Hot August Melancholy

Hot August days invite a certain melancholy. As July comes to a close, an ancient grief rises to the surface and the more I swat it away, the more it demands my time. My nine-year-old self rises to the surface and reminds me of my terrible loss: the death of my father on an oppressively hot, early August day.

Dad was a horticulturist by trade, but his love of gardening came home with him as well. He built our Ontario garden from scratch, changing a mound of dirt into what felt like paradise.

Daddy's Easel

Daddy’s easel, hung on the wall of my crafting area. Photos of his model of the Golden Hind, Dad with a dog on someone’s porch, the flower shop he once owned with my Mum in Seaforth, Canada

If he were with me today, I would place my hand in his and we would walk through my garden together.

bee on chocolate mint

A bee gathers pollen from the chocolate mint in bloom

I once captured bees in a jar to show my dad I was brave. He explained in his kind way why I should set them free. They’re good for the garden he said. I was six at the time but for some reason that memory remains sharp and clear. Perhaps when memories are scarce, we hang on to what we can.

bee on chocolate mint flower

A bee travels the garden

We had a shorter growing season in Canada, but Dad was able grow tomatoes each summer. What fun we had harvesting the fruit and bringing it through the back door for our lunch.

curb garden tomatoes

Three green tomatoes, coming along nicely in the curb garden

tomato plant flowers

Tomato plant in bloom

Dad didn’t grow pumpkins in our Ontario garden. It would be especially fun to show off my beautiful specimen and to smile about the squirrels that most likely planted them.

tree rat with birdseed

A tree rat helps himself to some bird food late one night

Dad loved all animals, once rescuing a mouse from a group of boys on the street in his home town of Oldham, England. I too rescue rats and mice and though most people cringe, I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

Mouse curb garden

Mouse surveying the curb garden

Daddy would surely get a kick out of a different kind of mouse: Mouse the Cat. Mouse is a rescue too, in his own way.

I descended from a long line of people who rescue strays. It’s a wonderful lineage.

These hot days will pass and my mood will lift, but for now I’m making room for that ancient loss and grief.

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45 thoughts on “Hot August Melancholy

  1. Beautiful post, Alys. It is interesting how the seasons bring forth memories. My brother died 7-26. I’d like to link hands with you and bring you some comfort. I’m so sorry you experienced such a massive loss at such a young age. xoxo

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    • Thank you, Michele. The seasons are very much placeholders for future expectations as well as a tether to the past. Your brother was so young. I remember the profound grief you suffered when he died. The good memories do live on in us, and for that I’m grateful. xo

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  2. I know what that melancholy is like. You struck a cord when you said we hang on to what we can. Memories can be with us for a long time but voices tend to fade with time. I still have a voice message on my phone from my dad and whenever I’m blue, I listen to it and find comfort in the sound of his voice πŸ™‚

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    • Sara, how lovely that you’ve been able to preserve your dad’s voice on your recorder. It’s hard to imagine a time when people lost loved ones without the benefit of a photograph or voice or anything tangible to remember them by. Sending love and hugs across the miles. xo

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  3. It is always bitter sweet for me when you write about this time of the year and the loss of your dad. My father also died in August, just before I turned 9 years old. He was though a very different kind of parent to yours. For me this time is also one of the rising up of ancient trauma and grief. Once I get past his death date my days become easier again. It is interesting how these events are imprinted into our very bones and no amount of counselling or years or adult thinking will erase them. While your 9 year old self remembers the pain and grief, let your adult self be glad that you had a good man for a dad and that your pain arises because you loved and were loved. xoxo

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    • Pauline, I’m deeply saddened by your own loss, made all the more cruel by the abuse you suffered at his hands. My heart goes out to you. I had forgotten that we were both around the same age when our dad’s passed. And like you, once I’m passed that date the heavy feelings lift. Those formative years are so important. We either survive or thrive or do a little of both. Sometimes because of them, and in your case, in spite of them. You’re a remarkable woman. I’m glad you thrived, but the mother in me wishes she could scoop you up and take you out of that horrible past once and for all. I honor my father’s love, and celebrate the man that he was. xo

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  4. I’ve had a little cry this morning – I can’t even imagine losing a parent so young in life. I’m sure your Dad would be so proud of what he has passed on to you – his passion for gardening and his love of animals are probably just two of the ways he made the World a better place and now you carry on his good work. Sending hugs to you xx

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    • Thank you for the welcome hug. You know when each of my boys approached the age of 9, I was acutely aware of how young that age really is. I often worried that my own husband would die young, too. Those are the worries that I drag along with my grief. It’s exhausting at times, but as this month passes, so too will this heavy grief. I’m happy to report that the boys are now 17 and 20 and that Mike is alive and doing well. xo

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  5. He gave you many gifts while he was with you . That grief NEVER goes away especially around anniversary dates. Our contented crafter said it well. I also didn’t have that kind of parent but losing one so young changes you. The HOT in August is obviously not going away, but hopefully some of the heartache will melt away with it. Giant squishy hugs .

