This is a tough post to write. I’ve put it off for months, but I wanted to record a small tribute to a truly lovely man.
As I’ve mentioned previously, my father had been sick for over two years in the hospital. After a hard fight, he passed away in September. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him, and I miss him terribly. It’s been a few months now, and the sting is a little less.
But this is the first Spring/Summer garden that I’ve planned without his input. I’m constantly wondering what he’d say if I asked him a question. I ask anyway, and the silence can sometimes feel deafening.
At his funeral, my siblings and I spoke of our Dad’s life. About his intense love for our Ma, and for his family. For his students. And for his friends. It should come as no surprise that we all talked about gardening. He taught us so much just by being the kind and gentle man he was every day of his life.
And that gentleness and patience was so evident in his love of the garden. You’d think it was in his blood. Even from his hospital bed, he sketched out ideas for what to plant, and recorded in his journal that he so missed digging in the dirt. He wrote to one grandchild that when he was a kid–“the soil and I were best friends.” And that love for digging in the dirt came through by blood or by his example so that we all have gardens of our own.
One other thing I loved about him was that he just oozed competence—especially when it came to fixing stuff. Once I got the bright idea to double dig my garden beds. What? You’ve never heard of double digging garden beds? Let me explain.
What you do when you double dig is remove all the dirt in a garden bed to a depth of about one shovel-length. Said dirt gets tossed onto a tarp.
Or the lawn if you’re me. Sorry about that sweetheart.
Then you get into that garden bed and loosen the soil at that lower level, amending it with compost or manure and then you put the top layer back on and amend that too.
Double digging is supposed to do something to the doohickey of the soil thingamajigs and make the plants better.
So I removed the top layer of dirt, hopped into one of my 12 by 4 foot planters and started digging. And I promptly hit an old root, which I decided to remove by using the shovel to slice it in half.
And then the hole started filling up with water.
Huh, I thought. Roots don’t usually do that. Maybe I should hit it again. So I did.
And at that point I realized that I did not discover a magical water bearing root, but I’d cut one of the irrigation lines in my backyard. So I went to Lowes. Talked to the helpful people in the red vests. Got the pipe thingies I needed and went back and fixed it just fine.
Actually that is a big fat lie.
What really happened is that I used a saw, cut things where I shouldn’t have and made everything worse.
So I called Dad who mercifully came right over.
He saw the mess I’d made and he couldn’t help but smile and mention that he was reminded of a comment his Uncle Charlie had said about his Uncle George—oddly enough George happens to be my middle name—“Poor Georgie—he wouldn’t know which end of a screwdriver to use.”
But then he looked at the pipe thingies I’d bought, and said he could show me how to fix it. In the span of about ten minutes, the leak was fixed and I knew how to do it next time. And when I remarked to him how impressed I was of his competence—he said “Naw. Experience is just having made all of the mistakes already.”
And believe it or not, I’ve done the same dumb thing again in a different part of the yard. But this time I knew how to fix it. Thanks Dad.
That’s him in a nutshell. Always willing to help when people he loved were in need. Teaching others in the process. And deflecting any credit away from himself.
Spring is in the air. My seed starts are beginning to sprout, and my siblings and I consult with each other where we used to consult with our Pops. Most of the time, we figure stuff out. After all, we had a really, really good teacher.
Miss you Dad. Love you lots.