Sunday, July 31, 2011


The first person who crossed my path today and nearly cried was Coach. Well, that's what I call him because of the name on the back of his jacket. He's a ninety year old man who has been coming into the garden center for the four years I've been there. No matter how hot it is... heat indices to 105 degrees, he wears the same thing: huge boots, sweats that you know are covering up other pants, pull-over over sweater over shirt...fall sports jacket over that, and a hat.

Nearly every morning he trudges in, having arrived in his old faded cream-colored Cadillac. He says the doctor told him he has macular degeneration and knows he's not going to be able to drive for much longer. He's short and small with a fringe of white curly hair peeking out of his hat and he walks right over to the clearance racks. He always buys something.... usually lots of something... more than I know will fit in his yard, because I've seen it.

He lives in a small, nondescript house on a corner in a modest and mostly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood just east of the store. I've been told he's Jewish, but what do I know? His back yard is amazing... as well as the space on the side of his house between the sidewalk and the street. For some reason (and in my imagination I think it's his wife's wish) his front yard is boring... grass and boxwoods.

He gives a lot of the plants away. Grasses to the neighbor who likes them. Peppers to someone who coveted what she saw in his yard. He tells me.... 'I don't drink. I don't gamble. I don't go to restaurants. What's wrong with buying plants?'. I think someone in his family has had an issue with it, but

I don't argue.

He tells me that he used to go to the Botanic Garden and just walk, but now we are his garden. He goes to the health club and sometimes to a movie... and I've seen him at the McDonald's midway between his house and the store having coffee.

He tells me he wishes he'd known me when he was in business because I work so hard he would have hired me and then gone to Florida. Most of the time I don't understand what he's talking about and I think sometimes he knows that. He will shrug and say, "Don't mind me". I just tell him to keep coming back because the plants need him.

This morning he walked in and his eyes were wet. "I just needed five more minutes outside".

I asked what was wrong. He said, not in a matter-of-fact way, or angrily... just with such sorrow, "It's been a terrible day." Mind you, it was eight-thirty a.m.

What I garnered from his explanation was that his wife is ill ("she needs to be cleaned", he said) and his daughter was helping. But the daughter wanted to go shopping and hadn't woken him up in time to do his morning rounds. He was going to have to go home and sit in air conditioning, which he hates... for hours. He wouldn't even be able to go out into the garden. Apparently, the daughter was impatient.

But what I gleaned from our conversation was more .... sorrow and love for his wife and his need to get away from her in order to deal with the pain they are in. His broken grief washed over me and all I could say was, "Come back this afternoon. We'll see you this afternoon". I was trying to give him hope for a bit of sanity, but had no faith he would get it.

I stood in the middle of the day lilies and said a prayer that something good would happen for him today... and that I'd remember to be more grateful.... as he walked away.


Two-ten p.m. I see him coming back. Before I could speak he tapped the big watch on his tiny wrist and said, "I have twenty minutes. At two-thirty I'll get a call" , and then he walked over to the clearance racks. He bought a lot of stuff. Someone had sat down three Rose of Sharon's that weren't part of the clearance next to the racks and since he wanted them, I marked them down.

His daughter had come back but wanted to leave again, so he had to go... and he managed to get out before the phone rang.

As he left I said, "We'll see you tomorrow". With any luck, on all of our parts... we will.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Twilight, and there is noise everywhere.


There is the soft, cottony pop of the small ones and the sudden flat-slap of the ones thrown against a wall or sidewalk. There are the whistles and explosions from across the street, and small echos of the same somewhere down the beach. The air is vivid with sound, and I know that Reva's dog, Buddy, is in a closet... four buildings down.... shaking like crazy. Meander doesn't even notice. Fireworks can be like storms, to some.


My Dad is in the hospital. He's eighty-six and really wants/sometimes attempts to be twenty-something again so he can go out with all the girls he didn't pick back then. He's in Florida. I am, of course, in Illinois. He has some internal bleeding, so he's drinking that juice that will make tomorrows colonoscopy go ... well, well; and we talked between his visits to the bathroom.


It's dark now and there are pops here and there, but the day is almost done.... hotdogs eaten. Grills extinguished. Just a few more flowers in the sky and the holiday is over.


Dad said he was thinking about me the other day and how we used to sit watching storms roll in, in the.... he couldn't remember the word.


"Yes. And you would say, 'That was a BIG one, Dad!"


I never knew I said that, until tonight. All I've known is that I've never been afraid of the weather. Respectful, yes... but never afraid because I'd always been in a lap with an outstretched arm, pointing out the truth... Thunder is caused by a lightening strike and lightening is caused by....


It's about time he gives up the freedom he has now. I and my step-sister have tried so hard to let him be but it's time to quit.


When I was little, he had an airplane... a Cessna. He tells me there was a day when I was small that he, I and my mother were in the plane during the storm. He was handling it, my mother was freaking and I was calm.

Of course, I was. I knew him, even then.


She made him give up the plane. I don't know how it happened, but that plane sat in the front yard for a while, before it was gone. It must have killed him, to give up the sky.

Of course, there are renegade fireworks going off this late. I suppose they will go off all evening.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

To That Good End

Just been thinking about you all day. The date hit me this morning. It ballooned inside of me until I told a co-worker (who is gay, nervous about it, and old enough to know better). I dreamt of you two nights ago.

I wish you could experience things now. The rights that Carey fought so hard for in the 70's and 80's are becoming real. I'm glad that we had our time, and married and that we ended fully aware... still bonded. But now, you could love and marry someone in the other part of your heart. I hope you know it's come to that good end.

I miss you, and what we were.

Color some fireworks in your own special way.

Would you?