My father had always had a garden, ever since I was big enough to remember. When I was little, we all helped some in planting, harvesting, etc., but I was truly never interested in growing vegetables or preserving anything. I always hated having to get out there and help and on more than one occasion put up a protest. He and mom both loved it and with 4 kids it was a good way to help keep down expenses by freezing and canning every year.
In the spring of 2017, my father was overcome with severe heat exhaustion leading to some type of cardiac event and he was told by doctors to take it easy for the next few months. He was hospitalized for a week and sent home on continuous oxygen. He has always raised a big garden and the thoughts of not being able this year were devastating to him.
As an adult, I had never been much for gardening, I grew a few flowers but that was all, but the thought of Dad not having tomatoes, or some garden stuff was more than I could stand. That first year I bought 20, 5-gallon buckets and grew tomatoes, green beans and peppers beside the house for him. He could walk that far with his oxygen and mess around a little with them. He told me on more than one occasion I had lost my mind and you could not grow anything that way. I just laughed, but we did and to his surprise, the tomatoes and bell peppers did well, not so much for the green beans, but we did get enough to eat a few.
The next year Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and severe degenerative arthritis in his hips/knees. Yet he insisted we were not doing anything in those 5-gallon buckets again. I tilled the garden and that year we planted peas, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn. Dad and I had differing gardening styles. I had read about putting up a fence for peas, green beans and cucumbers. He called me crazy, he had always just cut branches from the surrounding trees and made teepees for everything to vine or grow up in. Green beans were supposed to go up the corn. Despite the disagreements, he finally admitted I did ok. We both learned something.
The following year I wanted to grow more, Mom wanted decorative gourds and I wanted tall “field corn” for fodder shocks in the fall. These along with pumpkins and cushaw were added to our garden. Since this time, I have tried different vegetables, had a few fails, and successes. Always learning, the grow group has helped a lot. Given me hints and ideas, or just how to go about doing or growing something. How to preserve and keep the fruits of my labors for the winter. Also giving me different varieties of plants or seeds that I may not have otherwise tried to grow.
Dad is wheelchair bound now but I drag him out into the middle of the garden to help, or at least for him to think he helps. He does manage to dig out a few weeds, tie up tomatoes and pull a few beans or ears of corn. He always inspects everything I pick and bring to the house. He takes great joy in it all and still calls it his garden, tells folks all about his efforts and how well he is doing. I just smile, I know the truth but who cares really, had it not been for him I would have never started gardening anyway and, if he is happy, that is enough for me.