Dad the botanist and yes he was a great father…


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When I was a teenager as I am sure many teenagers do most of my conversations with my father were arguments. I was trying of course to separate and be my own person. I don’t know why I struggled with that so long. One of the things that used to drive me nuts then was that every teacher I had in school knew or had my dad in class. They would always start the year with “Your so lucky he’s your father.” Or some other statement about how wonderful a teacher he was.

Dad was a fantastic person and a wonderful father. I grant that. But it was hard to be facing his legacy as a teenager as I was starting to build my own legacy. Dad took that crap from me and helped me out grow it. It was really hard lesson for me and one that he was patient (mostly) and willing to wait for me to grow out of. Those are the kind of lessons that you think about later.

That period impacted my mother as well. I think I stretched the bonds of our relationship just as far as I stretched my relationship with dad. In the end it took me well after college to grow up. But that is another, darker story.

Dad could identify every plant and tree (or so it seemed to me at the time) when I was a kid. When we would go on hikes he would stop and point out a plant. I loved his story of the simple fern. He talked about the fact that the fern had been around since the time of the dinosaurs and was part of the oil we consumed for power and gasoline. But the fern kept going. He talked about flowers that when you touched them they popped. The goal of the flower being the spread of pollen onto an insect that landed on the petals. He took us as Boy Scouts deep into the heart of Brown County State Park near Nashville Indiana where there was a virgin forest. A forest untouched by humans. Trees that whispered of time long gone. It was a pristine ancient forest and dad showed us the trees that had been around well since before Bloomington.

I am not sure mom loved being outdoors on those hikes as much as dad did but she was always there. Bringing along the girls and I and trying to keep up with dad. Even though he wasn’t tall he had the longest stride of anyone in the family. So when he took off into his beloved woods he was gone. The difference on the walk between the two of them? Mom would look back more often to make sure we were keeping up. Dad would get wrapped up in the walk taking pictures and could end up a 1/2 ahead before he realized he had lost us.

Oh how I hated those walks as a teenager. Just one more thing now that I would love to have a chance to do again.

.your loving son

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