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Hanging Out With Dad
One of my first memories of hanging out with dad was swinging on the swings at the local elementary school when he got home from work. Every day my brother and I would wait for Dad to get home from work, then pounce on him the moment he came in the door.
During the summer months it was to beg him to take us to the park to swing. I remember those old swings, the ones made out of wood that had a little bar that slid down the chain to keep little kids from falling out. Dad would carefully place us in those little square swings and push us until we practically flew through the air. Higher and higher we went, squealing with delight. We would beg, "Just one more time, pleeeease?" as the swings slowed down and our little legs dangled in the air, desperately trying to get those swings going again. He would usually agree, stating, "Just this once, then we have to go".
As the sun set, we would eventually agree that it was indeed, time to go home again. Dad would load us into our little wooden wagon and pull us behind him for those several blocks back home.
In the winter, Dad was great at building snow forts. He could dig a hole through several feet of snow faster than a rabbit on a hot plate. Since he was a formidable man, standing 6 feet 4 inches, and a good size around in girth, the holes he dug were perfect for a small kid to scurry through. He'd pack the snow good and hard so there was little danger of our little forts collapsing. To make them extra hard, he would get the hose out and spray them down on the outside, which would then turn to a hard, icy crust over night. Our little forts would last for weeks, while the neighbor kids forts would melt away into a heap.
In the spring Dad would plant vegetable gardens wherever there was a square foot of space. On the side of a hill, around telephone poles, in the middle of a pasture (once we moved to a farm) and in buckets all over the back yard. His favorite thing to grow was tomatoes, which he turned into the most delicious tomato sauce at the end of the summer. He also liked to make "bread and butter" pickles to enjoy in the fall. Dad was also legendary in our family with his ability to shuck peas and beans at an inhuman pace. We attributed it to his rather large, though nimble, hands.
This Father's Day I'll remember all of these things he did with us. While I no longer have my Dad around to share the day with, I'll always have these memories of him. I can't help but smile when I remember his kind words of encouragement to keep writing. Today, I think he'd be very amused that he, Carl H. Petras, would have a tribute written about him on the Internet.
To Dads everywhere, have a wonderful Father's Day, and may your children remember you with great fondness too.