Image credit: Matthew Driskill
It was back in the day when I was a freshman at Northwest Classen High School in Oklahoma City, USA. It was a Thursday night when the phone rang. It was my grandfather, Thomas “Woody” Driskill, calling from the grand metropolis of Hollis, Oklahoma (a one stoplight town and usually it was blinking yellow). Woody wanted to talk to my dad. I dutifully called him to the phone and went back to watching television, having of course finished my homework in a timely manner (yeah right!).
Dad and Woody chatted a while, then he hung up the phone, and asked me if I’d like to take Friday off from school for a road trip to Hollis to see Woody. Naturally, I said yes.
We departed early on Friday morning and two hours into our three-hour drive, dad told me the reason we were going to see Woody. You see, Woody was a keen gardener who grew roses, tomatoes and other veggies in a garden in the backyard. Every spring, he would dig his garden by hand to get it ready for planting. Except for this year. Woody had reached the age where his spirit was willing but his body was failing. Years of smoking his pipe, and too much eggs and ham with red-eye gravy had taken their toll.
The key thing I remember dad saying was “we” were going to help him dig his garden.
It was 10 or 11 in the morning when we arrived, and the sun was already high and hot. Woody led me to his garage where he kept his tools and pointed to a spade hanging on the wall.
Now, I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I quickly noticed there was only one spade. In the meantime, my grandmother, Mother Murl, had laid iced tea on a small table in the back porch. Dad had a big smile on his face, as did Woody, who then proceeded to tell me where and how to dig his garden.
So I started digging while Dad and Woody sat in the shade, drinking iced tea and supervising my manual labour. That folks, is how it’s done in Oklahoma.
What makes this story special to me is that as I was working, I would look up from time to time and see my father and grandfather telling each other stories, talking about the things great and small that make up our lives, and the happiness on my grandfather’s face to have his son and grandson helping him.
I also remember seeing a few tears because my grandfather felt he had reached a point where he simply could not do one of the things that gave him great pleasure. Now that I’ve become a father, I realise that from time to time we all need help digging our gardens. I just hope my son will be as gullible as I was when I ask him if he wants to skip school for a day!
Matthew Driskill is an award-winning journalist, multimedia entrepreneur and part-time university lecturer who has lived and worked throughout Asia, Europe and the US. He is the CEO of Wildcat Productions, a Singapore-based content production company helping clients spread the word globally with original content and programming. Learn more at www.matt-driskill.com.