commentary

Small gestures

When I was a child, my father greeted the morning far earlier than the rest of the family. Being a farmer at heart, he’d get up before the sun peeked through the distant tree line, make himself a toasted velveeta and mustard sandwich, and quietly slip out the back door undetected. I was used to him leaving early in the morning, and used to him having evening meetings, which is why vacation time was so special; we had dad all to ourselves.

A lot of years have passed since those days. Today my dad is nearing 86 years-old, and if not for his body fighting his mind, he’d still be out there with a rake in one hand and a shovel in the other, working as hard or harder than his crew. His days were full as a commercial contractor and even busier when in addition to his job he followed his passion to make provisions for the homeless in his community. But for all the work and all the volunteering he has done through the years, he always took time every morning to write my mother a note before he left the house.

I’m not sure when that started. Maybe it was around the time my youngest sister moved out, anticipating the enormous change my mother would experience. She was a stay-at-home mom who helped out in my father’s business from time to time, but really, she was mom at home for all of us, whatever our needs. Her four children were her business, and they were very busy, and so was she. When her last child left, she had quite a hole to fill; I’m sure it wasn’t easy.

When my mother woke in the morning, the house was empty, and she was alone for the day. She’d saunter out to the quiet kitchen in her cozy robe and slippers, and before making her coffee, she always stopped at the kitchen island knowing my father had left her a note. “Good morning,” he would write, and then give her a quick weather report, always noting the temperature outside. He may have said he watered the plants, followed by reminders of appointments, his intentions for the day, and when he expected to be home. Most importantly, he always ended with, “I love you.” When it was a special occasion, like her birthday or their anniversary, it was duly noted. It was a brief note, nothing fancy, but it connected them for that day.

Years later, when my parents decided to sell their farm, I found some of my father’s precious notes. I set them aside thinking mom had no clue they were milling about amongst all of the many papers we were sorting through. To my surprise, she asked me if I’d seen them. I had kept those treasured notes in a safe spot so as not to accidently throw them out. Little did I know she was saving them. They were the special notes from anniversaries and birthdays, and she wasn’t about to let them go. The notes always stated the obvious, but because of his small gesture, she was reminded every day that he cared.

These days, my mother is often up before my father. Sadly, the notepad is no longer lingering by the plant on the old kitchen island. Life has changed, but they really haven’t; their love for one another is as strong today as it was all those years ago. It makes me think that the notepad should make a debut in the new house, and just maybe, she should start writing him a note…it would be a nice gesture after all, just to remind him every day that she still cares after all these years.

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