The other day while mowing the lawn I stopped to wipe the sweat from my forehead and assess my progress. I am forever tinkering with my technique; an up and back pattern, a series of ever shrinking squares, or even, on a rare day, just going with the flow. Deep in thought I happened to notice, out of the corner of my eye, my five-year-old son, Hardy, dressed in a flowing green cape, pirate hat, and a pair of flippers. He was lurking near the shed and watching me. I pretended not to notice and restarted the mower.

My father likes to mow the lawn. In fact, he likes all manner of household chores; the mending, taming and building that a yard and house require have always been his domain. I remember how I used to watch my father while also disguised as a small boy with other things on my mind. Playing a game of wiffle ball or engrossed in a book, slumped low in a chair, only the top of my head visible. But I was watching him. Always watching him.

I wish I could remember exactly what I thought during those moments. But I can’t, and anyway I imagine it was more of a soaking up of things. Those were the days when the mind did not always lean toward the analytical, trying to make sense out of everything I saw. It is only now, so many decades later, that I reach for the pile of memories and turn them over to see what the compost has unearthed.

During the summer in the early mornings my father would take me with him to play golf at Farm Neck. We would rise, the two of us, in the predawn light and always be the first at the course. Only the morning dew preceded us. This was when Farm Neck was still just a nine-hole course untouched by the glamour of a presidential foursome. We shared a bag, my father carrying it, while I used a five iron to steadily make my way up the fairway. Again, I cannot remember what I thought during those outings, but I do remember the details. The front of my sneakers soggy with the dew and speckled with newly mown grass. My father’s head bent in quiet concentration over his ball. And the sound of his voice, as it rose above the treetops it seemed, with a shout of “atta boy” whenever I hit a clean shot.

In the evenings we played tennis. There were always morning games too, but those included the entire family. The evening games were reserved for the two of us. Again the thoughts of the boy I was are elusive. But I remember our points lasting a long time, the ball coming in fast but somehow always within reach. I did not question this astounding fact then, but now I understand my father was, of course, keeping me in the game. I can also recall the feel of my sweat drying on my body as the evening chill took over, the sun finally setting beneath the trees, and my father and I driving home in the dark, very late for dinner but somehow not hungry at all.

My writing is interrupted by my son, Hardy. He has woken early and come into the room where I work. But I am not worried that I will lose my train of thought. We have a routine, the two of us. He waves to me and I wave back. Then he gets out his Legos and begins to build. But this morning I find myself watching him and I notice how, from time to time, he looks up at me. And suddenly it occurs to me. I do know what I thought as a young boy while I watched my father. That he was there, all the time, like a planet I joyfully orbited around.