Picture This, Dad


I’ve lived in Virginia for decades now.  (If you add up the decades I’ve lived in Virginia you will discover that I am somehow much older than I think I am.)

My dad came to visit once. (Which, to be fair, is one time more than my mom, but she had her reasons.)

They lived in North Dakota and I was very excited when my dad decided to fly out.

I had just bought my first place – a condo on the Virginia side of Washington, DC.  He came to paint the walls and do the fix-ity things that dads do with their amazing certainty and rightness of purpose that is unique to dads everywhere. Every dad project was a teachable moment, but, really, all I wanted was to make sure the pink walls in the bedroom were painted over.

And, I wanted to show him around and show off my world.

Which didn’t really turn out all that well.

He wasn’t impressed by Washington, its Capitol or White House. He was annoyed by the traffic and all the people. He wasn’t impressed by any of the historic buildings all along our day drives. Blue Ridge Mountains? Sure, OK. He was moderately impressed that the Cuban restaurant offered Philippine beer.

He was truly impressed by only one thing. The trees.


“Damn, kid, I’ve never seen so many trees,” he said as I drove him around.

He said it as if I was somehow responsible for covering up a lot of otherwise good farmland with all these unproductive trees. He wasn’t disappointed. He simply thought it was funny, in the same way he thought a lot of my life choices were “funny”, as in “Well, I would never do that, kid, but it’s your life.”

When he got back to North Dakota, the only thing he told my mom and his friends was that we sure had a lot of trees in Virginia.

He never saw the farm where we ended up.

trees yard

And, damn, he’s right. We do have a lot of trees.

front yard

We have so many trees that I wonder how the sun even reaches the ground some days.

pecan tree

We have three pecan trees. (Yes, they DO grow in Virginia, people, so stop telling me they don’t.)

japanese maple

This Japanese Maple that came as a sapling from Montpelier, James Madison’s home.

rose of sharon

And, a Rose of Sharon. (More bush than tree, I guess. I thought it was only a girl’s name in Grapes of Wrath until I moved here.)

The winter did this to one of our magnolias …

dead magnolia

I know, I know, they’re not supposed to grow here either.

Is it dead? I don’t know, but look what I found on one of its branches this morning …

new mag

Editor/Husband plants trees like many people plant marigolds. This is his “Tree Garden”:

tree garden

I think I’m much more like my mom than my dad.  But, there are a couple things about my dad that carried into me.

My dad loved basketball and football with the same passion that I love baseball.  (“You didn’t get baseball from me, kid.”)

He gave me a love of politics and beer. Bad puns, bawdy jokes, and Bugs Bunny and Road Runner cartoons above all others.

And, he loved taking pictures.

He had a couple cameras that were good enough. He would take and develop so many photos that he was probably the reason the little camera store in Devils Lake, North Dakota lasted as long as it did. When my father died a few years ago, I went by the store to tell the owner and he seemed truly sorry. The shop closed not long after and I think the loss of my dad’s business was part of the reason why.

My dad wasn’t a very good photographer, but it made him happy.

He liked to take pictures of tractors …


farmyards …


squirrels …


and, his kid …


Now, come to find out, I carry that gene, too. I’m not a very good photographer, but it makes me happy.

And, it reminds me of my dad.


4 thoughts on “Picture This, Dad

  1. Thanks for the thoughts and linkages today, Jackie. I had a fabulous father, whose favorite baseball team (yes, he LOVED the game) was the Cleveland Indians. From earliest childhood until his death in 1992, he remained faithful to his team every season, though not all of his cheering could bring them the championships he wanted for them after the one in 1948. He would have loved to see them make the series in 1995 and 1997, and would have mourned their loss to his local team – the Florida Marlins. Daddy caught several marlins in his fishing days and always wanted a Miami Marlins. I like to think he knows he finally got his wish in 2012, when they changed their name and began playing in the downtown stadium on the site of the former Orange Bowl and Miami Dolphins.

    Daddy, too, loved trees. While he appreciated the great art at the National Gallery, on every visit he would comment on the quality of paneling in some of the galleries :). When he died I planted a weeping purple European beech in his memory at our farm in MD – it seemed fitting at the time, both weeping and dark. But he himself spent most of his adult life in Miami, FL, and probably would have preferred some bright, exotic tropical if it would only grow “up north” as he thought of MD and VA. As a man with an enormous sense of humor, Daddy would have laughed at the dark, weeping tree, even as his kind and loving heart appreciated the gesture.

    Baseball always brings him home to me, and your blogs are often a terrific reminder of a great man, as well as a wonderful game. Thanks again, Jackie!

    • Thanks for sharing the memories of your dad, Lynne … sweet! As for the Indians … keep an eye on some of their up-and-comers: Kyle Crockett (P) and just-drafted Mike Papi (IF) are both UVa Hoos! (You can watch Papi tonight during the College World Series …)

  2. Great memories, Jackie. My dad, who has been gone for more than 14 years now, loved baseball. Born and raised on a farm in Iowa, he played kitten ball with a hometown team for years (that’s where he met my mother). He was a switch hitter and introduced his kids to the game when we were quite young. Dad was our personal “batting machine” while we learned to field pop-ups and bouncing balls — he may have sent an occasional line drive toward my brother, but never toward me. Though we lived on the north side of Chicago for several years, our neighbors never knew that dad preferred the White Sox to the Cubs and the Packers over the Bears. I still miss hearing him whistle while he did chores around the house and the corny jokes he always brought to the dinner table. Thanks for sharing your dad with all of us.

    • Gloria … thank you for sharing your dad memories, too! :)

      My dad was devoted to his L.A. teams — Lakers, Rams, UCLA Bruins, and, when there was no basketball or football to watch, Dodgers. When we moved to North Dakota, he stuck with L.A. — and everyone in town knew him as the guy with the Rams jacket and the Lakers & Rams bumper stickers on his truck.

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