And Now a Few Words in Honour of Vegetables
Grief is like a stitch in your side. You can keep going but you are not pain free. When my brother in law died suddenly this past spring, I got back to the US and managed to speak at his graveside and hopefully provided some comfort for my sister and his mother and family and friends. I kept going but nothing felt right.
As with a stitch, the first pain free breath is a special joy, even if a residual pain lingers. And so it was yesterday afternoon as I looked at the ravaged remnants of my pea crop--wind blasted, frost tinged, black spots of damp among the full pods of peas and, ironically, one hopeful blossom on the end of a wind-wracked stem doubled back on itself. Without thinking about it, I laughed to think what Harold would say about my pitiful crop as I managed to salvage a dozen peas. One of his long suits was his winning way with vegetables. He loved growing them and canning and cooking them. In an earlier blog post I wrote a well-earned love song to the green beans from their garden that my sister spent a fortune to mail to my homesick self.
It took some time to get to know Harold. At first he was welcomed into our family on the strength of his obvious affection for our sister. And that could have been enough, but he gradually revealed more of himself. He was deeply funny. Not the outrageous physical comedy that I'm sure he could do as well, but the irresistible laugh built on his canny, ironic way of looking at the world.
Despite not having had an easy life, he was generous with his talents and whatever he had to offer from hospitality and home grown peaches to the use of his vehicles, and, most importantly, his ability to fix things. I hope he realized how precious his ability to understand the working bits of the world was when he landed in a family more noted for its intellectual than its mechanical abilities. I hope he felt cherished.
He would never have come to Scotland, so he would never have seen my poor excuse for vegetables. And as a boy from Tennessee, he would never ever have understood the climate up here, but the reason for recalling him over the pea patch is not just his own talent with vegetables but for the trait he might have been best noted for--his straight talking. Because he loved me he would have made an apt remark, shaken his head in mock disbelief, and then rolled up his sleeves and helped me tear out the plants. And because I loved him, I'll think of him often, especially in the veg patch.