Yesterday, I wondered if we would have an autumn this year. Today, almost suddenly, there is a shower of golden leaves outside my window. They drift and saunter and lollygag; then the wind kicks up and they whirl and spin and drive to the ground. It’s going to rain. Rain! After weeks of draught, a thousand gallons of city water for the roses, and ground so hard it takes a pick-axe to pull a weed, it’s raining.
Dad told me last night, “This is just what we’ve been waiting for.”
Last week, Dad knocked on The Cellar door. (I was writing.)
“Come on in, Dad. Sit a spell.”
“I ain’t gonna sit down unless you give me a drink.”
“Well, hold on. I happen to have a little bourbon in this refrigerator. Here it is.”
He chose a spot on the couch and put on his serious face. “I wanted to talk to you about your roses. Well, actually, there’s a few things.”
I nodded. I poured myself one, too, and sat down in my desk chair and opened the bottom drawer and propped my feet.
“I think your soaker hose needs to be re-done and I know how to do it. That little ditch needs to go all around the rose bed and the dirt needs to be piled up on top. They do that all the time like where you see commercial landscaping.”
“You’re talking about a berm.”
“Is that what you call it? Okay. Berm.”
“Well, go to it. Just don’t pile any dirt up around my roses. That crown of the rose needs to be where I’ve planted it. You know, it’s almost time to winterize those things. I’ve got to read up again.”
“Okay, well, here’s my list.” He counted on big thick fingers on a weathered palm. Number one was his little finger. “First, do that berm thing on the roses and re-do the soaker hose. Then, that ground out front is hard as rock. What happened is they dug that up and you planted it when it was wet. It didn’t get a chance to lay there. It’s got to be loosened up. So I need to take up those small plants – leave the bushes alone – and put some loose, good dirt and peat moss and compost and work it in. Then I can put those little plants back down. And, third, I’m going to turn that ground for my garden.”
“Go to it. Fine with me. But you better not disturb my rose roots. These roses have been the best I’ve ever had.”
He mocked me with his bitchy-woman voice. “I’m not going to ruin your roses, Sis-Puss.”
He thought of something else. “I can’t dig out front until it rains. I’m going to rent that big garden tiller with the tines behind it from down at that rental place – $75 for four hours or $50 for three hours – and I can do the front and my garden while I’ve got it.”
“Dad,” I said, “We can soak that ground down. Water it good for two or three days and you’ll be able to dig.”
“Nooooooooo,” he said. “No need to water except in an emergency. We’ll just wait ‘til it rains. You can go ahead and get the mulch, though. Want me to go with you in the truck?”
“I don’t know exactly when I’m going yet,” I said.
“Well, you just get whatever you think, and I’ll spread it. And I’ll unload it, too,” he said.
“Okay, I really do need to read up on winterizing roses. I forget every year how to do it and have to read all over again.”
“What did we do last year?” he asked.
“Well, now, the rose bed wasn’t there. We just planted those this spring. And the ones we brought over from the other house were heeled in down there on the bank. Remember, we brought all that stuff over in November and put them in the ground and strawed them in?”
Pause. Sigh. “Dad, we’ve been here a year,” I said.
“Mom and I’ll be here a year in November,” Dad said.
“I get to thinking that we – I mean, Dave and I – should have been further along by now. And yet…”
Dad arched his eyebrows, shook his head, and rattled the ice in his glass. “Ah, Sis, just think of all we’ve done! Look around you, girl.”
“That’s just what I was about to say, Daddy. When I think that I should have been able to get more done, I look at the roses and the corner gardens and even the front…“
“Our vegetables…those vines all over your porch rails…your roses…”
“Morning glories and moonflowers. I think I’ll plant those again next year,” I said.
“Oh, it’s pretty. Beautiful place. I never thought it would be this way.”
“It’s changed. A whole lot,” I said.
“I like to think I’ve helped.”
“Yeah, you’ve done pretty good for an old fart,” I told him. “Give me that glass. Mom’s going to be looking for you.”
Mustn’t get too serious.