One Year Later ; A reflection & “as told by Dad” ghost story is

Today marks the first year since my Dad died.

That’s exactly one year of my existence on a planet where my parents aren’t. Where I can’t call them, or stop by on a random Tuesday to say hi. A whole circuit around the sun on a big blue rock when I didn’t have them to reach out to.

It’s been a long year, but it’s only the first. I’ve seen & felt grief in so many ways I never imagined; and it hurts.

That’s just another piece of the story though, and who reads a story where everything goes right?

Nobody, because it’s the hard stuff that makes it worthwhile somehow. Even when it doesn’t seem like it. It’s diving into what’s unknown, uncomfortable & potentially painful that makes us.

But I digress, I started this with the intention of telling you a a Real Life Ghost Story, so here it is:

On a summer day, long long ago Dad went for a country drive with an old friend. Though they didn’t have a destination in mind, they were hoping to find a new fishing spot along along the streams that run throughout the hills of western MA.

As they drove the road started to curve awat from the River, bringing them higher into the hills. Up here the homes become more sparse. The trees thicker, the bright summer day began to feel heavy as the two turned a sharp corner, noticing a clearing in the trees up ahead.

As the truck approached the men realized what they’d found, not unusual in rural New England, the gate of a crumbling old cemetery.

The clearing was perfect for a break from the truck where they’d sat for so long, so the two men peeled themselves from the seats to stretch their limbs. Dad & Friend wandered together for a bit, trying to make out what was written on the headstones without much luck.

Eventually the two split up, with Dad heading towards the back of the clearing. Here the stones were little more than crumbling lumps, barely distinguishable from the ground. Dad see something off to his right, near the back edge of the cemetery.

As he gets closer it’s clear that this it’s another headstone, but in much better shape than any of its neighbors. Once he reaches the stone he reaches out to brush away some of the dirt and loss that covered the writing, only to recoil in horror before running full tilt back to the truck yelling for friend to follow ASAP.

Written on the stone was his name, but the dates were worn completely off. We’d tried to find the cemetery a few times over the years with no luck, odds are it was some great-great grand-uncle (we’ve been here a while apparently…) but still. I’d be spooked.

Good Ghost Stories

Random Libby Read of the Week

Tomorrow is one year since I sat & watched my Dad breath his last.

It’s surreal to me now, that an entire year of my life has occurred since then.

At the same time it seems like eons ago, like a movie I saw before I was old enough to follow the plot.

The quote at the top is from the book “vacationland”, and I highly recommend you give it a try. It’s just good clean summer-fun reading really.

This story he tells about playing pretend with his daughter, the imagined scenario of silly nonsense that helped them pass the time, this hit me. Not just because of the connection between storytelling of the dead & immortality, although that’s part of it..

It’s the imagined times with him, the make believe scenarios we’d come up with to pass the time on any given gray Sunday. The fact that with him gone all I’m left with is the imagined. Imagined conversation, advice, adventures that can only happen in my head.

That and the total lack of anyone else remembering him. I worry quite a lot that I’m the only one who tells his stories. So I keep telling them, even if there’s only myself around to listen.

Why I want to set fire to my garden

Let me stop you right there friend, this isn’t your usual blog post about gardening woes. I’m not here writing to complain about my lack luster tomato plants or the squirrels that are digging holes in the garden beds killing what little is thriving (even though that is happening…)

No, I want to burn my garden because it failed on a much bigger scale.

See, last summer I built the raised beds to save my seedlings since the greenhouse wasn’t an option ( The greenhouse is it’s own story for another day…). I had a ridiculous number of cherry tomato plants, but only one beefsteak survived.

Turned out that those big juicy tomatoes were my Dads favorite, so I tended that plant like my life depended on it.

Or his, actually.

I had this hope, this ridiculous dream that I’d bring him that tomato and we’d sit around like old times; that with one bite he would commend me for my gardening skills and reminisce about summers past.

Funny thing about pancreatic cancer is it makes eating excruciating.

The day the tomato had finally ripened I made plans to go visit ASAP. As I drove up to his house I played out all the scenarios of us enjoying this moment, how wonderful this t would be. That despite the pain and nausea he’s be able to taste it’s juices and magically he’d begin to go into remission.

When I got to the house I sliced it up and sprinkled some salt, then put it on the coffee table while we watched some shark week. He told me how beautiful it was, how “a garden fresh tomato is the taste of peak summer”, but he never took a bite.

Eventually I started eating it, grabbing spices hoping someone else would follow suit.

When I left I was the only one to try it. He said he’d take a bite later, that when he ate the pain got worse and he didn’t want to ruin our time together.

I believe he did, and that the tomato failed to be the panacea I had built it up to be.

When he died in August I stopped tending the garden. I wasn’t going to grow anything this year, but At some point I planted tomatoes again. Only beefsteak, but the cherry’s self seeded all around the bed.

I care for it, neglectfully so but still. Green tomatoes are growing, and I hate them.

It’s a duality, like so many others, this perfect example of “life goes on” that inherently reminds me of death. I want to burn it, a huge pyre and pit to replace the green that’s there now, taunting me with the memory of Hope dashed.

I won’t though, there’s flowers coming back. Even a cucumber plant bloomed this week. So, it stays for now.

Olfactory Ramblings

It’s 2pm on a Sunday afternoon, the sun is bright and there are wisps of smoke that curl up from the ashtray, catching the suns light. The smell of the smoke, dirt and raw wood that permeates the trucks cabin sink into my clothes as my Dad goes over the checklist once again. Tires, mirrors, seat, steering wheel. Gotta check each one before you get in to drive.

4 pm on a Thursday, sitting in the basement with him as I look at treasures he’s collected while we talk about life and what comes next. That same cologne, the wood stove burning brightly and I know my coat will carry it home for me.

Decades later, when our lessons in the empty lot are long gone and I’m sitting here alone on a dark patio in the small town you once lived, I catch that scent in the breeze. I savor it like a fine wine and try to carry it with me, hold it just a moment longer to warm me, pretending everything is going to be alright.

If I believe it hard enough it’ll come true. If I hold onto good that’s what will come, that’s what you always said.

So I’ll keep holding on.