"My children, listen to me. Listen to your father's instruction. Pay attention and grow wise, for I am giving you good guidance. Don't turn away from my teaching." (Proverbs 4:1-2)This week's Sunday Scribbling theme is "guide." My father came instantly to mind. My father has guided me and my four older brothers—and now his 9 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren—throughout our whole lives. He is a gentle, soft-spoken presence: funny and brilliant, encouraging and forgiving. His life has been a constant pursuit of knowledge, and in the course of seeking knowledge, he has acquired tremendous wisdom. He continuously strives to walk in the paths of righteousness, without ever being self-righteous. He is a brilliant scientist and historian who has a heart for Christ.
"My child, listen to me and do as I say, and you will have a long, good life. I will teach you wisdom's ways and lead you in straight paths. If you live a life guided by wisdom, you wn't limp or stumble as you run. Carry out my instructions; don't forsake them. Guard them, for they will lead you to a fulfilled life." (Proverbs 4:10-13)On Monday my parents, who are in their 80s, are flying to Scotland and Ireland for a 10-day tour. My parents have traveled extensively throughout the second half of their lives; astonishingly, they've never been to Ireland, although my father's grandfather came from there as a boy.
My father has spent his life either growing fruit or doing groundbreaking research in fruit breeding and nursery production. Before him rest five generations of Cummins apple growers. My brothers are the seventh generation, and two have orchards: Stephen has Indian Creek and James has Bittersweet, both in or near Ithaca, NY. Stephen and my Dad also run Cummins Nursery.
I wrote this poem about my father many years ago, and I still love it. This is my most vivid memory of my father: peeling apples.
Dad, Peeling Apples
The color of wheat
like the skin of a Golden Delicious,
freckles on top of freckles
and tiny nicks
from his knife, dots of blood
turned to brown scabs.
My father’s hands
have never changed. Every night
a different apple
split and seeded without him
ever looking down, loving the fit
in the left hand, brown-handled
knife in the right.
He licks the tip of his finger
where the juice runs clear
and skewers a slice
for me, which I take
of whether I want
an apple or whether
the flesh has begun to brown
around the edges. When he is done,
knife set down and fingers wiped
clean against the legs
of his beige corduroys, I will take
the leathered back
of his hand to my cheek
and hold it there, begging
his weathered roots to spread
their soil-caked fingers
long and strong
as deep as the generations will go.
(By Sarah Cummins Small. Copyright 2000. First published in The Yalobusha Review.)