“And that’s for my old Gaffer!” is what Samwise Gamgee cried out in the Lord of the Rings movie as he pushed the last of three orcs off a stairway and made his way up a tower to save Frodo. I later discovered that the Gaffer was his father, a gardener who tried to pass his trade on to a son who had his mind on other wonders. This mirrored the relationship I had with my dad, and although I never called him Gaffer while he was here on earth, it has become a term of endearment that I use now to connect with him in spirit. Here is one such story of this relationship.
The sun had not yet risen on a July day that was certain to be intolerably hot and dry in the Texas panhandle. Gaffer had already been up for a while, and the smell of breakfast, a meal which was a daily ritual for him, wafted down the hall as he came to wake his teenage son. He was looking forward to spending the day with his prodigy on a trip to a nearby county to attain hay for the milk cow. The prodigal was not.
Despite the prodigal’s best efforts to subterfuge the Gaffer’s plan, some hours later they were stacking the last of the rectangular bales on the heavily loaded pickup. Wiping his brow he looked towards a pear orchard a distance away and invited the prodigal to follow. The prodigal reluctantly complied, and soon found himself climbing out toward the edge of a branch in search of fruit. He finally grabbed one, but to his disappointment it was hard as a stone. In his disgust, and as an act of rebellion, the pear was thrown at Gaffer, knocking his glasses off.
The prodigal was still allowed to drive the pickup back home, perhaps because Gaffer’s glasses were broken, but as the prodigal was pulling away from the barn, a post was struck and the side mirror broken. Gaffer walked up to the driver’s side of the pickup, gave the prodigal a tired look and said, “Take it to the house. I’ll walk in.”
Twenty years later in the evening of what had been a hot day in July, Gaffer and the prodigal were strolling around the gardens of the home place. Gaffer had a story for almost every plant that grew. Wiping his brow he motioned toward a pear tree and said, “Isn’t that a fine looking tree?” The prodigal admitted that it was. The Gaffer then winked, patted the prodigal on the shoulder and asked, “You know where it came from, don’t you?” Gaffer walked on, allowing the prodigal to reflect.
Twenty years later on a hot July afternoon the prodigal was gardening the home place alone. He stopped the lawn tractor under his favorite tree, and stood in the seat on his tiptoes in search of fruit. He grabbed one. The pear was soft. The juice ran down his chin as he took a bite, and reflected on Gaffer.