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    • Thanks for those giant, squishy hugs, Marlene. I’m sorry you didn’t have the loving father you deserved. Life can be painful, yet we figure out a way to move forward. As you’ve said, my dad imparted many gifts. I’m grateful for all of them. And yes, anniversaries are the worst.

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      • Dad wasn’t the cozy sort with no warmth but I got a lot of good lessons from him. No regrets here. It could have been so much worse as I well know. He gave me different kinds of gifts. I still miss him too. He died on Halloween.

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        • Marlene, I think I was just starting to follow your blog, when you mentioned your father’s death on Halloween. It’s always been such a joyful time for me; I feel so sad that it is the opposite for you. I’m glad you have no regrets. My mom wasn’t warm or cuddly either, but I too learned from her. As parents go, I know we were loved. xo

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  6. A lovely post, Alys. You made me feel as though your father walks with you almost every day. I wonder if you saw the recent documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy. Prince William and Prince Harry talk about their mother and their grief and their memories. At one stage William says he plans to spend as much time as possible with his children because he realizes now how formative and important those early years with his mother were. I would agree. Those early years we have with a parent can be a golden age, and a blessing that lasts a life time.

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    • Thank you, Gallivanta, for your loving words. I’ve always felt close to my dad when I garden. It’s something we both truly love/loved. I have not seen the documentary Diana, Our Mother, but after reading your comments, I’m going to be sure to see it. I felt like I grew up with Princess Diana in the spotlight. My now 20-year-old was just an infant when she passed. It’s strange to think she was only 21 when she married Charles, and just 36 when she died. Tragedy all around, but especially for those boys. William seems to have a good head on his shoulders. I’m glad the next generation of the royal family understands the importance of parenting. It’s lovely to see. xo

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  7. Oh Alys, so sorry you are feeling sad. Hope you can smile again soon and just remember happy times – he sounds such a wonderful father. I suppose his death was particularly hard on you at that young age, but he lives on in you and in your garden too! Big hugs! xx

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  8. I’ve been thinking about you Alys, and wonder if this is why. I’ve had to wipe tears and my nose after reading. It is so interesting that we associate things with seasons and that some of them never “get processed” and tucked away. But I think your life was ever changed at that time in that season and so like a scent that throws you into a different time and place, they transport you–unwillingly–back to a loss. I hope the sadness lifts soon, but it’s also okay just to sit with it, which may be what your should wants. In another topic–I also hope your heat wave soon passes.

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  9. What a lovely childhood – my dad too was a keen gardener, at one time we had a house on a 2 acre plot that had once been a Market Garden. Your dad lives on through you and your garden – everything that you create there came from that initial spark he gave you that has given you this great life long passion – so be sad for his passing but also joyful for his gift to you as every flower you grow is from him.
    How interesting that he originates from Oldham – we are only 6 miles from the Oldham boundary – 14 miles to the very town centre – positively neighbours!
    xxx

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    • Wow! Two acres with a former market garden. That sounds like a dream. And what a fun coincidence to learn that you live close to the Oldham boundary. I love this small world of hours. Thanks for your kind words and understanding. I’ve always felt close to my dad when I garden. As you say, the spark originated with him.

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  10. So sorry you are feeling down. Now I know where you got your love of gardening. What a beautiful tribute to your dad. My mother always had a tough time in December – both her brother and her father died in that month making it difficult for her to enjoy Christmas. Hoping for brighter days in your future. Sending hugs from the East Coast!

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    • Thank you for your kind comment, Karen and for your welcome hugs. My heart goes out to your mom. What a tragedy for her to lose both a brother and her father in the same month, and at a time of year when so many are celebrating Christmas cheer.

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  11. After reading this, I feel like your father is living on through you, and the legacy he gave you in how you see the world. Nine is very young to lose a parent–my father died when I was 17 and I thought that was tough but at least I had those extra years. Nine–I can’t even imagine! I love the way you’ve used his palette and the photos–such a perfect combination for your creative space.

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    • Thank you, Kerry. It’s interesting how we can be so much like someone that we lost long ago. I’m sorry you lost your father at a young age as well. My youngest son is 17 and is still developing and growing and in need of our support. I imagine the same was true for you. As for the palette, I’m grateful that it survived our big move and downsizing when we left Canada in 1966. 90% of our belongings were either sold or given away. That palette and Dad’s photo albums are treasures.

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  12. Each time you write about your father, I learn more … more about him, about his love for you, for gardens, for living things, and of course about your love and loss.
    I’m grateful for the gift of the notecards you made from your father’s photography books.
    Thinking of you, Alys.

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  13. What a beautiful post. In this big universe of ours, I would like to think there is a way for your sweet memories and words of love to reach your father. He would be immensely proud of his daughter, whose very life is a testament to his values and teachings. His beautiful legacy lives on through you, wonderful Alys. A big hug to you …

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  14. Sending warmest hugs, sweet Alys! I see so much of your dad in you. He would be so proud that you are carrying on his interests and passions… and sharing them with the world! Imagine all of the joy he spread through his flower shop. You also have very special ways of spreading joy, Alys. Hope this new day begins with a smile. πŸ’—

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