He dug deep in the soil, the loam and silt of a fertile marsh; from a long line of broken-back men, inured to suffering and pain, consistent with their DNA from far distant crescents. The men who toiled and fed the idle, who gave their all to generations, many to rot in the quagmires of pointless conflicts, or like him — alone, prostrate in his garden.
My father has been dead a long time now, but I’ve never stopped missing him.
I was brought up in an agricultural community of intensive farming, but with just enough ‘real nature’ around us to appreciate the clean air (usually), the silence, the freedom. I virtually grew up on a bike and cars were relatively rare down our road.
Through all that time my father seemed to be in the background, always there, but quiet, shy. He’d had various jobs before retirement, a butcher, farm labourer mainly, but he was an intelligent man of few words.
And I feel I never really knew or understood him.
I wish I’d asked more questions, about his early life, his family. But we never know or ask enough, do we? We take it for granted that our family are there. For us.
Then one day, one of them is not. It’s too late. Yes, of course, I’m stating the obvious, but most often we ignore the obvious all around us, don’t we?
My abiding memory is of my father on his piece land at the back of our house, digging, simply digging the rich soil, surrounded by the vast fertile fields and eyed by hungry, inquisitive birds.