I have a particular follower who likes my Dad stories so this one is for her.
My Dad worked a hundred hours a week when he owned his own business. He loved his job though, but when he retired he was ready to slow down some…can you blame him? One of the things that he loved to do was build a fire….big bonfires. Way out in the country there were no restrictions. I have to preface this by saying that my Dad had one of those beautiful bellowing voices. If I couldn’t find him in the house, then if I just stepped to the edge of the woods I could hear him down one of his homemade trails singing, and whistling. He would start early some days, and gather wood. Not sticks. Since he was so strong at that time, the fuel for his fire would be about eye level full of what looked more like small trees mixed with pine straw and leaves. It didn’t bother him at all to work that way. He loved it. He would time that fire to have leaping flames at dusk, and smoldering embers at dark. Working with his straw hat set just right, amd puffs of that wonderful smell of wood smoke hovering around him, I would watch him intently as he managed his creation and I knew we were invited, without being asked, to come watch the fire burn out…later. He had his share of life’s sorrow just like everyone else, but I never heard him criticize, belittle other people, or talk about the injustices in his life. I think he was so happy because he had my mother whom he adored. In his sixties, he said that just to be in the same room with her was wonderful…a vacation. So, even though he was pragmatic and realistic about life, he also knew not to stay in that quicksand of yesterday’s sadness. One of the things that he said sometimes was that he had to laugh to keep from crying. So he did. When everyone gathered around the bon fire that he created, we knew that laughter would be the subject, silly was the rule, and feeling happy to be alive just a given.
Those times with Dad talking around a fire were numerous. But one of the most special was when I was twelve. Before he was self-employed, he lost his job, and found one in Arkansas. We were offered a place to live in my great grandmothers house. There were a lot of trees on that large acreage. One day, you guessed it, Dad decided to build a fire. We had never lived in the country before so this was the first big fire. All day, and I mean all day, I worked with my Dad for hours pushing the wheelbarrow full of leaves back and forth to the campsite. I wouldn’t have left working with him for anything. The leaves and timber were piled to the clouds it seemed. I couldn’t wait until it was time to light that monstrosity. Finally, my brother and I waited around to see the flames on that dark cool summer night. Wow! It took awhile to burn down. We sat and roasted marshmallows, laughed and I remember some kind of scary story. But when the embers were all that was left, and they were rippling from yellow to red and orange….I remember thinking that I would never forget how beautiful they were…Dad talked about Heaven. He said some encouraging things about life knowing that I was extremely shy and awkward. The most important ingredient in life at that time wasn’t money. There wasn’t much! The most important ingredient was not things! Those were limited! But knowing that my parents loved me because they took time to listen was the ingredient that mattered the most! My Dad cared about people, and he loved life. He knew how to build a fire, and he knew how to build confidence. So the next day, I gave him a poem about the fire as a token of appreciation. He had listened to my silence so I gave him words on paper.
The sun may set, a fire may start, you may hear wood crackling , humbling beneath the sparks, a cricket chirps, a firefly sings, a song of a thousand different things.
And that was the beginning of my love for writing words. Writing this today is not sad, but wonderful. I got to stand around a fire again with Dad, and laugh a little. ….Terri O.A.