Saturday, June 9, 2012

Pride and the Garden

My daddy is 85 years young. He was a basketball all-star in high school, and one of his finest moments was being inducted into the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame.
Daddy is an ex-military man, a man of few words, but with a big heart...someone who's always helping out a friend or neighbor.  This old photograph is dated 1951, taken soon after he enlisted in the Air Force. I was born three years later.
Daddy comes from a large, close-knit family.  This photograph was taken in the mid 80's (that's him in the back row, middle).
By 2010, the immediate family had started to dwindle.  Here they are celebrating my Aunt Mary Belle's 90th birthday.
Daddy now lives alone in the Big House, the house where my grandmother and aunt lived until they passed away. The house isn't really that big...when I was a kid, it seemed huge, though.  Funny how that works.  I remember my grandmother's housekeeper standing in the doorway to the living room, arms crossed, clutching her broom, and daring the grandchildren to just try and get through. The house sits on a couple of acres, and daddy has a big garden each year.  My sisters and I always marvel at how independent and self-sufficient daddy is, especially for someone his age.
This past week, we were reminded that things change at the drop of a tomato.  People in the South love their gardens, taking great pride in their peas, beans, okra, corn, and tomatoes.  They work outside in hot, humid weather to ensure that everything is properly nutured.  My grandmother didn't believe in ladies wearing pants, but when she went out to her garden, she wore a pair of men's slacks with her dress tucked in at the waistband.
Daddy spent one morning last week out in his garden, and we think he had a heat stroke.  He hadn't had any water that morning, and also hadn't eaten anything.  A trip to the emergency room ensued, but they could find nothing wrong.  Of course daddy didn't mention anything about the time spent in the garden...  He checked in with his regular doctor the following day (again, no discussion about the garden), and he was admitted to the hospital for tests.  Nothing was found, so he was discharged after spending two days there.

Sister Pam flew in a few days later, and found daddy unsteady and not himself.  The house was not particularly clean.  I think daddy realizes that he can't keep on doing what he's been doing for the past twenty years or so.  He's not ready for assisted care or a nursing home, and he really doesn't want to leave all his memories behind.  Luckily, we found Miss Lillian, a woman who helps out at my aunt and uncle's house.  She's going to spend three days a week at the Big House, cooking and cleaning, so we are relieved.  We're looking for someone who will get the riding lawn mower out, and take care of cutting the grass for him. It may just be a temporary fix, but at least it will allow daddy to stay put for now.  Pam says he must be feeling better, as he was well enough to shuffle out to his garden yesterday at 6:30 in the morning to check on his tomatoes...

One of the things my daddy loves is company, so for any of you who live in the neighborhood, I wish you'd stop by and say hello.  He'd appreciate it, and he'll probably give you something out of his garden.  You see, even though he eats some of what he grows, he gives most of it away.  And for that, he'll continue to visit the garden each morning, even when he's not supposed to do so.

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