This morning I said, “I miss you, dad,” as I scanned my just-finished gravel patio. His absence hit me hard, which is unusual. I think it had to do with achieving the milestone in my south yard project. He always enjoyed moving the earth in creative ways. I have strong memories of him terracing the steep side yard of the Cedar Dr. house we rented in the very early ’80s. Shirt off, shovel working. In my mind it is always sunny and hot, and the tattoo on this shoulder—a wolf howling at the moon—is also prominent.

Now that I’m revisiting the memories, I also recall that he carved stairs into the hillside on both sides of the house. In that hard, dense soil. He used 2×4 or 2×6 boards for the bracing and long metal stakes to hold them against the earth. I built highways for my hot wheels on the bottom step.

When we moved about five years later the stairs were in need of some repair (we had used them heavily), but when I returned 15 years later they were still there in roughly the same condition we’d left them. I was amazed and grateful to see that they remained as a testament to my dad’s creativity, skill, and diligence.


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