I’m the son of a CPA, an accountant for the people, a number cruncher for democracy. I grew up knowing April 15 as a national holiday. Tax Day, the end of Tax Season, a three-and-a-half-month stint that has taxed my father in a different way than most of the American masses.
A weariness colored my family’s winters and early springs. Dad, a restless sleeper in general, would be at work each morning by 5:30 a.m. and toil away balancing accounts and slogging through W-4s and fighting the error-prone scourge that is TurboTax. He will work for twelve hours, come home around 6:00 p.m., have a quick dinner and the briefest of cat naps, then return to work for another three or four hours. Every weekday (and most Saturdays). January to April. Each year.
Right now, at the start of April, the Season starts to take its toll. My dad’s a calm and patient guy, but his stamina slowly gives way to exhaustion and stress. We start to worry a little. My mom buys him Bayer aspirin to keep near his desk—“just in case.” In lieu of an exotic Florida vacation destination, my family would opt to stay close to home base on our spring breaks. We’d rent a room at the local Holiday Inn for a night or two (they did have a pool after all, which is really what a childhood spring break is all about, anyway), so that we could get out of the house while my dad didn’t have to take off work. He couldn’t afford to fall that far behind, or else the dreaded “extensions” start piling up.
Rarely did I get away with complaining about a workload in high school. I grew accustomed to feeling overworked and overwhelmed, not as default settings, but as inevitable and mundane periods of a normal life. My father demonstrated the equilibrium of life and career, along with the resilience of spirit. Throughout the checks and balances of his work, the accounts receivable and the accounts payable, the credits and the debits, the assets and the liabilities, he plugs along, a steady chunking of calculator keys issuing forth, a blooming roll of calculator tape rising into view.
I learned long ago his work isn’t glamorous, nor need it be romanticized. He’s somewhere between a pious scribe and Bartleby—a devotee of diligence, doing what he can with the time he’s given, pushing himself hard (perhaps too much so) but all the while keeping in mind the passing of seasons, this one no exception.
April 16 is on its way. The day after Tax Season ends, the day Dad takes a break. Well, sort of. His day of relaxation consists of yard work: spring raking, lawn tending, planting. It’s a day of chores. But he loves it, something even now I have a hard time understanding. Sure, after months of being cooped up in an office, he’s glad to fix up the winter’s wear-and-tear on the house. But I’m seeing more clearly how he’s also Candide’s dervish with a modern-day spin, a student of purposeful labor, intuiting his own design for work, with the explicit purpose to cultivate his own garden, literal or otherwise.