Gilbert W. Griffith - Dad

Gilbert W. Griffith – Dad

I love to mow.

The first summer with my husband, he paid folks to take care of the yard. With envy, I watched them unload their machines and buzz through the grass making short work of it. I sighed quite frequently and by autumn I asked Alex to get me a mower for next year.

I don’t listen to tunes but rather concentrate on the chore at hand. Pushing the mower up the hills, not shooting clippings into the mulch, not running over our flowers. I love the physical act of mowing, the pure exercise of it, the fact that if I’m mowing that means spring weather is here and since being warm makes me happy, mowing is a favored job. Sometimes my intense focus on the task frees my mind to catch random ideas I miss during the work of writing at my desk.

Some days my thoughts float on the peripheral of grief, thinking of various anniversary dates marking those lost to me. 

Recently, I was thinking about my dad and it struck me, again, how impactful the feelings connected to bereavement can be. Sorrow can hit us at anytime with any level of intensity and it doesn’t matter if the loss was recent (“recent” being relative to each of us) or distant. There are times I’m sad over the loss of my great uncle Lloyd and he died in the D-Day invasion. Obviously I never knew him. Going through photos, I come across one of my granddad—Dad’s father—I smiled at the sight of his broad grin and keenly felt the loss even though he passed away in 1987. The longing to be in his presence stabbed me in the heart.

I enjoy MercyMe’s music, but there are two songs I often skip—I can only Imagine, and Homesick, because hearing them zaps me straight to the death of my beloved cousin Davey. The immediately recalled image is him smiling like grandpa, baseball hat on backwards, watching me walk up the driveway at his folks’ house, anticipating giving me a big hug. Davey was the best hugger in a family of great Griffith huggers. Sometimes I want to rejoice in that memory and sometimes I want to run from the ache of it. 

Letting my mind contemplate a single thing, as those who know me realize, is a difficult thing. I don’t walk straight, ever—it can’t be done. Maybe I’ll write about when the neighbor loaned me his snow blower one winter and all Alex could say when I was done was, “You do know that machine will move in a straight line, right?” as he howled with laughter at my zigzag up the sidewalk.

When mowing, I start out trying hard to go straight.

Then I think, who said I have to? I begin making patterns in the grass and then I start thinking about Dad and the routine we had mowing my parents’ four acres. Dad weedwhacked, PKS (the kid sister) used the 1947 Farmall tractor and I would push mow. Dad had one rule for me, well two. The first was don’t shoot the grass onto the driveway because then he had to blow it off, and second, don’t run over my toes. Other than that, the yard was fair game. I could carve donuts, run over sticks, and change directions on a whim. It didn’t matter what I did as long as the grass was short when I was done.

Dad let me be that way throughout my life.

Whoever I was, was always okay with him. He never thought I failed at anything (and boy have I ever), loved me without condition, and was probably my biggest fan.

Given that depth of acceptance, how do I not continue to grieve for him the rest of my life? There’s no way around it. I know his loss will coldcock me from time to time. I want to relish those emotions as an honor to him, not as a wallowing. “I miss you,” I want to say, “because: ____________,”and fill in that blank with every memory that made that him unique in my life.

While mowing, working to methodically stay on course to maintain our landscaping, it came to me that part of moving on without the person is continuing to talk about them. By doing that, we keep them very much alive. There are many stories I can tell about my Dad, who was quietly gregarious and much loved by friends and family. Each time I share those tales, part of him continues to live for others and he does not fade for me. In my never letting him go completely, new people get to know him. 

Throughout our years on earth, each person who dies will continue to exist as long as we who love them keep bringing their lives into the light.

Gilbert Griffith & Jenny Rigard

Dad with his beloved granddaughter–two peas in a pod