A Garden Says “I Love You”
My parents came down on Monday to hang out for the day. When I say hang out, what I mean is fix things, at least as far as my dad is concerned. Because that’s what my dad does: he fixes things. He takes things that are broken and he makes them all better. That’s how he says “I love you.” So he came down with my mom and he fixed things that needed fixing and he found more things that need fixing and he listened to what I want in the new house and looked at where they could go and what we could do, because that’s his thing.
You already know this, of course. I’ve said it before, but it took me a long time to learn the language of Dad. Growing up was like trying to talk to a someone in Spanish when all you know is hello, goodbye, and toilet. I didn’t get why he didn’t speak the same language as my friends’ dads. They spoke with physical contact and verbal assurances. My dad speaks with actions and now that I know his language, his love is so obvious it’s a little funny.
So now I know, and I smile when he fixes the coat hooks my cats yanked down off the wall. When he brings down all his tools, the wood to remount them and the saw to cut it to size and the drill and everything, he’s saying “I love you.” When he pulls out a box of irises from his garden back home and digs up the dirt and places them one by one by the tulips already growing so they can be friends, he’s saying “I love you.” When he picks at the ancient toilet in our bathroom and points out the branch that needs to come down by our house and finds five other things that we should ask about because it’ll be good for us in the long run, he’s saying “I love you.”
More than anything, though, my dad speaks in gardens. They are his special favorite. He’s had a garden at their house for as long as I can remember. We would help plant and pull weeds and harvest every year growing up. He helped me plant my morning glories that I got at a church tea party. He helped me plant a flower garden that the chickens proceeded to scratch and eat before anything could grow. We tried to keep them out, but they were too determined to eat my seeds. My sister’s was more successful, and farther from the chickens. When my husband and I were engaged, my dad wanted to know what his favorite pepper was so he could grow it for him. When you get a spot in his garden, you know that you’re in. So naturally, the first thing he asked when we moved to a house with a yard was “what kind of garden do you want?” Because for him, gardening says “I love you.”
Of course I want it all. I want flowers and I want vegetables and I want herbs to grow by the side door. I don’t even eat vegetables, I don’t really know anything about herbs, but I want to grow them, because it’s a connection with my dad. It’s an opportunity for him to come down and say “I love you.” And he can show me what to do, and how to do it, and we can spend time together out in the yard, in the sun, and he can share his passion with me. And my husband will happily eat all the tomatoes, I’m sure, and the peppers, and use the herbs. I’m sure he’ll be super excited about those. And maybe we can all garden together, and Logan can see it too; how my dad says “I love you” with a shovel and a hoe and seeds and water, and things that grow.