About two weeks ago, my wonderful father passed away. To quote a birthday card my brother gave him in the early '70's, my dad was absolutely loving and hilarious. I miss him terribly.
Dad died a few minutes before midnight on a Tuesday, and I got the call just a few minutes later. At 5:00 am, in a sleepless daze, I packed my suitcase for what would be an 11-day long journey, first to Florida to be with my mom and help organize the memorial service, and then for a long-planned work trip which would immediately follow. (As for packing: I did pretty well on underwear, less well on socks. And no, you can't get away with wearing the same pair of black pants five days in a row, because they do actually show dirt, particularly if you spend one of those days splashing through the muddy March rain in St. Louis.)
At 7:00 am Steve drove me to the airport, asking on the way if there was anything he needed to take care of in my absence. "The seedlings in the basement," I answered. "Just keep them alive."
In mid-February, between record-setting blizzards, I had planted a tray of lettuce seedlings and a couple dozen cells of foxglove. And Steve did keep them alive, beautifully. When I finally got home, I found that my lettuce had blossomed into a lush collage of thriving plants:
The finicky foxgloves, too, had begun to pop:
Yesterday, two days after my return, Steve and I traipsed out into the backyard, where the snow is still 20 inches deep. We cleared a space in the vegetable garden so we could plop down the coldframe.
The sun will heat the soil in the frame, and in a week or two I'll be able to plant out the lettuce. With any luck we'll be munching on home-grown salads by the end of April.
This symbolism of rebirth, of the arrival of spring after the cold and loss of a miserable winter, is so obvious that I'm almost embarrassed to write about it. But why would any of us garden if not for renewal and hope and beauty? For that matter, why would we even get out of bed?
Truth be told, my dad wasn't the biggest fan of leafy greens. At some point my mom, or maybe a doctor, had convinced him that salads were salutary, so he'd eat one from time to time, especially if it was graced by beets, of which he was rather fond (I'm with you there, Dad).
Here's what my dad would really have loved me to grow in my garden: steak. Or bagels and lox, or pretty much any other salty Jew food. Or spare ribs or clams, lest you get the wrong idea about his dietary limitations. (As it happens, clam seeding is an actual thing; maybe I should give it a try.)
Or blintzes! Dad loved blintzes. A Blintz Bush.....there's an idea with potential:
The one actual vegetable my dad truly loved was tomatoes. His favorite breakfast was a treat he learned from his father, a cream cheese and tomato sandwich. My grandfather (who died long before I was born) called it a "Super Duper," and my dad did, too.
So this summer, I will grow the biggest and juiciest slicing tomatoes I can manage.
When they're ripe, I'll get out the bread and the cream cheese and make myself a whole tray of drippy, luscious Super Dupers.
And when I eat them, Dad, I'll think of you.
Photo by Robert Weber, http://bweberphotography.com/