“How are you gonna keep this place going all by yourself?” my father had asked ten years ago, the last time he came to visit. He kept his own tiny yard on Long Island immaculately trimmed and cleared. It was his comfort and joy to sit outside in a pristine landscape with his dinner al fresco, a tall glass of beer, and a dog by his side. He would be horrified to see how I’ve neglected my house in Ithaca the past two years.
It is Fathers’ Day. So this morning I sweep all around outside the house, prune the bushes that have grown over the walkway to the front door, and arrange the wind-tossed plastic Adirondack chairs neatly on the deck. I replace the outdoor tablecloth and set up a new freestanding fire-pit. But my dad is not coming to visit. He’s been dead more than three years. I’m not expecting anyone today. There were times I was surrounded by fathers, grandfathers, in-laws, and friends’ fathers. But now there is no father-figure to call on the phone or cook supper for. I can think of no other way to commemorate Fathers’ Day than to clean up the porches, the flowerbeds, and all the outside areas the way my dad did.
When it starts to rain I go inside to look for pictures of him. A cardboard box is crammed with unsorted photographs that have not been looked at in ten years. There are pictures of my babies, my growing children, long-gone pets, and my father. And there are photos of my ex-husband.
I cannot remember talking to my children’s father since Marika’s memorial two years ago. Communication had always required hard work and patience for us. And after Marika died, there was no longer a need to try to connect.
I’m sure he will not be home on this Fathers’ Day with one child gone and the other in Afghanistan. The small, enclosed porch looks the same as it did years ago when I used to drop Marika off on alternate weekends. No one is around so I leave the package on the mail-table with a note.
“Happy Fathers’ Day. Being a mother is the best thing I ever did. Thank you for being Greg and Marika’s father. Here are some of the old family photos you never got. I have hundreds. Let me know if you’d like some more. Cheers! Robin”
I tiptoe back to the car and head for home, singing.