My father was a lifelong gardener. I spent part of yesterday, Fathers’ Day, gardening in his memory. This past week I thought about him and knew I couldn’t, in 350 words, do him and my feelings about him justice. Dad’s father died when he was two years old. His mother was abused by his stepfather and she died of a brain tumor when my dad was ten. His stepfather made him kiss his mother in her coffin; he remembered that her face was cold. Dad and his four brothers were placed in separate orphanages for a few years after their mother’s death. When the boys were reunited, they had a new stepmother and then later another stepmother. How does someone coming from that background manage to be a father to four rambunctious kids of his own? He did his best. He wasn’t perfect. I’m sure being a father was hard for him and he did well despite his own experience. We always knew we were loved and we loved him back.
As long as I can remember, my dad had flower gardens. What I remember most are the roses he grew, the time he spent in the yard watering them (probably the only solitary time of his day) and their scent. In the fall he would break the tops off the dried-up annuals, put them in a paper bag tacked to the garage wall, and re-sow the seeds the next spring. That impressed me the most.
Yesterday I transplanted some perennials and a couple of hostas midday when the weather was at its hottest—in other words, not the best conditions for the plants’ survival. I thought about my dad and how I drew from his efforts my own gardening philosophy, my attitude towards plants: “Life is hard,” I reminded them. “You can do well despite that.”
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. (And yes, that’s what all four of us called him.)