My dad grew avocados. Well, he tried growing avocados all the time in Arkansas no less. The Ozark Mountain conditions were never really friendly to the plants, and although he managed to produce several full and lush green plants, never an actual avocado.
Growing up, I remember the window sill filled with starters: small glasses with the seeds stuck with toothpicks and filled with water. Dad had this part down to a science. He could get any of them to root and then he planted several and nursed them all- always seemingly hoping.
When my parents settled in Edisto Beach, South Carolina, dad amped-up the production. I think he thought this was his best shot, so in his patio area was a work bench lined with empty plastic vodka bottles and avocado plants everywhere. None produced that I ever heard. Even years later, when he lived yet again in Bella Vista, AR. He grew avocado plants. Perhaps it was habit, and the reality had long ago sunk in but why not keep trying?
Meeting my dad, you would never think bubbly optimist. He was friendly and loved a good joke, a good cook-out and friends and beer. He was realist and a Marine and liked his feet and those he loved to be firmly planted in truth. Dad’s efforts with the avocado plant were very much like his efforts to bring our family together especially the last years of his life. Again, my father was a realist and knew fully and owned fully his own short comings over the years and wanted to move forward. Even as I gave up hope for real reconciliation for our family, my dad still insisted that we invite everyone to show up and go from there. The great reconciliation that my dad pictured never really manifested. Selfishly, I am happy that he and I had made our peace and built a strong relationship. There were moments with family, but only a few.
So, I have planted my first avocado plant. My husband who is from Florida looked at me strangely when he saw the glass and seed stuck with toothpicks. I tried my best to explain the homage it represented to my dad and his hope. I know-I know that it won’t produce fruit. But it is the hope that rests in the green leaves and nurturing that maybe this is the one time, the one plant that may surprise us all.
“Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.”
A River Runs Through It–Norman Maclean