarely occupied our time playing sports, flying kites, or swinging.  It was more likely you would find us and four or five of the neighborhood kids digging a hole to China (wrapped in tin foil so we didn't burn once we reached the center of the Earth of course).  On another day we might host the Olympics, using screwdrivers as javelins and broom handles as foils.  

We took things apart, buried them, lit them on fire, broke them, lost them, and crashed them. Very rarely did we use anything for its intended purpose and never once did we fill in a hole.

Our childhood left my dad's yard full of holes, his tools broken or buried in the yard, and his cars wrecked more than once.

It wasn't until I visited my parents' house with my own kids that I noticed my dad's was the most beautiful yard in the neighborhood.  The sand volleyball court was now covered in lush grass.  Flowers grew where the dog used to run, and the newly re-furbished deck overlooked a backyard free of holes where my kids ran barefoot from sunrise til sunset.

I always assumed my dad just didn't care what his yard looked like.

But the truth is, he loved his yard. He just loved us more.

Now that I'm a parent I look back and see similar sacrifices my dad made for my brother and me. Whether it was playing with, breaking, and losing the tools from the most organized garage you have ever seen, the hours he spent untangling our fishing lines while never once getting to cast his line, or letting us sunflower seeds in the car he just finished cleaning, everything my dad did told us that we were more important to him than cars or tools or grass.

Now retired, my dad is a full-time grandpa, or Pops as we call him.  Today I watched as the ice cream cones he made his five grand kids dripped down their chins, onto their legs, and somehow into my son's hair.

They were sweaty, sticky, covered in sand, and in heaven.

 Because their Pops cared more if they were happy then if they were clean.

And I hope my kids assume that I do too.