Chapter 10: Tomatoes, Sunflowers and Roses (excerpt from Chert Dog)

“My Father’s Greatest Gift:  Life Lessons from a Black English Labrador Retriever”

My Father’s Greatest Gift

John had a heart of gold and would do anything for you.
His loves were his beloved wife, Connie and her father, his son and
daughter, his brother and parents, in-laws, family, neighbors and
friends. But his most special gift was that of loving wildlife and
gardening, and did he ever grow amazing tomatoes whose “stalks”
stretched alongside the backyard garage to almost the rooftop! The
sunflowers had enormous flowers of which all the birds would flock to
for a feast! His lawn was the lushest and greenest in the neighborhood.
And I had heard from many that when Connie was alive, the rose
garden’s beauty and fragrance had a surreal appeal. You might say
he was blessed with a “green thumb” as many referred to him as a
Master Gardener. One could also note that it was his education and
training at Cornell’s Agricultural Program. A neighboring retired
veterinarian would often comment that it was the Japanese Quail
droppings. I personally say that is was his complete and selfless love
of planting, watering, nurturing and talking to the many plants, trees
and flowers that he gave his unconditional love to. I know that for a
fact because the minute I met John, I could see immediately through
his outer gruffness when he smiled at me with a twinkle in his eye
and spoke to me with words filled with an altruistic appreciation for
Dogheads like me. There seemed to be a release in his demeanor
the day that we met, as if to say that he had found a fresh start and
relief to his tired and grieving heart. I loved him from the start. He
gave me discipline, to make me a better person-I mean Doghead! He
showed me many wonderful places and exciting people to expand my
horizons. My most favorite times with him were being co-pilot when
we went for drives and sleeping on his pillow on his couch.

It was in his brokenness that God healed his spirit thought the
love of his children, the kindness and many homemade-meals from
his mother-in-law, family and friends and the many adventures that
both he and I had throughout his life. I was there to see two weddings
as he became a father to yet another son and daughter that brought
in many new family members. This brought much change for him
to deal with at first, and though reluctant and stubborn, he seemed
to adapt graciously until he had a sense of pure knowing about
him…

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