“It would have been good if you had put some fertilizer on the flowers and tomatoes,” my father said to me.
Note the phrasing here. Not “it would be good if you put,” but rather “it would have been good if you put.” Not a request for me to do a task, but the marking of my failure, a failure in doing, a failure in knowing..
I do not have a green thumb. I don’t particularly like to garden. I don’t think about gardens. I’m not good at gardens
My father, on the other hand, likes to garden. After all, he spent his first 18 years on a farm north of Edmonton Alberta.
Now, please don’t assume that he keeps nice, healthy manicured gardens of this or that, because that’s not his focus.
He likes to structure gardens, like the raised rock garden in the front yard, the rock stairs that always catch and tear at the hose, the steps to the ravine that move in the rain, or the flagstones set on sand that is full of ants and always moves. It’s rough structure here, not considered.
His plantings are also like that. I saw how he slammed the lobelia into the hanging pots, and I’m not surprised it didn’t survive, though he places the blame on bad plants, on my bad watering.
And he likes to weed, some, the big rip out.
Me, well, I’m here to help. I water, I sweep up the debris and take it to his compost, move trees and such. I do what he needs me to do.
But this fertilizing thing, well, that’s something I should have known about.
What does that mean? Easy. I should think more like him.
Not gonna happen, and I know that after five decades of you trying to make me think like you.
“Fine,” I say. “I’ll do it now.”
“You don’t have to do it now!”
I go to the garage and get the vintage Sterns Miracle Grow sprayer. It’s the one that I clean by running upside down, and when he saw me do that, he wondered how I learned that. The instructions, you see, were on the side of the jar, hanging after twenty years of use. He just never read them.
I come in and I say, “Most of the fertilizer you have out there is for evergreens, but. . .”
“I know that! That’s why I said you didn’t have to do it now! And you don’t have to use the sprayer. You can get powder or whatever,” he retorts.
I say again, “Most of the fertilizer you have out there is for evergreens, but there is one pack of ‘Bursting Blooms’ for flowers. That should be OK on vegetables too.”
“Yeah, well, I guess it should.”
I’m used to getting interrupted and ignored. That’s why I have learned to just restart what I have to say from the beginning and finish it, like I used to continue stories I was telling even when my parents left the room as I was speaking. That surprised my brother-in-law.
Of course, though, getting interrupted and ignored has lead me to believe that is what will happen in the world, lead me to talk fast with the moment I have. Often that was so fast that I became incomprehensible to others, and my communication created more confusion than clarification. Too hip for the room.
I fertilized the garden, cleaned up and such.
But my father still thinks I am a failure because I can’t see the world the way he sees it, can’t understand it the way he understands it, can’t do what he would do.
And it is the same for my mother. I remember how frustrated I would get when I would ask her “So, what needs done?” and she would shriek back “Can’t you see? Can’t you see?” Well, no. If I could see, I wouldn’t have asked.
“It would have been good if you learned to think like us.”
I dunno. Maybe it would have been good if they learned to think a little more like me, at least enough to help me be the best me I can be.
All past tense, though.