When I’m in the car I listen to the radio, and thanks to the generosity of my hubby I get to listen to satellite radio. (The truth is he wants it in his car, so he can’t really justify denying it for my car. Don’t you love how marriage works?) My listening taste is fairly eclectic, though I’m mostly a country music girl. But I am a devotee of this cool station called PRX – Public Radio Remix. It’s basically reruns of previous public radio broadcasts. You might hear something from a year ago or 10 years ago. I know, it sounds kinda nerdy, but I have heard the most interesting stuff!
Today I heard a story about a man and his father, who has dementia, and it set me to thinking about my dad. This man’s father had an incredible talent for music, specifically playing the piano. (Get this….his dad formed a band with other dementia patients and they called it the Fifth Dementias! Haha! You probably need to be of a certain age to appreciate that.) However, at the time of this broadcast his dad was losing his talent. It was just slowly slipping away with his mind. It made me think about my daddy’s talents. Though music isn’t one of them he has talents that we have very much appreciated over the years, like woodworking and cabinetmaking. And gardening, specifically tomatoes.
My Daddy in his yard at Aldersgate.
As long as I can remember my daddy grew a vegetable garden. Their Texas house sat on an acre so there was plenty of room for a very large plot. Daddy owned all the essential tools including a big tiller. Every spring he would fire it up and go to town tilling the dirt in preparation for his summer garden. Peas and peppers and beans and squash were all planted along with a large quantity of tomato plants. Some years were better than others and he often had to fight the deer and squirrels and birds to be the first to pick his harvest. Usually the tomatoes were picked just a little under-ripe. He would line them up on all the windowsills in the house to finish ripening. At any given time there might be 50-75 tomatoes in various stages of pink and red patiently waiting their turn to peak.
The last of this year’s harvest, on the windowsill to finish ripening.
We have a much-told family story of my daughter and her cousin Jared when they were quite young, five or under. They snuck off into one of the bedrooms and made a game of smushing the tomatoes into the carpet. When discovered by my mother, well, all hell broke loose! My mother was so upset and let them know it in no uncertain terms. They had never seen her that angry, and it sure never happened again.
Daddy’s greatest joy was giving away his bounty. He took bags and bags of veggies to the office, to the neighbors, and certainly to his family. A fresh home-grown tomato will make you delirious. And spoil you to that store bought stuff. I’m ashamed to say that as a child I didn’t like many vegetables, especially tomatoes. Oh how I regret the loss of those years I could have been eating fresh tomatoes.
Of course, as I’ve written, they no longer live on their bountiful acre in the country. Hurricane Harvey put an end to that. Daddy had already been diagnosed with dementia by that time and his garden was shrinking every year, but he was still growing tomatoes that last summer in Beaumont. At their new place in the retirement community his yard is very small and is taken care of by an Aldersgate crew. No room for a garden out his back door. But mercy upon mercies, there is a community garden! Daddy hasn’t been too keen on community activities, but he signed up for a garden plot. And let me tell you he’s hasn’t lost his talent yet. Last summer and again this year he is turning out the most gorgeous tomatoes. And he is delivering them in paper sacks to all his neighbors, just like before. It makes me tear up just to write that.
Just yesterday my brother said the sweetest thing. “Don’t you love going in their house and seeing tomatoes on the windowsill? It feels so good.” Yes, it does. I know the day will come when his talent for tomatoes will slip away, but until then I will be very grateful that he can continue to enjoy, not just the growing, but the sharing. Maybe that’s his greatest talent.