I’ve been lucky all winter in visiting my dad. He lives in an area of country known for its rain, and with good reason. Days of heavy overcast skies dog the winter, and bouts of rain, sometimes heavy downpours, sometimes relentless drizzle, fall day after day. Every time I’ve come this winter I’ve had outdoor activities planned. Several times I’ve worked on Dad’s roof. Once I took friends to the zoo in the nearby big city. Yesterday I worked on the container plants that have been neglected since my mother died three and a half years ago because my dad doesn’t know what to do with them and was convinced if I touched them I would kill them.
I should have been rained on at least once. I should have. There’d been rain in the days leading up to my visits, and rain after I left. But every time I’ve come, there’s been a break in the weather. Often, it’s been really quite lovely, and yesterday was one of those days, glorious blue skies with the occasional scudding cloud, warmth at just the right temperature for working outside, and not a rain drop all day.
I cleared the weeds and dead plants out of container after container, then dug out old, exhausted, root-clogged dirt, and replaced it with fresh soil and nutrients. The last time I was here my dad let me prune my mother’s roses, and though a couple look dead, tiny buds are starting to appear even on those. I might be able to salvage them yet. A couple of the smaller wooden containers he made when they moved here 12 years ago were rotted through, and some of the plastic flowerpots were so brittle that they cracked when I picked them up, so I had to make a few trips up the hill with garbage bags full of broken pots and other junk that I picked up off the deck. And once I had to go to the local Lowe’s and pick up more soil and a bag of bark, because what I’d brought from my home town wasn’t enough to do the job. But even that was a surprisingly wonderful trip, when a kind checker suggested he could give me a good price on the bags with holes in them. I ended up bringing home two large bags of dirt and a large bag of bark, all with holes in them, for about a quarter of what it should have cost. Zeke met me with the dolly at the top of the hill and between us we got a bag of dirt and the bark down the hill so I could dive into more planting. I finished off by planting the flowers I had bought for dad the day before, including filling four hanging baskets with new coconut liners, dirt, then geraniums and lobelia or alyssum. Now, finally, the back deck looks like a reasonable place to gather for afternoon tea, though it is not — and never will be — as beautiful as it was when my mother lived here. Then it was jungle of color and greenery, scented with roses and sweet peas. Now it just looks a little sparse, with specks of color here and there. If the roses make it, I will be happy. I know Dad is nervous about it, but I think he knew that if we did nothing, they were going to die regardless, and yesterday I showed him where new shoots are unfurling on the plants I pruned a few weeks ago, and he smiled.