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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, September 9, 2002

Challenge of yard work brings out father's obsession in son

 •  Previous About Men/Women

By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

It's sobering to discover that you've inherited your father's addiction. I was squatting in my back yard pulling weeds out of a new lawn when I realized it.

Made me laugh. Nervously.

Women worry about growing up to become their mothers, and I've never been able to tell if that was a good thing or not. Always figured it was safer not to ask.

But I have never heard a man give the idea any serious thought. I sure hadn't — until that day.

It's not that I didn't like my father or that I did not want to be like him. He taught me a lot about treating people fairly and working hard. He took me surfing and taught me how to catch a baseball.

He also showed me how to run a lawn mower, and I guess I took that lesson to heart.

Our yard was my father's personal battleground. And the lawn needed more attention than a screaming infant. His tough zoysia grass never cooperated and often clogged the lawn mower blades. He never seemed to get 20 feet without the grass shutting down the mower.

But my father kept at it, weekend after weekend. He was out there all the time, mowing, trimming, suffering. Hoping for the best.

I can still picture him wearing his ugly floppy hat, walking behind his lawn mower, cursing occasionally.

And now I'm like him.

Truth be told, I should have seen it coming.

All those lunch-hour trips to the hardware store. The manly new pick ax. The shiny shovel. The overpriced rake.

Mrs. G. found this very peculiar.

"You never liked yard work before," she said.

"Never had a yard," I said.

When we moved into the home, my yard was a jungle of neglect, hedges gone wild and broken sprinkler pipes. The yard was such a mess, the home so beat up, that I wept on the night we bought it.

The challenge seemed too great.

Shortly after we had moved in, though, my daughters and I talked about the yard. We concluded that the whole place needed our help. We vowed to be the best thing that ever happened to it.

The work was difficult. There were so many things that I hated about the yard — and yard work, for that matter.

But I was out there all the time. I felt compelled to be there. If my family thought I was crazy, no one said anything.

I dug sprinkler trenches, chopped down a tree, hauled away a shed, planted ginger and puakenikeni.

The ginger flourished. The puakenikeni died. But the sprinkler system held on.

I planted grass, too, and hoped for the best. That's where I was, on my lush and beautiful lawn, when I began thinking about my father and his yard.

Other than pride, I don't know what prompted us to become slaves to our yards. I do know that the struggle gave us a bond.

Men don't worry about growing up to become their fathers, even though they probably want to do a better job.

And let me tell you, my yard looks good. Better than my father's — and I'm not even close to being finished.

Clearly, there was no escaping my inheritance.

So on the day I realized it, I took off my ugly floppy hat, wiped the sweat off my forehead, and faced up to my father's legacy.