Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Spring Cleaning, of Sorts, With My Dad

My dad was 86 when he passed away, just two month's shy of his 87th birthday. It was right before I moved to Nashville in 2001 that he gave in and was ready to move on. He had lived a long, great life. He was always so young at heart up until he turned about 83-84. It was then that he began to lose his faculties. (I believe he was in his early 80s when this picture was taken.) He was hardly ever ill, thank goodness, until his last days when he had decided to just quit eating. I think he was very, very tired. He lapsed into a coma after several days; and I was fortunate enough to be able to see him the day before he passed and was able to tell him it was okay to let go, able to say my love you's and my goodbyes. My brother John was there by his side on his last day, and that soothes my heart knowing he wasn't alone.

As much as I hate to admit it, I have been neglecting a beautiful potted plant that my sweet brother- and sister-in-law from California had sent for my father's funeral. It's in a lovely oriental porcelain fish bowl with ivies and African violets and assorted other plants. I had been so careful with it, nurturing it all these years. That is, until earlier in December, when I moved it into the study for the winter months. There it has sat, with the minimal amount of watering--I guess just enough to keep it alive. No pruning, no watchful eye, just a pitiful amount of water. Needless to say, my dad's plant began to suffer from the obvious neglect. I noticed a couple of weeks ago that the ivy leaves were beginning to drop off and the ones still alive were looking quite dingy. I know, all too well, what that usually means--spider mites. I hate those little buggers. They love it when ivy plants go dry and the air is nice and toasty warm. They seem to be able to take over in a blink of an eye. I should have jumped on them when I first noticed signs of the mighty mites but I didn't want to spread the little pests to my healthy plants in other areas of my house; and it's been too cold to put it outdoors. So, I just left it there, until....yes, until.... yesterday. It has been gorgeous outside for the past few days and the nights have been chilly but not freezing--just what the doctor orders for those heat- and dry-loving pests.

I took the whole pot outside and cleaned it up. I cut all the infested areas out of the ivy and tossed it in the trash outside. (You have to be careful and keep everything away from any healthy plants, those teeny weeny little guys can spread through the air.) I cleaned up all the dirt and trimmed all the other plants in the pot. I left it out all night to let the chill get the best of any mites that weren't cut away. Today, I looked online to see what I should do next. I don't use pesticides, so I was hoping that there was a way to save what is left of the ivy without resorting to poison. I normally just throw any infested plants out. (But, of course, not this one!) I found an ivy site that said to take a gallon of water and add a couple of drops of dish detergent to it. Take the potted plant and dunk it a couple of times. So, this is what I did, in the kitchen sink. I left the suds on the leaves and put it back outside. It said to do this about once a week until all the mites were gone before bringing it back into contact with other plants. I'm hoping the weather holds so I don't have to bring it back in before then. I'm not going to give up easily on this plant that's so close to my heart.

Since today was so pretty, I slung open all the doors to let the cool breezes waft through the house. It was a little windy out, so all the doors kept slamming shut. I have door stops for the downstairs doors, but the upper deck door was giving me fits. I looked around the hall to see what I could use to prop the door open. I finally pulled my dad's old cowboy boots from beside the hall table and used them. What a look! I had to grin when I moved them into place. If I were living in Texas, I'd already have plants growing in them sitting on the front porch. I think Texans are some of the most creative people I have ever run up against. You can give a Texan anything, and they will make something practical out of it.

I remember my cousins' house had all kind of gadgets made from old, used items that were no longer working and had outlived their original purpose. An old crank telephone was made into a table lamp, old leather boots were used as plant holders outdoors, a old milk urn painted and used for an umbrella stand. I don't remember what it was, but they used some old piece as a vessel to hold matches in by the stove, so you could just reach over, strike a match and light the pilot. My parents were never crafty like that, so it was a lot of fun to see these things whenever we were in Texas.

I think this spring, when the weather warms even more, I'll take another pair of my dad's old cowboy boots (he had dozens!) and plant some flowers in them for the side porch. You know, last year, I bought some bluebell seed packets in Texas. What fits better in a cowboy boot than bluebells? I bet that will look cute; maybe only to me, but that's ok.


John Ivey said...

Great post! I'm glad that you were there for Dad especially at the very end. For some reason, I don't remember your telling me about visiting him the day before he died. When I saw him, he had apparently slipped into a coma, though there seemed to be a glimmer of recognition in his eyes for just a moment after I began talking to him and saying my goodbyes. It is good he had you to comfort him before he slipped away. Keep up the great writing!

Posy said...

That was a lovely post about your Dad..and I think the bluebells will look super :)

Rosa said...

Thanks Posy. I can't wait for warmer weather to start with the plantings!!



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