***Warning/Note/Editor’s Remark/What-have-you. My father passed away suddenly in October 2010. If you find a letter to a deceased relative depressing/in poor taste/boring, read no further.***
It was not depressing to be at the farm. I didn’t miss you a whole bunch, because so much of you is still there. A pair of your non-prescription reading glasses are sitting in one of the cold frames. They are cracked and dirty of course, but I bet if you found them you’d chortle a bit like you found gold and wear them until you misplaced them again.
A bit more esoteric but still true, you’re there in all those flowers. All that damn lavender I now have carpel tunnel from weeding. Even in the annuals I helped Mom plant, because I know you helped choose which kinds of flowers to plant and she probably wouldn’t have had the slightly idea how to seed, grow, and transplant them without you.
Seriously, you would have been proud of her. I know you were the mastermind behind the actual farming aspect of the farm but she didn’t have one hesitation in what she wanted done and how to do it.
So it just felt like you had stepped out for a really long time to buy groceries. Which was sad, but not depressing. If that makes sense.
I never told you this, or anyone for that matter because it’s just one of those random things you think to yourself once or twice a year, but I have always missed the lilac tree blooming in the back yard. I don’t think I’ve been home for a spring or fall until this year. But I remember having my top window cracked on rainy April nights while the lilac was in bloom and just feeling like everything was right with the world. I am sure you pointed out the lilac trees you planted at the farm, but I’d never been there to see them in bloom.
Maybe it’s morbid, but I think it’s kind of neat you can continue to do things to make me happy even though your dead. I don’t know that there will be many more opportunities to feel like that, so I’m soaking it up.
At 1216*, Mom has made great strides to clean the house up for eventual sale. It was a shock to see the 5 shelves bare of books in the downstairs bathroom. It will be weird when this place is gone. But right now it doesn’t seem as sad as maybe it should when thinking of the loss of your childhood home. Of course, you might not understand that anyway what with how often your family moved growing up. And maybe since just about all I did for the first 10 years of leaving here was apartment hop, I don’t get it either. But I think a big part of why I don’t feel sad is because you and Mom made such a great home of the farm.
I came back to Chicago instead of staying at the farm today because the weather was iffy for this afternoon. I wasn’t psyched about driving your truck back in a thunderstorm (sorry, Dad. I know you love your beat-up old vehicles but I have heard enough horror stories from both you and Mom about that truck to have second thoughts), and luckily we got enough accomplished at the farm that there wasn’t enough left for me to do to warrant risking bad driving weather.
Except now I’m back here, and it is a little depressing. Mom asked for me to go through the kitchen and make piles of what she should keep, what should be thrown out, and what might be given away/sold. It is a chore exactly opposite those at the farm where I could feel your praise and appreciation for all I did. You would be hurt to see all the “thrown out” and even given away/sold. You might even get down right angry and banish me from the kitchen after I decided Mom did not need three different types of blender. (She’s keeping two Cuisine Arts! Don’t haunt me in my dreams where all you do is die over and over again like you did the 3 months right after you passed!)
I’m pretty sure Mom feels the same way; that she’s going against your wishes as she purges and cleans. I bet the books were easier because she saw them as joint custody while all kitchen appliances were solely yours. So if this is something I can do to make the process less stressful for her, I will. Even if it means you will visit me at night moaning that all you wanted to do was poach one more fish before you died and now you can’t.
*1216 is the family’s nickname for our red-brick townhouse on the south side of Chicago. In 1997, my parents bought several acres – with no pump, electricity, nothing – in south Michigan, a little over an hour away. They turned it into a dried flower farm during their weekends and eventual retirement.