Published in The Searcher, Vol. 48, No. 3 (Summer 2011): 117.
GENEii, Category 2, Winner
By Joyce Roberson
Bobís plants began life in the north light of the kitchen window as avocado pits in murky water. I scoffed at them and berated him for using my Tupperware to grow plants that never would become trees or bear fruit. But they split open and leafed out, and he removed them to the window in the bedroom down the hall. There they prospered from the sunny, southern light and grew strong. He set them onthe dresser top, watered and fed them, and transplanted them into larger quarters as they flourished. I grumbled at the mess, the earth crumbs on the French ivory furniture, the mud spots on the wall, and
the bag of potting soil on the new beige rug. But what was he to do? He was tethered to an oxygen machine. He had only a few feet in which to move about, and only a few minutesí strength with which to do it.
He needed more and bigger pots but was unable to leave the house to shop for them. He tried to
explain to me what was needed. I became impatient, but I bought them, hard white plastic, natural clay, green with scalloped saucers; all sizes and shapes, rounds and rectangles, containers deep, shallow, and
broad. I bought him a set of small garden tools with rubber handles, and more potting soil and fertilizer. And I displayed to him each purchase with a threatening warning, ďYou better not make a mess.Ē
What finally did the venture in were the tomato plants which he grew from the seed packets I had
bought. Out of nowhere, in this screened and double-windowed bedroom, came tiny, green gnats thick and choky among the plants. They swarmed upon approach. Everyone said it was awful, and he knew it spelled the end of his hothouse hobby.
So out they went, pampered and tender, onto the entry porch and over into the dirt. He couldnít always find the strength to make it to the front of the house. His breath was lost in the breeze and his energy was sapped by the sun. He couldnít bend to grab the hose. He did what he could, but it wasnít easy. He asked for my help, and I gave it grudgingly. Iím busy, I grumbled. Iím tired. I have more important things to do.
The plants first faced the winter cold, and then the desert heat. They shriveled, bronzed, crinkled, and drooped. He gave to them what he could. It was better than nothing, but not much, for he was growing weaker.
By this time, Iíd come home to find no dishes in the sink for he had grown too tired to eat. Nor could he give his plants their drink, and one by one they died of thirst.
The exception was an iris bulb heíd started on the windowsill, which our son had planted for him in a far corner of the yard. I had him put it there, where it could not be seen, so as not to interrupt the flow of hedges around the free-form lawn. One spiky, strappy little plant had no place in the aesthetics of my costly landscape plan.
Bob passed away in May. And his iris didnít get much sun back there, overshadowed as it was. But it slowly grew, and every year its green stems became more numerous and thicker and higher.
Then came the banner year Ď04-í05, the second wettest winter in Los Angeles history, the Year of the Rain. And the little iris, three years in the ground, was little no more. Itís strong, green swords poked above and between the hedges, and, one day in the Spring, looking right at me was the first flower. My Bob had come to say hello.
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