Opinion: Finding Meaning


Forgiving Fathers

The Beautiful Wife and I are in picturesque Midway, Utah. Nearby is Park City, once a silver boomtown of miners, saloons and brothels, but now a ski resort for those with enough silver. Midway, by contrast, was settled by Swiss pioneers building a religious Zion. Midway people, in the beginning, were farmers and ranchers of modest prosperity and abiding spirituality. Our home, a farmhouse Victorian, has been in the BW’s family for over a century and I am the caretaker. I’ve been working on home and yard, but today is Sunday, the proverbial day of rest. I’ve sitting in the garden under an apple tree, savoring the beauty of the morning.

The winters are hard at this latitude and elevation but nature explodes in the spring. The daffodils bloom first, with tulips close behind. The lilacs were flowering when we came but now the peonies, luscious and fragrant, are showing off. Yesterday the roses began to bloom in the arbor over the entrance. The resident deer, who stared at our arrival to what they presumed to be their home, trim the bottom of the apple trees for dinner. The resident robin is hopping across the lawn, breakfasting on insects and the occasional worm. She is friendly, coming close, willing to share her domain.

Across the yard is a statue of the BW’s great-grandfather Johanne, carved by a chainsaw artist. It’s in heroic scale; though the Swiss are short, Johanne stands seven feet proud. He holds an apple in his hand extended to visitors in the sharing tradition of farmers. He was the Johnny Appleseed of this valley; his orchard still blooms, a century after his passing. Johanne was a renaissance man, writing poetry, hymns, and the history of the valley. But mostly he was a father.

His son, the BW’s grandfather, reared a family of eleven in the home we now care for. The BW’s father, in the depths of the Great Depression, left Midway to seek his fortune in California. A generation later Midway draws us back. Others are coming also. Midway has been discovered, the town is buzzing with construction.

Last night we took a quiet sunset walk through the town cemetery, enjoying the view across the valley while visiting the graves of four generations of the BW’s ancestors. The cemetery is organized by extended families. Husbands and wives share a headstone, often with the names of their children inscribed. Here, when the hustle and bustle of life is done, the family lives on. 

Sunday is Father’s Day. Like most, I worked hard at being a good father, though I do have a mental list of mistakes I made along the way. Children are good to forgive us fathers for being human. We, in turn, forgive their childish failings, perhaps not appreciating how hard they work to make us proud of them. Now I watch my sons and sons-in-law taking their turn at fatherhood. I think they are remarkable, though I’m biased. Fathers doing their best, children trying their hardest—it’s the stuff of life. There’s meaning in that. Happy Father’s Day.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip.  He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.”  Email:  [email protected]

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