I headed out of town to visit my dad today for the first time since his wife died last month. He’d invited my brother, sister and I, along with our significant others, over for a barbecue.
While we sat outside on the patio, admiring the garden, I spotted one hanging plant that was practically all brown.
“Is that the one we brought for Barbara?” I asked, walking over to tend to it.
“No, yours is over there,” my dad said, pointing to a healthy one hanging on another tree. “Just leave that one. My neighbour says it’s past the point of no return.”
We moved inside to finish putting dinner together, but it felt strange to be helping out in Barbara’s kitchen.
While she was alive, she’d never allow us to lift a finger to help her out. Whenever we were invited over, we were the guests and she was the hostess and any attempt to lend a hand was met with a jovial, “You sit yourself right back down young lady.”
She would have had a good laugh at us today. First, we couldn’t find any of the appropriate serving dishes, so we made do with an odd assortment of whatever vaguely flat or bowl-shaped objects we could find.
Then, after dinner, we turned on the oven to heat up a pie for 10 minutes or so. When it was done, my brother peeked into the oven and was met with a cloud of white smoke billowing forth filling the whole house.
We rushed around opening all the doors to clear the air and almost let Dad’s beloved Kitty run away.
The pièce de la résistance came after dessert when my dad went into the kitchen to get more coffee. “Aaahhh!” he cried out. “I FORGOT THE POTATOES!”
He’d grilled them in foil packets, which lay untouched on the counter all through dinner.
“Have home fries in the morning,” I suggested lamely.
Now my dad is a full-blooded Irishman who left Belfast for Canada when he was 19. I don’t think he’s gone a single day in his life without spuds. For him to forget to serve the potatoes alarmed me greatly. It would be like seeing Ghandi chomping on a Mars bar during a fast.
I thought about this for a while, and when we sat outside again after dinner, I walked over to the hanging plant and, despite his protestations, carefully trimmed off all the brown bits. I left the few flowers that were still blooming, gave it a little water and moved it to a partially shady spot.
I just didn’t have the heart to let anything else wither away and disappear on him. Not without giving it a fighting chance, anyway.