|Dad in his garden, 1980|
My parents were always gardeners, mostly in the sense of keeping a nice yard, a lush lawn, and planting pretty flowers in the flowerbeds. After he retired, my dad got into vegetable gardening in a big way, and dug up a corner of the backyard and turned it into a showpiece garden. He made his own compost and read Organic Gardening. He ordered his seeds in the winter and started plants indoors. His soil was rich and dark, the best I have ever seen. There was not a weed to be found in my dad's garden. And he gardened until he was 91 years old. Growing up, we had a curved rose bed along the driveway, roses that my grandfather planted when he lived in that house before us. When my mom sold the house in 2006, those roses were still there, and many of them were the original roses, over 60 years old. This poem reminds me of my dad, and makes me think about all the gardeners in my family, past and future.
Seventy-Two is Not Thirty-Five
by David Budbill
I spent seven hours yesterday at my daughter's house
helping her expand their garden by at least ten times.
We dug up sod by the shovelful, shook off the dirt as
best we could; sod into the wheelbarrow and off to the
pile at the edge of the yard. Then all that over and over
again. Five hours total work-time, with time out for lunch
and supper. By the time I got home I knew all too well
that seventy-two is not thirty-five; I could barely move.
I got to quit earlier than Nadine. She told me I'd done
enough and that I should go get a beer and lie down on
the chaise lounge and cheer her on, which is what I did.
All this made me remember my father forty years ago
helping me with my garden. My father's dead now, and
has been dead for many years, which is how I'll be one
of these days too. And then Nadine will help her child,
who is not yet here, with her garden. Old Nadine, aching
and sore, will be in my empty shoes, cheering her on.
So it goes. The wheel turns, generation after generation,
around and around. We ride for a little while, get off and
somebody else gets on. Over and over, again and again.