Sunday, February 10, 2013

Memories of Cutting Trees

This weekend my brother and I took down an old pine growing in my backyard. The tree had grown so big that it was pressing against the wall separating our yard with my neighbor's. The task was, at times, a little nerve racking, as we worked around power lines in both yards and we had to avoid getting crushed by thick falling tree limbs. After a long day of sawing (marked by a brief excursion to buy a treadmill), the tree was gone and we all ate a hearty Mexican dinner cooked by Julie and my sister-in-law.

Working with us were my two nephews, who seemed to get a kick out of cutting wood and using a hand saw. Watching them, coupled with the sound of cracking branches and the smell of dead pine, conjured memories of my youth. The old Malchus house had a huge backyard full of trees. I can remember many autumn days standing under a ladder while my father climbed up and clipped off branches for kindling. Those were long, boring afternoon and I shivered quite a bit, pounding my feet on the hard, cold ground, praying we could go inside soon.

I've been thinking about my father a lot this past week. I spoke to him recently and he said that he can't play the clarinet as well he used to. His fingers aren't as quick and his eyes can't always read the music. My heart sank when he told me this, as playing music has been his lifeblood for as long as I can recall. Life in the old Malchus home in North Olmsted would not have been the same without the regular sounds of my dad's clarinet playing, either to figure out a new arrangement he was working on, or showing one of his students how they should play their parts.

I'm sure my relationship with my father is no different than most men my age. When I was a boy, he was an imposing figure, but I loved being by his side, especially when we accompanied him to marching band camp and stood on the sidelines while he barked out instructions to his students.  I was constantly afraid of disappointing him, a fear I carried with me into college. It wasn't until he had heart surgery in 1992 that I began to see him more as a man and less as this mythical figure called "Dad." As I've gotten older, although we don't always agree on everything, I have come to love him more and respect him for all that he did for the family. I may not agree with all of his choices, but I understand why/how he came to his decisions a little better.

Hearing him talk about losing some of his musical skills saddened me. I know how much he loves playing and how alive it makes him feel. The reality of my dad getting older really hit home during that conversation and reminded me once again that I need to call more often to talk to my folks. I've said it many times, but there would not be a Basement Songs book without my mom and dad.

I know that they read the book over Christmas, and I'm sure some of what I wrote may have surprised them (but come on, Mom & Dad, you had to know some of the things that were happening while you were away on vacations), but everything I put in the book was done so out of love.

Anyone reading this, make sure you contact you parents this week and tell them you love them. If your parents aren't a part of your life then call those people who mean the most to you. Life is unpredictable, as we all know, and we shouldn't let a day go by without telling the people who helped us grow into men and women know how important they are in our lives.

Whenever I hear this song by Springsteen, as with many Springsteen songs, I think of my dad.

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