I feel like I have written this story before. Maybe it's been in my head a long time. Or maybe I have written a varient of this story before but what matters is today.
Tonight, my mother-in-law made dinner: chicken with a green bean salad. As I bit into a green bean I said, "we should start a garden."
It made me think of my dad. When he was alive, my dad loved his garden. It was small, maybe ten by ten. My parents' senior complex in Mira Loma allowed it. My dad grew zucchini, strawberries and tomatoes. He had always grown things. He had planted geraniums in the front yard when we were little.
The gardening was probably related to my dad's love of food in general. As a young child he grew up poor. So poor that his parents put him and his siblings in an orphanage for two years because they could not feed him. To my dad, food was comfort and love. And by gardening he cultivated that.
When my mom and dad came to visit me in Houston ten years ago I had no idea that he would die less than four years later. I was working at the largest firm in Texas as a civil litigator. My parents took a train to see me. It took them almost three days. Three days on a train sitting in a chair. I don't know if I would do that for anyone. My parents obviously wanted to see me. Badly. I had been working so much that I rarely came home to the Inland Empire.
When they arrived I was short with them.
"I have to work all week," I told my dad.
""That's OK Jennie," my dad replied. "We will entertain ourselves."
And my parents were troopers. My parents would drop me off at work and take my car and show themselves the sights. When I got home, we would go grab dinner. I can try and sugercoat it but the reality is that I worked too much. I barely spent any time with them. To think of it makes my eyes water and gives me a rock in my chest.
What the fuck was I thinking?
My dad got to know all my neighbors. He got to know them more in one week then I had in a year.
"My daughter is a lawyer," he would tell them proudly.
One night I came home and saw that my dad had planted tomatoes in my back yard. I yelled at him. Looking back, I know he was just trying to show his love.
One night, right before my parents left, we drove out to Louisiana together to go the riverboat casino. We stayed on the boat and my dad played poker while my mom and I sat in the bar.
If I had to do it over, I would spend the week with my parents showing them Houston and I would play poker with my dad at a table like he asked. I would give him a couple of hundred dollars to gamble no questions asked.
And I would take back the rude words I said after he planted tomatoes in my backyard.
Life gives few Mulligans and that lost week in Houston is what I would do over if I could.
But I can't.