Even today the worn leather of the couch presses against my fingers. Dad was resting where he always did after his farm chores, beside the right arm rest. And on that uncomfortable-looking split he had worn into the leather with his backside. Across the room from him was the nicest piece of furniture we had -- other than the old, ornate organ Mom had inherited from her mother. It was our HiFi and the most beautiful music was emanating from its cloth-covered front, filling the room. Even now, whenever I happen to hear a bit of that particular piece on the radio, the room with me sitting there between Mom and Dad fills my mind. I still have the album Dad played that day. Here. You can listen to it with me while you read this. It’s a serenade by Mozart, called Eine Kleine Nacht Musik, or A Little Night Music. And six decades later it’s still one of my favourite pieces of music. A little night music in the middle of the afternoon. For me it’s the sun dancing on grass. I was looking out the screen door of the porch opposite me. The warm sun was glancing off the tall green blades in our lawn, grass that Dad would let grow to farm length, then cut with a scythe. I watched through the screen the slow flight of a bee from dandylion to dandylion, as in a dream. The bee and the sun were part of the music. At the far end of the wide lawn our fence posts stood white in front of the neighbour’s trees, which lounged green and tall and comfortable there. I thought of going out, but not yet.
Dad, going out
I wish I had a photo of it but I don't. I can see it clearly in my memory though.
My father very seldom went out except to do chores. Otherwise, it was only for funerals, maybe weddings, but I don't remember any, or things like going to the bank to sign something, and later, to very occasional CNIB events for the blind.
Dad was the ultimate in practical people. He lived in the real physical world around him. For instance, not being able to see the kitchen floor, he would wash it every time he finished doing the dishes. And he would wash the dishes immediately after supper, no matter how interesting the dinner table conversation.
And if he had to go out for some evening function, he would prepare for it the whole day, shaving and taking his shower early after lunch, feeling through his seldom-used good clothes hours before leaving, and starting to dress at least a couple hours early.
Then, if it was cold out, Dad, who was skinny and never produced enough body heat in the winter, would stand fully clothed in front of the door, blind, facing sideways, waiting, listening silently, without expression, to the usual commotion of us kids who always threw our clothes on at the very last minute in a panic. He would wait there seemingly at peace for more than half an hour, dressed in everything: his long-johns, shirt, tie, sweater, at least two pieces of a three-piece suit (which he was never ever seen in otherwise), a heavy overcoat, pull-over rubbers, gloves, and his 1928 tweed wool cap with earflaps which cost him, new, $1.39, and which I, now older than he was standing there at the door, still am proud to keep in my own cap drawer, and which I occasionally try to pull down over my larger head, or just hold up to my nose; the powerful smell of crankshaft oil and engine grease is still there, life-size.
It's finally time for me to learn from Dad. I still put off to the last minute getting ready to go out, and always put myself into a panic. I wait because I'm already anxious. I always am. Just about always have been. But I don't remember ever seeing that fear in Dad out on the farm. Maybe his practical existence in the world around him kept his fears at bay. While mine were so strong I was driven into my mind. Not a good place to be to confront reality. It will always have the upper hand. Lately I find myself close to panic over otherwise trivial situations.
So I've come up with something that might help. Just as Dad began getting ready early in the day, I am going to ask myself in advance of doing anything (if I can remember to) how to do it without increasing my anxiety. That way, I'll apply my mind to the practical problems of the day, in proper sequence, the one world helping me through the other, instead of acting as a refuge from it.
If I had not been so busy thinking when I was young, I would have already learned this from my father. The way nature expected me to. But it's never too late. Today is still the present.
(Click on the photos for extended captions, on some.)
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Like · Reply · about an hour ago
Stan Burfield Wow, that would be a memory! As for our farm, sadly it has long been sold and gone.
Like · Reply · about an hour ago · Edited
Jenny Getsinger Was your dad blind when he used the scythe to cut the grass?
Like · Reply · 58 minutes ago
Stan Burfield Yes. Surprising, isn't it?
Like · Reply · 1 · 54 minutes ago
Larry Burfield I was always amazed on how much your Dad could do when he was blind. One of the special times was walking over to his place from Uncle Robin's ,after your Mom and Dad moved to Calgary ,and your Dad was just walking down the sidewalk after being at the CNIB playing cards. He had to show us his garden, and I was most amazed at how he could weed it. A true inspiration, for sure!
Stan Burfield Yeah. At the CNIB one day they had competitions. One was to pound a nail into a board. Of course no one could do it, except Dad. His nail went in smoothly, in seconds.
Jenny Getsinger Stan, I love your stories. About real people, not just repeating some crap off the internet or propaganda about some politician most of us have never met in person. I am so inspired, just as I used to be inspired by your give-away sheets of paper with a poem on one side and an essay on the other outside the flower shop (old-fashioned "blog").
Stan Burfield I'm glad you still remember those. :) I still have copies of them all.
Stan Burfield yeah, I enjoy reality.
Larry Burfield Stan, I have to share this photo of me and your Dad in 1947, cleaning grain with a fanning mill.
Larry Burfield The picture of him and Granddad on my Dad's John Deere D was taken 1 year earlier and he must have been able to see well enough to drive and follow the furrow, but as I understand his site was failing, but he continued to stay so active.
Stan Burfield Stubborn, like all of us.
Larry Burfield That is a Good kind of stubborn to have!
Dave Hinkley Priceless!
Stan Burfield You probably remember Dad a bit, Dave.
Dave Hinkley A lot more than a bit; I can easily picture your Mom, Dad, your sister and you; the barn, the garden north of the barn, the extension to the house, the purple pickup, the Ford tractor, the hi-fi, the old organ, typewriter, braille typewriter, your microscope, your dad chasing us out of the house, your sister's aquarium; I could go on and on...
Stan Burfield God, that's great. I think you remember it better than I do! What did we get chased out of the house for?
Stan Burfield By the way, I've still got the old organ here in our living room. A little more beat up than it was. You and I had a lot of good times. The tomato on top of the match-head powered rocket! Ha ha.
Stan Burfield And especially gunpowder.
Dave Hinkley Stan Burfield As I recall, we were playing "guns" in the house; sort of chasing around (there was someone else with us, I think but can't remember who). We were making "gun noises" and your dad warned us once; he thought we were spitting at each other.That was fine but I aimed my "gun" (finger) at someone and the sound accidentally came out again. That's when he'd had enough and he angrily chased us all out. Memory is usually not 100% accurate but that memory has remained quite vivid over the years so I think that's what happened.
Stan Burfield That definitely sounds like something we'd get carried away doing. There was another time I remember quite clearly. We each had a plastic straw and we had gotten hold of a bag of dry beans. We found we could shoot them out of the straws at each other.We got so into it that we began shooting them at people inside the house through the ventilation holes in the windows, which I guess we could pry open from outside. We shot beans at Mom and my sister continuously. They couldn't do anything about it because we were outside. Mom gave up and just waited till we were all out of beans, then cleaned them up, I guess. I remember it as a thrill, of being able to attack someone, sort of like playing cowboys and Indians, but more real.