His Favorite Things...
Father's Day falls just on the cusp of summer. The days are getting warmer and the school year is wrapping up (if it's isn't already over). Summer is the perfect time for Father's Day. And for my father summer is the time when the two things that he loves the most (other than his family of course) come into play: gardening and sailing/racing. His dedication and expertise to both benefit not only my family, but friends, neighbors and people who might not even know him.
My mother says that because my father didn't have a sandbox to play in when he was a child, he turned to dirt as an adult. For as long as I can remember, little cups of seedlings would appear around the house in the spring. Often starting in the basement under a grow lamp, moving to the porch when they got larger and then eventually transplanted outside. When I was younger (and he was too) there was a huge strip of land in our backyard in which he toiled. (We have a HUGE backyard.) He would turn the soil and dig so deep that my mother called them "graves." When the warm months came this plot of land would be filled with flowers, tomatoes, cucumbers and a wide variety of other fruits and vegetables depending on the year. (I can recall strawberries, peppers, zucchini, corn and pumpkins to name but a few.) The backyard was overrun with produce. Obviously my family benefited from the bounty, but so did the neighborhood.
My parents spend most of their time at the shore now, which has limited my father's gardening somewhat. But he has more than made the most of what land there is. Even with his recent hospitalization, he still cares for his tomatoes and cucumbers. My mother got her porch back (which was populated with white cups carrying tomato plants of various sizes) when I went down and helped him transplant them. He always plants more than he needs and shares plants with neighbors and friends. (All they have to do is pick them up.) Even with giving many plants away, his garden is always overproducing. Cherry tomatoes will abound over the next few weeks. And though I have some plants of my own that he has given me, the tomatoes that he grows always taste better. It could be the salt air or it could just be the magic in his fingers that makes them taste so good. When my son is down there, one of his jobs will be to search for and pick the cucumbers that hide beneath the giant leaves. They are sneaky and not easy to find and they grow at an amazing rate. One day he might see one too tiny to pick as it is smaller than a pinky, but a day later that same cucumber is the size of a baseball bat. You've got to stay on top of them to get the tenderest and delicious ones that are best right off the vine (perhaps with a little blue cheese dressing, as this is the only way we can get my son to eat any kind of vegetable.)
Sailing is another passion. Although it was my mother who first got involved with racing on Barnegat Bay with endless Saturdays spent racing, my father bought a Sunfish and they joined a local yacht club (a misnomer...a building on the bay where sailboats could be docked and raced and social activities took place on Saturdays). Both my parents raced in the local Sunday races. (Something my brother and I were roped into as crew members.) Eventually my father became Fleet Captain, the person responsible for running the club races on Sunday. It was a position that he held for over a decade. (It is traditionally a yearlong appointment and then person "moves up" in the rank of club leadership. But it is racing and not policy that drives my father so he stayed in the position.) Although he does not hold the title any more, the weekly Sunday club races would not be possible without him (and my mom who keeps time and records the finishes; not as easy as it sounds). Even those who race on a regular basis can't have a full appreciation for all the time and work that goes into this task. Planning and running does not end (or begin) with the summer season.
All summer long and to this day, Saturdays (often from dawn to dusk) you can find my father working with the Barnegat Bay Yacht Racing Association (http://www.bbyra.org/) while most every Sunday afternoon is dedicated to running the local club races. Summer life revolves around this schedule. Rarely is there a weekend where my father is not spending 8 or more hours out on the bay. My father believes in the mission of the BBYRA and I think the BBYRA believes in him. (The members are truly a wonderful and caring group. Even though I do not know the members personally, from what I hear and know it's not just about the sailing, it's about integrity and sportsmanship.) It is a symbiotic relationship that benefits everyone involved.
This Father's Day, I recognize all that my father (and to be fair, my mother as well) has done not just for me (and for my brother) but for countless others (who will never know) as a result of his love and dedication to two of his favorite things.