We create a ‘contract’ of sorts when we publish a regular blog. My unwritten contract with you says that when you log on, you can expect to find a post about gardening, crafting, crafty gardening and cats, delivered with a mostly light heart. So, the following letter, written to my dad who died when I was 9 has a more somber tone and I wanted to let you know that upfront. If this is not your thing, please read no further. Stop by next week for the usual garden antics.
With love and gratitude for your readership and support.
This is one of those letters you never actually send, though I would if I could. You left an unimaginable void in our hearts when you died on a day just like today. It was hot, strangely still and ultimately surreal. How could you have been here one minute, then gone the next? I walked in on mom the day you died and I knew. She was kneeling on the floor tearing up your letters though I never fully understood why. She had her reasons and in the end it doesn’t really matter.
You would be amazed what can happen to a letter these days. When I hit a button on an electronic box called a computer, this letter will travel through something called the internet. Once sent, you can’t tear it up, burn it, or control it in any way. Lovers and politicians learned this the hard way. It’s what they called a double-edged sword in your day.
I love you so much, and was really, really, really sad when you died. As you know, I was only 9 so I didn’t have the resources to understand what was going on. Mom did her best, but she struggled too. We all missed you terribly. I’m crying now as I write this, all these years later, as at times I remain stuck in the painful past.
Please know, that you would be proud of your legacy. Your girls grew up and got college degrees, something that was really important to you. It was your reason for moving the family to California in the first place. We all love and nurture animals as you did, and yours-truly is a gardener! Can you believe it?
I have special memories of our beautiful London garden. You hauled rocks in a wheelbarrow to build a small ‘creek’ down the middle of the yard. It gathered run-off from rain and melting snow and filled my imagination with happy moments. Your grew snapdragons near the back door, and tomatoes during the hot days of summer. Sometimes people would meet you at the nursery where you worked and ask to come by to see your garden. I was so proud of you.
When we left Canada for what you hoped would be a better life for your girls, the new homeowners weren’t interested in keeping up your garden. You were hugely disappointed. I certainly would be. Of course the plan was a new home and a new garden in sunny California. We arrived in November of 1966 to less than favorable circumstances. The man who hired you to run his nursery had since filed bankruptcy. You supported our family with your savings, then sold your beloved coin collection to make ends meet. It was a difficult time for all of us. I can’t imagine as a parent how hard that must have been for you.
By the end of 1967 things were finally turning around. Our family moved to Millbrae where you landed a job at a local garden nursery. We lived in a rental, but at last could put down roots. The following Christmas, what we thought was the flu turned out to be lung cancer. The holidays were never the same.
I turn 54 this October, the same age you were when a cruel and ravishing cancer stripped you of your life. Your physical suffering was finally at an end on that hot, August day, but my struggles had just begun. Life doesn’t come with guarantees.
I want to thank you for your gifts of life and affection. Each of your daughters carries you in her own way. I think you would be proud of us, as we are of you.
My wish today as I hit the ‘send button’ would be for you to know that we all grew up, lived productive lives and that we carry you in our hearts, always. When I reach toward the earth, to tumble a seed or pull out a weed, I think of you.
Your loving daughter,
Mom and Dad on their wedding day