Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Another Year Goes By

The Potato Story

This is the third time I've reposted this story. It is now 26 years since my father is gone. He lives in our hearts as brightly as ever- missed, remembered, and loved always.

I first posted this thirteen years ago on the blog.

My father died of liver cancer on March 14, 1992 (Sat, 9th of Adar II, 5752). I offer this post in his memory.

In 1993, as the first anniversary of my father's death approached I was quite inconsolable. My family was still grief-stricken; my father provided a lot of the emotional glue that held the family together. He was a very kind, gentle and sad soul who derived what joy he had from his wife and children.

I felt the need to mark that anniversary by drawing on several different traditions -- burn a yahrzeit, build an altar, place stones on a grave, make an offering of his favorite things (photographs of his loved ones, mystery novels, food). So, an elaborate blending of multi-cultural ritual was conceived, and in the center the yahrzeit burned for 24 hours to mark that awful day. Roger and I took a dozen roses to the Capitola Wharf at Monterey Bay (where my father's ashes had been scattered), and tossed a rose in one by one and recited out loud how well my father was loved and remembered.

The following day, after the yahrzeit had burned out, we disassembled the altar and put everything away. I took the food offerings and buried them in the yard. It was the beginning of a closure of sorts.
Roger and I jumped into spring that year the way we always do. Lots of flowers and vegetables to plant. I typically do the flower gardening and he does the veggies. Our yard faced Monterey Bay with one of those 180 degree views of the entire expanse. There is a narrow public footpath on the bayside of the house, where lots of friendly people walk by on their way from the cliffs down into town and back again. There were often bike-riders, families, sweethearts, people walking dogs, and late into the night revelers from the nightspots below. People always commented on our garden, and we had conversations about the flowers and vegetables nearly everyday.

That summer everything bloomed and fruited as expected, but an errant potato plant showed up in a border bed reserved for flowers. We were quite intrigued by this and tried to imagine how a potato came to be in that part of the yard. We assumed some passerby, with a bag full of groceries had inadvertently dropped it there or one of our gardening buddies was having some fun with us. Maybe it had been there all along, and conditions were now perfect for it to emerge. We could not find an acceptable explanation. How ever it came to be there, we harvested it one day, and had a wonderful breakfast of new potato home fries and poached eggs. And that was the end of that.

In winter of that year, as my father's birthday approached, the gnawing sadness returned, and I missed him fiercely. My siblings and I had decided we would honor our father on both his birthday and the anniversary of his death every year. So, on December 19th, I created the altar again: photographs, novels, his favorite foods, and a yahrzeit candle. After the 24 hours of observance had passed, I looked at all of those offerings and wondered what I would do with them. I would put the photographs back in the albums, the novels back in the bookcase, and the food offerings (carrots and potatoes) I would bury in the yard. And that's when it struck me: I had buried the potato in the flower bed. It had been from the plate of food offerings I'd made on the first anniversary of his death. I was stunned by how deeply I had buried that memory along with the potato. Not even the potato plant itself could coax to consciousness the memory of my actions.

Now, the planting has become part of the tradition. Every year in my father's memory I plant potatoes. Sometimes they are standard russets, sometimes yukon gold, or new red, or yellow fin, and once it was a lovely bunch of peruvian purples. Tomorrow, I will be planting potatoes again. PS-- The yahrzeit candle is burning. The potatoes have been planted. It is 2013, and I know all these years later that love lasts forever.

And now it is 2018, and we will be planting potatoes tomorrow. Love does last forever. 

26 comments:

  1. Love for your dad does last forever. I think of my dad every day.

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    1. Dave-- Loving remembrance is a balm for our hearts.

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  2. That is a wonderful way to remember your father. My father used to plant spuds to harvest for winter and after he died my mother used to do so as well though I did all the digging. I used to hate going around to do this because it was quite a large amount needed doing. In the end the spuds were not doing so well as the soil was spent needing manure and I told her that was enough. By then she was well in her eighty's. She passed away aged 88 and I have to admit I don't miss planting spuds in the garden but saying that we do grow them in a barrel on the patio now and then and my wife hinted on doing it again. I think you have a nice way of remembering your dad

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    1. Bill-- I love knowing that you planted spuds for your dad too.

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  3. A beautiful remembrance of your dad. I see you are one of the lucky ones, as I am, to have been raised by two loving parents for whom family was everything. Today is the anniversary of the day we laid my mom to rest. It is good to read this today. Love.

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    1. 37paddington-- Yes, we grew up in a family of love, not without battles but always with love. Thinking of you and your mom today.

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  4. Great story! I loved reading it.

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  5. I always love to read the potato story. These You're right. Love lasts forever. This Saturday is the anniversary of my father's passing - St. Patrick's Day. As has often happened on that date, I'll probably be playing celtic music at a pub jam. My dad wasn't irish, but he would have loved to know that I was playing music in his memory.

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    1. bev-- It is such a good and heartfelt thing to perform some act in loving remembrance.

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  6. Love this so much, Robin.

    We, too, plant the spuds at this time of the year (on or around St. Patrick's day) in memory of my father-in-law who showed his son how to do it.

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    1. Sabine-- I love knowing that you plant spuds too in memory of a loved one.

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  7. Great remembrance for your Father. I love the story of the potato, and the ongoing plantings! Love does indeed last forever...as you are proving!

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    1. Barbara-- I'm so glad you like this story. I'm also glad I wrote it down years ago. I would have never remembered the details.

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  8. It's wonderful that you have such a poignant tradition to help remember your father. Nature is powerful!

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    1. Steve-- Burning a yahrzeit is truly one of the few acts of tradition that I do. It really is a wonderful thing.

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  9. Each time you post about your father, my eyes are stung by tears. Your love and the memory of your father live beautifully in your words and your actions.

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    1. CCorax-- I love keeping my father's memory alive here. He would love the love all around.

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  10. Love seeing the black and white photo of your father and mother (so young and in love) on the altar with the potato that provided you and roger with home fries and a wonderful story. True love speaking in so many ways. I'm always moved when I think about your father's kindness, gentleness, sadness, and how deeply he loved your mother and you and your siblings.

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    1. am-- I am so glad that you like that photo. I reprinted it last year for my mom when she was living with us. She loved it. Yes, true love speaking in so many ways.

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  11. I love how you remember your dad. Love your parents' wedding picture. What kids! Was it last year, or the year before, I took flowers for him and followed your tradition of putting them in the Monterey Bay? I hoped that wherever he is, he KNEW, and laughed at the continuing tradition offered by a stranger.

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    1. Tara-- I was just thinking about when you took flowers to the bay for him. It was in 2014! Time flies! I'm sure he felt the love, the way we did, my dear friend.

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  12. Such a bittersweet and beautiful remembrance of your father. Also, so beautifully and well written Robin. It got to me...

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  13. Your post reminds me of the refrain from an old cowboy song, flesh and bones turn to dust and scatter in the end... love is all that matters in the end.

    How true.

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    1. def59485- I don't think I've ever heard those lyrics, but I sure do like them. Love is all that matters in the end. Yes.

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