Dad, I was not the best son.
To my child's brain, it seemed that all you ever wanted to do was work. After you came home? You did yard work. Weekends? All we had was yard work, toiling under hot sun as we sweated and burned our skin, or during the winter, bundled in thick jackets while we raked up leaves and trimmed bushes. I began to hate the sound of the rake, making that peculiar "skrrrrrrit!" noise as it scraped against concrete, and the crunch of dry leaves that seemed to avoid being pulled into the dustpan, only to break apart into smaller pieces.
I hated the smell of cut grass, and the acrid scent of trimmed juniper bushes, because all they reminded me of was the fact that I would be outside again next weekend, doing the same thing, over and over. Sundays often meant washing your car, or polishing shoes in preparation for school on Monday. I got used to my fingers getting pruney, temporary premature wrinkles of an age I did not feel yet, and the smell of shoe polish as it permeated the back porch where I had to work.
I hated *you,* because you were always the one who made me do this. I was rebellious, angry, and full of selfish hate. Why me? Why did I have to do this stuff, when your other son seemed to have it easy. Why was it always the job of the eldest to do yard work, small maintenance, and other things that your younger son could do so easily, and yet, was not there with me?
. . .
Then, one day, you weren't there anymore. Cancer descended swiftly.
It was only a few days later, after you were in the ground, that I realized you did not make me work just for the sake of working. Instead, you had imparted wisdom: When was the best time to pick oranges off the tree and how a ripe orange was supposed to look, feel, and smell; when it was important to clean a car, and how important it was to make sure it was a thorough job so the paint job and interior lasted longer, how to clean shoes to make them appear like new and keep them from breaking down, and the benefits of keeping a well-manicured lawn, and trimmed bushes, without needing to hire a gardener.
So, Dad, thank you for these things. Thank you for showing me what you knew. Thank you for giving me the wisdom that I could only appreciate later in life, as an adult. Thank you for the lessons that I needed to learn, even though I did not understand them at the time.
...and I hope you can forgive me for being the person I once was.