Wednesday, October 16, 2002
The thing is, if Stan had been there things would have been well organized for planting that red maple.
The tree would have been down in the field where it was to be planted. Beside it there would have been shovels, a wheelbarrow, and some new topsoil to fill in the hole so the tree would have a good start.
The thing is, Stan wasn't there because he died last spring, and we were planting that tree on Sunday in his memory.
Stan could not have been an easy father for the three teen-aged sons he has left behind. He was in his late 30's, early 40's when they were born and when they were young he went from being a rather secular Jew to an observant one. The nearest synagogues to this area are a ninety minute drive away, so this was not a simple or convenient choice.
Stan set the bar high for his sons, expecting them to be fluent not only in English and French, but also in Yiddish and Hebrew. He expected them all to excel scholastically and to play at least one musical instrument.
He could be an impatient man, slow to praise, quick to criticize. He loved his sons, though. He was proud of them. He just didn't always remember to tell them so. And as high as he set the bar, they met his expectations. They are very accomplished people and a real tribute to Stan's ideals.
The thing is, somehow in setting all these ideals for his children, Stan didn't manage to pass on some of the things that made him Stan.
And now he is gone.
When I think of Stan, I think of a man who knew how to do things. He knew carpentry, plumbing, electricity, masonry, metal working, and how to grow things. He was well read, with a broad knowledge of history and current affairs, but he wasn't a scholar. He was a man who could do things with his hands and took great joy in making things work. He was always tinkering with something.
But Stan was a perfectionist and he was so fussy that his sons did not spend much time with him on his projects. And so the man who could do almost anything has left behind three sons who don't know how to hold a saw so it doesn't bind in the board they are cutting, how to fix a leaky tap, or even how to plant a tree.
I wish Stan had had more time.
I wish the cancer hadn't set its deadline. I wish his sons could have the memories my husband has, of a father with the time to share his interests, patiently steadying a handsaw, counting the shovelfuls of gravel, cement, and water that make mortar, teaching how to settle a tree into the earth.
The field we walked through to plant Stan's tree was full of maturing trees Stan had planted with his own hands--apple trees, their leaves still green; butternut trees, their leaves a lovely yellow; and oak trees, their leaves a dark burgundy.
But when it came time to plant Stan's tree, his sons did not know where to begin. So Paul and I had his widow Selma show us where Stan kept his shovels and wheelbarrows. Once equipped, we began cutting a circle through the sod, cutting the circle into a grid, lifting off the blocks of sod.
Once they saw the shovels begin to lift earth, the boys took over from us. Clumsily, but with determination, they finished the hole, only needing help with the largest rocks. My brother-in-law had thought to bring some black topsoil, but sadly we didn't have any bone meal.
We cut the huge pot away from the tree, cut its roots so it would reach out to the soil around it and set it in its hole. Friends and family took turns easing in, then tamping down the black soil around the tree's roots and when the hole was half full we watered it deeply. Just as we finished filling the hole, the rains began and finished the watering for us.
The tree should do well.
And you know, so will Stan's sons. They are bright, well-educated, good-hearted, and deeply grounded in their faith. They have a mother who loves them. I think that despite all the times they fought with him, they realize that their father loved them too.
Most of us, when we die, will leave a very small mark on the world. We won't write timeless sonnets, symphonies, or novels nor will we paint or sculpt a masterpiece. Our memorials will be the people who loved us, the bits of us we leave behind in them.
When I look at Stan's sons I see some of him. I see his mannerisms, his determination, his intelligence and some of his ideals. But somehow, somehow his essence left with him. Somehow, he didn't pass on the gift of those skilled hands and the joy that comes from making something yourself.
The thing is, I just wish there had been more time.
P.S.--The International Cavorting Day Hall of Fame is open. You, too, could be part of an institution that's just like the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame except that it doesn't involve music, Ohio, talent or an actual building.
Otherwise, they are remarkably alike.
Celebrate the notion that we should all have one day in our lives when we are free to celebrate a jolt of spontaneous happiness.
Post a button or post a link to the cavorting site and become enshrined! See yourself right up there on the screen!
Make a rubbing of your name!
Oh. Wait. Maybe that last bit wouldn't work. Nevermind that part, 'kay?
Today's inductee into the Hall of Fame is:
The first ten cavorters who entered the Hall of Fame I have dubbed The Mothers And Fathers of Cavorting. Don't worry, this does not involve messy blood tests, paternity cases OR child support. However, each time I update, I will feature one of them.
And now, can I have a drum-roll, please, for Today's Cavorting 'Rental Unit:
Want to delve into my sordid past?
She's mellllllllllllllting - Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012 - Back off, Buble - Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 - Dispersed - Monday, Nov. 28, 2011 - Nothing comes for free - Monday, Nov. 21, 2011 - None of her business - Friday, Nov. 04, 2011 -
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