Tag Archives: Conversation

In the Garden with Dad

Standard

Image

My father was never an easy man to talk to.

At least for me, that was the case.

If I was going to visit him, I’d make mental notes of things he might find interesting…that might force a grin…that would not be judged “Nonsense!”

When I moved to Beaver Island, my communication with Dad was mostly through letters. I collected tidbits to write to him about.

I do it, still, though he’s been gone fifteen years.

If I count six deer on my way to town, my first thought is that Dad would be glad to hear that.

A good stack of firewood in preparation for the winter, a new building going up in town, the health and well-being of any of the “old-timers” he’d remember…these were all good topics.

The garden was always a welcome subject, with Dad.

He’s not the only one!

I remember a day many summers ago when Peter “Doney” and his wife, Dolores, came to the island. They were late in arriving that year, as their oldest daughter had recently passed away. Throngs of Beaver Islanders were on the dock that day, to greet them, and to offer their sympathy.

Dolores took it all in stride: the hugs and tears and words of comfort.

Peter’s face was set in a grimace, and he seemed to wince at every encounter.

Then Russell Green, the ferryboat captain, strode across the dock. He reached out his arm for a handshake and said, “Peter! Good to see ya! How’re your tomatoes doing?”

Peter’s face broke into a wide smile.

“Well by the god…a damn sight better’n yours, I’ll betcha,” he grinned.

When Dad lay dying, his sister – my Aunt Katie – came to the hospital.

“How’s your garden doing this year?” was his greeting.

That’s what they talked about, in the last hours of his life…the amount of rain, the chance of early frost, and that damned quack grass.

Today, working out in my garden, I kept a running conversation going with Dad, in my head.

He had opinions.

The pole beans I grow – because I like the look of them climbing the tepees – are not the wisest choice, according to Dad. Pole beans spend too much energy putting up their runners, rather than producing beans. On Beaver Island, where I’m fighting a short season anyway, bush beans would be a better guarantee of a good harvest.

As for the flowers, nonsense. If you can’t make a meal out of it, it’s a waste of good garden space.

In Dad’s opinion.

Remembering how bad his knees got, toward the end, my raised beds are not a bad idea.

If I keep jumping on that shovel to force it through the sod, I’ll have bad knees, too.

Dad sure had something to say about the man who promised he’d come back today to finish repairing the fence and clean up the mess he left. He had a few choice comments for me, too, for being foolish enough to pay him before the job was done.

Dad wasn’t very happy with my cousin, Bob, either, when he didn’t show up with the rototiller as he said he would.

I’m getting a pretty good rhubarb bed…the tomatoes are looking fine…that’s a nice little raspberry patch…and why the hell do I have fifty horseradish plants growing if I never use it?

All in all, it was a nice conversation.

I’m working in town on Father’s Day. That’s okay.

I spent this day in the garden with my Dad.

Talking to Myself

Standard

Image

I do it all the time.

Talk to myself, that is.

I live alone.

I’ve always been a loner.

Much of the time the conversation is only going on inside my head, but sometimes I talk out loud.

I’m the only voice I hear most days, out here in my home on the Fox Lake Road.

I could suggest that I’m talking to the dogs, but even they can tell the difference.

I talk to myself at work. As I walk into the kitchen to pick up an order, I’m often reminding myself what I need to grab in the way of condiments and side dishes. As I arrange the plates and bowls on the tray, heaviest items in the center, all handles turned in, tall items squeezed between other things so that they won’t topple, I’ll say, “Okay, don’t anybody move,” as I lift the tray over my head. I am often unaware that I’m speaking until Kathy comes around from behind the grill to ask “WHAT?!?” From the look on my face, she determines that the conversation was only with me; she rolls her eyes, waves her hand and goes back to her station.

I talk to myself while walking the dogs. I work out ideas for class plans or art projects. I work out furniture arrangements or planting schemes. I hold imaginary conversations. I assert myself in ways I rarely would in real life. I replay discussions. I never speak out of turn, lose my temper or say mean things, in these talks. I am also never prevented from speaking my truth.

Lately, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time defending myself, to myself, in conversations in my mind.

It seems like I’ve been fielding a lot of criticism lately.  More people, in just the last two years, have felt the need to tell me I am lacking – and how, and why – than have in the last thirty years! I’ve questioned whether I am in some way inviting negative opinions. I have not been requesting critiques! Of course, there is some truth in everything that is said. That does not mean it is a valid or necessary insult. I’m often not in a position to defend myself.

That’s where talking to myself proves invaluable.

It helps to sort the truths from the exaggerations and distortions. It helps to clarify who I am, despite how others choose to interpret my words or actions. It helps me to move forward and away from the hurt.

When I was told that I am an inconsequential story-teller, I said – petulantly – “my stories are too consequential!”

When my boss found fault with my scheduling on a regular basis, I defended the over-staffing or under-staffing – to myself, in imaginary conversations – just as regularly.

When I was told I never really stood up for anything, I had long, grumbling talks with myself. “I marched for Peace in the ’60s!”, “I fought for the Equal Rights Amendment in the ’70s!”, “I have voted in every single election!” , “I left two good jobs to stand for my principles!”

When it was suggested that my service was not up to standard…well, the conversation in my head turned into the blog titled “Dear Harry”. If you’ve read it, you have an idea the way my mind works when on the defensive!

When I was told I was not working hard enough to maintain a friendship, I talked to myself until I was able to talk – and clear the air – with my friend.

Most recently I have received a letter filled with a one-sided account of an unfortunate encounter. It makes me look pretty sorry, indeed: petty, mean-spirited and vengeful. If it were wholly untrue, it would be easier to brush it off. Because there is truth to it, and because of the source, I don’t take it lightly. Because it was delivered with a clear directive to not respond, I am impotent to clarify or work it out…except in talking to myself.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing.

Do you talk to yourself? I’d love to know I’m not alone!