Dad’s Last Garden
- Written by Jody Vickery Jody Vickery
- Published: 16 June 2017 16 June 2017
Everywhere we ever lived, my father planted a garden. And when he had the acreage for it, it was more like a G-a-r-d – BY GUM – e-m! He sowed rows and rows of corn, peas, potatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries and tomatoes. Early on, he plowed behind a horse named Mollie. She was as enthusiastic about his passion as were his children.
Which is to say not at all. Later, he bought a tractor and put Mollie out to pasture. We children, however, were irreplaceable. While Mollie peacefully grazed, we pulled weeds, hoed roes and harvested “the crop.”
I think he knows this, but I’ll go ahead and confess it anyway. I hated working in the garden. I would like to tell you that my aversion to Dad’s passion was born of a strong desire to buy local, to economically support the American Farm, and/or to spend more time in prayer and solitude. It wasn’t. It was mostly because I was a lazy teenager with the work ethic of a stump. But one of a father’s jobs is to impress upon his children the value of honest labor and Dad did that impressively. I still don’t like gardening, but I’m grateful for the lesson.
A little over a year ago, Dad was gearing up to plant his next garden. He had ordered seeds and planned how he was going to lay out his rows. Then he and mom were involved in a major auto accident. They were not at fault, but both were seriously injured. He traded the tractor for a long hospital and rehab stay. In time, they both came home, but the recovery has been slow. It takes all he has now just to get out of bed and down the hall to the living room. From there, he can see the garden spot – the spot where the garden would be if there was one. And I know that makes him very sad.
So, here’s what I want to say to my Dad. There are two kinds of gardens. One grows up out of the ground. Soil is turned and tilled. Rows are raised then planted. You do your best to keep the weeds and vermin at bay. You pray for rain and patiently wait for the Lord to bring a harvest.
Then there’s the other kind. This garden grows up out of the love of a husband and wife. Children are born and raised. You do your best to keep them safe from dangerous people and things. You feed their bodies, try to shape their souls and pray to the Lord for patience.
Dad, your greatest garden is your family. You and mom raised five children. The Lord saw fit to take one of us, the purest of the five, home. The rest of us enjoy each other, married well and love and respect you. Your garden has produced six outstanding grandchildren and, so far, one great-grandchild who, I must say, is exceptional.
The best thing about this garden is that you can still work it. You don’t have to climb up onto a tractor or struggle behind a tiller to tend this garden. There’s an old hoe in the barn – the one with the blade worn down by years of chopping weeds and sculpting earth – the one where the wood of the handle has been thinned by your grip, smoothed to the shape of your hands. You won’t need it either. All you need is . . . you. Your words. Your hard-earned wisdom. Your presence.
It’s infinitely harder to raise a brood of kids than a stand of corn. But the yield from family is much larger and lasts a lot longer. We are your last garden, Dad. You did good.
You and the Lord.