Today is the first day of May. I am taking the moms to see the play "Ramona" in Hemet, assuming, and mind you it's a big assumption, that my mother in law is talking to me.
I am letting the shit with my mother in law go because I have other things to think about. It is my father's birthday. He would be seventy five today. My father died more than five years ago. Sometimes, I cannot remember his face. I have to squint and furrow my brow to remember what he looked like.
It's scary because I never thought that would happen. I made a video of him right before he died. He looked so frail, his arms stick thin in his white t-shirt, his face gaunt. The days after his death, I watched the video of him over and over. I pressed rewind so many times my thumb hurt. Adrian made me delete it.
My dad loved flowers. His favorite flower was a geranium. I always thought it a quirky choice for a favorite flower. When we were little, he planted pink and red geraniums all along the front of the house.
My dad was also a gardener. The last couple years of his life, I lived in San Francsico with Adrian. On holidays, I came home to visit him and my mom at their senior citizen's complex in Mira Loma. When I arrived, the first thing my dad would do is take me to see his garden. He wore his usual attire of a pair of Wrangler jeans held up by his "Big John" belt buckle and a blue cowboy shirt.
"I gotta show you this Jenny," he liked to say as he huffed his way outside to his golf cart to drive me over. It was only a two minute ride. "You should visit more often." he would add.
His garden was a five by five square surrounded by a green fence made of a trellis like material. My dad would stand on the outside of the fence and point out the different vegetables and fruits. There were tomatoes, zucchini, watermelon. corn and grapes.
My dad loved that damn garden. He even made gardens for other seniors. They paid him a hundred bucks and he built their fencing for them and lined up their rows. He only cleared about thirty dollars a garden, but it made him happy to create something, to feel useful. I picture him out there in the sun, sweat running down his brow.
I remember about seven years ago (is it really that long ago?), my mom and dad came to visit me in Houston. I was working at a large firm and my parents spent the days at my house waiting for me to get off work. I didn't spend as much time with them as I should have.
I came home one day and my dad had planted a whole section of tomatoes in my backyard. Right next to the telephone pole. I yelled at him for planting tomatoes without my permission. He looked at me and said, "Jennie, I don't want to fight."
Weeks or perhaps months after he left, I walked outside to see humongous red tomatoes hanging from the vine like red cantaloupes. Adrian called them my dad's radioactive tomatoes. Later that night, I ate them with salt and pepper.
I can almost taste those tomatoes and a slight, bitter hint of regret.