Daddy-O and the Russian Olives: A Memory

June 15, 2013

It’s hotter than Hell’s latrine outside. I glance at the clock: two more hours until the swimming pool opens the gates. Two hours until I fork over a sweaty dollar bill and dive into cold blue luscious.

I’m on the porch, reading the latest  The Three Investigators mystery from the library. I say “latest” lightly because our library sucks. They never carry “latest” anything. But it’s new to me, and that’s good enough, even if The Three Investigators series is a blatant The Hardy Boys rip-off. I’m only eleven, and even I can tell that. Highway robbery, that series.

Is the Hardy Boys author torked off at the guy who writes The Three Investigators? I mean, the guy did kind of steal his idea. I’d be mad, if it were me. Stealing ideas is just the same as stealing in real life, isn’t it? Do you go to jail if you steal ideas? I grab a fistful of trail mix and contemplate. Trail mix is my new favorite snack this summer; Mama says I need to eat a lot of it because I have something called a wild metabolism.

Suddenly, I have the sensation that I’m not alone. I masticate, swallow quickly and look around. Indeed, I have a visitor. It’s Daddy, and he’s hanging around the door leading to the porch, peering hopefully in my direction.

Oh no.

No, no, no.

Daddy seeking me out on a summer day is not good. Especially if he’s got those wide Beagle-ish eyes. His beagle eyes are suicide.

I close my book.

“Hi, Daddy,” I say. He smiles sheepishly and wanders onto the porch.

“Beautiful day,” he says looking out at the yard, and then he does this thing that he always does when  he’s uncomfortable, and it makes me crazy and crazy in love at the same time. He rubs his hand over his forehead twice, shoves both hands in his pockets and rocks softly, back-and-forth on his heels, like TweetleDee.

It takes him a while before he speaks again, but he’ll get around to it.

“Your sister said no,” he says, still rocking. TweetleDee.

“I did the last two years,” I remind him. “And half of the one before that because she quit.”

He turns to me and shrugs, but it’s not like a normal person shrugs. Daddy shrugs awkwardly, shoulders sharply jetting upward and very fast. His hands do a little merengue in the air, not so much resigned as lost. It means he doesn’t know what to say.

“That’s not fair and you know it,” I say, shaking my head in dissent.

Still rocking.

“I’ll pay you real good,” he promises, and with that, my body collapses and melts into the couch.

“Ugh! Dad! Your idea of ‘pay real good’ is always super bad. Last year I think I got five bucks.”

The shrug.

“Honey, your sister said no. You know she’s  impossible when she says no. I’m in a real bind here and please, will you help me out today?”

Believe me, this commitment will last ALL day. No swimming pool for me. Not today or maybe even tomorrow, if we have to cry uncle in the noonday heat.

“Fine,” I say, and yank the porch door open with ferocity. I stalk into the house, book in hand. Mama’s waiting just inside the doorway with zinc oxide at the ready. She puts a thick stripe on my nose.

She smiles knowingly and says, “You’re a good girl. I’ll make a big batch of iced tea.”

Iced tea is small comfort for this pain in the ass, and I huff out to the backyard, industrial-sized lawn bags in hand.

Daddy and I stand in front of the wall of Russian Olive trees that mark the end of our backyard–a fortress of trees–trees that need trimming.

“I’ll pay you real good this time,” he vows, and I roll my eyes. But I smile a little. I can’t help it.

“As if.”

Russian olive trees are thorny bastards and the heat radiates off the back of my neck and God, it’s a bad year for grasshoppers and I screech every time they whizz by and barely miss my head.

After about the 16th screech, Daddy stops trimming and growls at me, “Jesus Christ! It’s just a grasshopper! Get your head on straight.”

I throw the bag to the ground, sweaty and peevish. “Do you want my help or not?”

He doesn’t say he’s sorry but I know he is by the sloop of his shoulders.

We work in silence for a while. “Your nose is getting sunburned. Again.” I say.

Mama brings iced tea.

Daddy and I tame wild branches that endlessly run. They run all day and even into night sometimes. The grasshoppers jump.

Next Father’s Day, I buy Daddy the best gift ever. A stand-alone, industrial-strength yard bag holder.

I am jubilant. Daddy laughs, but as he examines his gift, he looks a little sad.

It’s only later that I understand the true cost of that gift.


Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Contemporary Troubadour June 15, 2013 at 8:45 am

You have such a way of encapsulating so much character in such tight description. Daddy-O jumps (or rocks) off the page in what feels like a reading that ends too soon after it begins because it’s so sharply written — I’m done long before I want to be, wishing for more, but knowing this ends just where it should. Hats off, Kitch.

Happy Father’s Day to Daddy-O, too :)


TKW June 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Thanks, CT,

From you, that is high praise. Love you, girl.


Jamie June 15, 2013 at 9:51 am

The photo at the end!! So touching!


Barbara June 15, 2013 at 10:46 am

Love the photo!
As for the chore….been there, done that. But mine was frogging. He caught, I took the pants off. Not fun.


TKW June 15, 2013 at 2:00 pm


I NEED this story about frogging. I just do. Pretty please?


Abby June 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm

To be honest, I wasn’t going to read this as I knew it was a Father’s Day piece and I don’t have a relationship with mine. Only horrible flashbacks and tears. But this piece? You drew me in. You also reminded me good guys out there do exist–you had one of the them ;)

I don’t feel normal emotions, and this piece made me misty. THAT is a testament to the power of your words.


TKW June 15, 2013 at 2:04 pm


I think maybe why it reached you is because it’s not at all a perfect relationship–there are plenty of cracks there. Lots of bumps.

But as I grow increasingly into old crone territory, it’s these weird little moments (even shitty ones like cutting Russian Olives) that stand out.

I feel sorry for your father. He missed out on a wonderful girl.


ayala June 15, 2013 at 3:34 pm the post and the photo-amazing!


SuziCate June 15, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Great memoir! Love, love, love the photo!


Bananas4bourbon June 15, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Oh, that made me cry. Good tears. I remember shagging bags (as we called it) when my dad mowed in the hot Texas heat. I will not be able to see him in person tomorrow, but will call. Thanks for the sweet story.


TKW June 15, 2013 at 9:20 pm

Bananas4bourbon (I like you already with a moniker like that),

In these parts, “shagging bags” means an entirely different and much naughtier thing. But I am so glad you’re gonna call your Daddy-o. He will be so happy to hear your voice.


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri June 15, 2013 at 7:59 pm


Love the photo. And love the silence and noise that happens betweens fathers and daughters.


TKW June 15, 2013 at 9:21 pm


Thinking of you, my friend, on Sunday. I know how you miss him so. xoxo


Alison June 16, 2013 at 4:10 am

Love the story.
Love the photo too.
Happy Father’s Day to your Daddy-O.


TKW's Dad June 16, 2013 at 5:34 am

It was a lousy job! I should have thought of something much better, but the stand-alone yard bag was made good use of for years:-). Thanks for all the good wishes for Father’s Day.


Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon June 16, 2013 at 5:13 pm

I can imagine how in that moment you wanted to be anywhere but there. And yet now it is such a special moment in your memory. So much love!!


Cathy June 17, 2013 at 11:37 am

I am in awe at how gorgeous you are! You look like a movie star!

Seriously though, my dad always got the tool after I quit – like the wood-splitter and the riding lawn mower (had a push one when it was my chore!). I know what you mean though – as bad as it was, it was still good.

Daddy’s little girl – I wore that title proudly too.


TKW June 17, 2013 at 12:30 pm


I look good in black and white. In color, I look like a 90-year old hooker. Truth.

And I am dying to read about the riding mower. Daddy-o had one and it was…interesting.


Jennifer June 18, 2013 at 1:38 pm

I’m bawling like a little baby. Jesus.


TKW June 19, 2013 at 7:36 am


Stories about fathers will do that to us, you know?


Tiffany June 20, 2013 at 6:41 pm

I know I’ve said it a thousand times…but your writing is amazing. I was standing their right beside you and could feel the heat and all of the emotions. And that picture? Perfection.


Shannon June 21, 2013 at 9:37 am

You have a gift, my friend.


Naptimewriting June 24, 2013 at 11:16 pm

I love the posts that make me hate your sister and adore your dad.



Pamela June 27, 2013 at 3:23 pm

I have been away a long time and I have missed this place and your words. Your writing is so beautiful and heartbreaking.

You are so gorgeous! What a photo. I also loved Alfred Hitchcock and the 3 investigators.


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