Beam Me Up (or Down), Scotty!

Dad’s crabapple in bloom.

WHAT I WOULDN’T GIVE for a 21st century hovercraft or one of those Star Trek transporters — anything that would beam me from Martha’s Vineyard to Delaware (and back, of course) in an instant.

Visiting my dad and sister every five or six months just isn’t enough. When you’re not there, you miss things. Little things, like the joy my sister is getting from the puppy she very fortunately brought home right before Covid. Lucy was the cutest puppy ever, and now she is as fast and agile as a speeding bullet (and still ridiculously charming).

Next up from little things are medium-sized things, like time spent reading (aloud, together) a packet of old letters retrieved from my sister’s attic. These are letters from me to her, my 12- and 13-year-old self to her 18- and 19-year old self when she left for college and I clearly missed her. (And apparently, while she was gone, I was in charge of covering up her teenage misdemeanors, like hiding ashtrays and parking tickets from my parents. There was nothing I wouldn’t do for my very cool older sister.) She saved all those letters. We doubled over in laughter reading them.

Then there are bigger things. My sister and I always wind up talking about our childhood, and it is reassuring to know that our memories are in sync, that the things I wonder about sometimes – did I imagine that or exaggerate it in my head? – really did happen. Even though we were (are) nearly seven years apart, it was just the two of us, and only she and I have that shared experience of our particular family dynamic. 

And when it comes to little things and big things about seeing my Dad (who will turn 91 this summer), well, every day of this visit has been full of both.

We’ve made multiple trips to his favorite nursery (an amazing place filled with acres of plants), wandering the hoop houses, where he greets the owner and his son like old friends. (The Itoh peony pictured here, called Keiko (which means “adored”) is a present he bought me there several weeks ago. How it – and several dozen other plants – are going to fit in my car for the ride home, I don’t know.)

The other night we sat on the couch paging through a landscaping book together for nearly two hours, talking about trees and shrubs and flowers and gardens. Not only has he already transformed our garden here in Delaware in only three years, but he’s now helping a friend by designing some beautiful perennial gardens for her, too.    

Last night Dad walked into my room with a small decorative box in his hands. “Have I ever showed you my little box of sayings? Just about everything I believe is in here. All the quotes are on scraps of paper, but could you type them into the computer for me?”

Wow. A life philosophy, honed over 90 years of living, stuffed in a little box. I have been unfolding and folding up the little pieces of paper, reading and re-reading them. It’s like someone handed me a very special batch of fortune cookies. Dad cookies. I recognize many of the scribblings, as Dad has quoted (and requoted!) them over the years. But a few are more obtuse and I think of them when I see him deep in thought. And some are just more poignant than others.

Since my mother’s death, I know that much of his daily activity – gardening in particular, playing bridge with his lady friends, talking on the phone with his daughters — is engineered to fill the hole my mother left.

So it isn’t surprising to me that this quote from Samuel Johnson is one not just folded up in the box, but also printed out from the computer and left on his bureau.

“He that outlives a wife whom he has long loved sees himself disjoined from the only mind that has the same hopes, and fears, and interest; from the only companion with whom he has shared much good and evil; and with whom he could set his mind at liberty, to retrace the past or anticipate the future. The continuity of being is lacerated; the settled course of sentiment and action is stopped; and life stands suspended and motionless.”

He is also quite fond of this saying (attributed to various):

Happiness is –

Someone to love.

Something to do.

Something to hope for.

I picked those two to share with you (I don’t think he’d mind) not just to show what matters to him, but because of where we all are right now, and because we are so sculpted by the love we feel for the important people in our lives, whether they are family or friends. (Some we get to love for a very long time, some for a short time.)

And because as much as I love my Dad and my sister, I miss my partner. In a very palpable way. (And Farmer of course.) I will be glad to be home — the other home, the one that is now my real home. But of course as soon as I get there, I will be longing for that Beam-Me-Up machine. A quick check-in with dad, coffee with my sister. Is that so much to ask of modern technology? I know, I chose to live on an Island many miles away. Oh well!   

A flowering tree is an invitation to lie down on the grass and look up through the branches.

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10 thoughts on “Beam Me Up (or Down), Scotty!”

  1. Damn. This post was like a beam me up of sorts. I totally understand the small things you miss. I feel that so strongly in the opposite direction. When I come up that way but have to leave it’s never enough time. I cry on the ferry EVERY SINGLE time without fail and that’s what the sadness is, missing things like a funny comment from my dad or a growth spurt from my nieces, a chat with my sister in person when the nieces aren’t as distracting and most of all random hugs from my mom.

    Your storytelling here is transportation of the mind. Putting words to what we all feel and I appreciate you. There is a book in here about your dads wisdom and how connected those sayings are to your family and his legacy. Sometimes I feel that the quotes a person cares enough to save is just as important and impactful as if the originated them themselves.

    Very touching and heartwarming post. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Kharma,

    You are so sweet, and you’re totally right — both of us have the same pull in two directions, and so hard to be in two places at once! Time goes by so fast and all those little things add up to a lot of big things. And I agree, it is so interesting to see which particular quotes are meaningful to each person. I do think we all try to believe that we can hold on to just a little more wisdom as we age, while continuing to never get it just right!
    xoxo
    Susie

  3. Beautifully shared Susie! I’d love to see a picture of your sister and dad in his garden.
    I enjoyed your blog previously, and now your reboot posts surprise and captivate me every time with your thoughts.

  4. I have often wished I was Samantha from Bewiched. All I would need ito do is wiggle my nose and get where I wanted to be! Your father must be so proud of you. I hope he comes sometime soon to see the wonderful gardens you are creating at your home .

  5. Hi Ann! I love that! I’m going to add that to my wish list — the Bewitched nose-wiggle! Just got back and hoping we’ll be trading plants seedlings and visiting each others’ gardens soon!

  6. Susie,
    I am a fan here in Eugene, Oregon where I’m finishing up a month of organized dinners from Fresh Green Suppers. It is the perfect book for me right now—every recipe so improbably perfect. Peter is just now cleaning up after our Grilled Peppers stuffed with lentils and goat cheese— I put violets on top and he took a picture and posted it to Facebook.
    My question is if one particular of your other books would complement SGS, especially with our CSA season beginning next week—there are only two of us, so in addition to making dinner, I need to put food by.
    I just got a new stockpot so I can make your broth nonstop during the season and have it in the freezer over the winter. If you have an idea which book would be best, I’m at sandybrownjensen@gmail.com or text at 541 321 3210
    SGS is so ingenious—you changed my life!
    Sandy

  7. Sandy, How lovely to hear that you are enjoying Simple Green Suppers so much. Honestly, it’s the book of mine that I use most, too, though Fast, Fresh & Green (My first book) was my best selling and very popular because it is all side dishes. It won’t help with putting things by (I would recommend one of Marisa McLellan’s books (Food in Jars) for that, but it will make getting a veg on the table every night easier (and much tastier!) Those recipes were not strictly vegetarian, but there are 100 plus recipes so lots of options.

    Thanks so much for being in touch and hello to Oregon!

    Susie

  8. Spent the morning reading this and a few other if you’re posts that I have been saving.
    I have not seen my Mom since Christmas and we are still locked down tight here (Toronto area) so I used your quote about happiness in her Mother’s Day card. It was perfect timing. Thanks for all you do. You are appreciated.

  9. Aw Faye, thank you and I surely do hope you get to see your mom soon. I feel so blessed to have spent last week with Dad. I am sure your mom will dearly appreciate her mother’s day card!

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