Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Tree of Life and Love

The maple tree in my mother's backyard.
It must be at least 45 years old.
This maple has a story. This tree reminds me of my dad's love.

Some time in the early 1970s my dad and I cut down a tall pine tree. We used a big bow saw, with one of us on each end. We teamed up to fell dozens of trees with that saw (which I still have). But I especially remember that pine.

Now anyone who knows about ice storms knows about the problem of pines in winter weather. Their roots are shallow, their trunks not especially strong, and they become top-heavy when laden with frozen precipitation. Such a pine tree doesn't belong in a planned landscape. It did not belong in my dad's beautiful yard.

And so we skillfully took out this pine, and cut it into firewood. When the stump was cut, Dad prepared to cut down a little maple sapling, sprouting by the pine roots.

"Wait!" I shouted.

"What?" he asked.

"Why are you cutting down that little tree?"

The question from this 8-year-old caught him off guard. "Well, it's just in the way."

"In the way of what?"

He envisioned an open space in the yard with no tree. I saw a little tree causing no problems, striving mightily to live. I reasoned with him that this maple, a hardwood, would not cause problems like a pine. This tree deserved to live.

The tree was spared, and it grew right along with me all these years. To this day it stands tall in my mother's backyard.

That maple reminds me of my father's love and his willingness to try things my way. You see, he and I often disagreed. We rarely saw life through the same lens. Yes, I would often find ways to disagree with him, constantly challenging his perspective on virtually everything. It surely wore on him over the years. But that day he listened. He did as I asked. The tree is there to prove it.

My dad never really understood me. But he loved me. It took me years to realize the significance of his sparing that tree. That act spoke volumes about our relationship, and had little to do with landscaping.

Dad died 16 years ago this month. I think of him often. And I remember how much he loved me.