Writer’s Block: Lawns as a Metaphor for Life

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

A few months ago, my dad bought a small, rectangular foam pad. I asked him what it was for and he said it was for his knees.

“Have you seen the grass?” he asked before I could say anything further.

Outside, in the front yard, the tiniest spears of green had begun pushing their way through the pebble-sized clods of dirt my dad had tilled just a couple of weeks before. The dirt was that pale shade of brown that sometimes happens to milk chocolate when you forget about that Hershey bar you’d been hanging onto to enjoy as a treat — a light brown with a hint of grey.

It’s not the best topsoil for growing things. It never has been.

The trees don’t mind the soil so much. There are a couple of oaks that like to drop acorns, and a flame tree that survived an infestation by a parasitic beetle eager to chop down its branches at their base. There’s even a variegated hibiscus that began life as a leafless, rootless 6-inch twig; it’s now a small tree with a crown that stands level to the eaves.

But, for as long as I’ve been alive, the yard has been more tenacious weeds and clover than real grass. Dad decided to try to change that. So, he went to a local hardware store to rent a tiller, bought some landscaping fabric and a couple sacks of weed-n-seed, and got to work.

Despite his best efforts, though, some of the weeds persisted in his quickly growing carpet of Bermuda grass. Hence the small foam pad. For his knees.

Turns out Dad had spent the previous week out in the front yard on his hands and knees, plucking the errant vegetation by hand. No manmade tool was as deft at removing the pernicious plants as his forefinger and thumb.

But, the meticulous task had exacted a toll on his nearly 70-year-old body. My father — who began working in the potato, lima bean and strawberry fields (among others) of the Pacific Northwest before his 10th birthday and continued working in them long into his 20s — now showed me knees and fingertips that were bruised from the laborious toil he had undertaken.

He laughed at the persistence of the weeds. Little did they know they had met their match. But they soon found out. Dad endured.

Even the dog got in on it, he said. She’d meander around him as he worked, using her muzzle to sniff out and pluck weeds with her teeth, he said. I hardly believed him, but, Mom said she had seen it for herself.

Ultimately, the dusty milk chocolate brown of bare soil disappeared between ever lusher patches of Bermuda green. And now Dad quietly beams about the progress of the lawn. His lawn.

With Father’s Day this weekend, I couldn’t think of a better way to share what my dad means to me than to share a small vignette of the type of man he has always modeled for us, his children.

He approaches everything with determination, hope, humor and a quiet but selfless pride — unafraid of hard work or of the occasional weed. As far as role models go, I couldn’t have asked for better. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

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