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Dad’s Tomatoes

June 5, 2017

My father was always an avid gardener. I think his Irish blood called to the earth in much

the same way his own grandfather’s had. One of my earliest memories is standing barefoot in the freshly tilled soil, my hands blackened from digging in the ground, still a bit cold from the

turning. As a small child, the garden was an amazing fairyland, full of possibility. As a teenager,

though, it was often a source of contention between the old man and me.


As a child, I loved following Dad around in the garden. I remember Daddy pushing the

tiller ahead in perfectly straight lines. His gardening gloves, banana yellow, would grip the

handles of the old tiller; the roar of the machine was pleasantly deafening. After a while, he

would stop and pull the gloves off to wipe his brow. Daddy loved growing all sorts of things:

yellow and green onions, watermelons almost as big as me, rows and rows of yellow corn, and

our favorite — ruby red tomatoes.


As I grew into a cantankerous teenager, I didn’t get so excited about gardening with

Daddy. Instead of the magical land of possibility, it had turned into some kind of medieval

prison. It was one extra chore, one more thing to keep me busy and out of trouble. One more

thing on a list of demands that I imagined no one else in the world had to deal with.


Dad would say, “Tina, come help me plant the garden today. It’s a beautiful morning to

be outdoors.”


“Aww, Dad, I was going to the movies with my friends,” I would whine.


“Tina, I could sure use a hand weeding the garden today,” he would remark.


“Today? Sorry, Dad, I already made plans,” I would stubbornly say, digging in my heels.


“Why do we have to have a garden, anyway? It’s stupid. “Dad, you can just buy them at the grocery store,”


I would point out. After all, I had better things to do with my time.

As Dad grew older, his passion for gardening never waned. After all the kids were grown

and had started families of their own, Dad turned to gardening like never before. His garden took up most of his backyard, which was quite a stretch.


Even when he was diagnosed with stage four kidney cancer, he still put out his garden. Still, he planted the yellow and zucchini squash, the juicy cucumbers, the spicy jalapenos, and of course, the tender tomato plants. Sometimes, I would come over to visit, and we would enjoy a glass of iced tea or a cold soda on the patio while he lovingly watered his garden in the evenings. The sunlight reflected off the spraying water and created shimmering rainbows that played hide and seek on the grass. He would share the bounty of his garden with me, as we would walk together through the carefully weeded rows.


But then, something changed. Like the weeds he so carefully kept from his little patch of