We walked that Thanksgiving. God blessed us with a sunny day and mild temperatures, so I accompanied Dad while he surveyed the land.
In the old days, he would have driven down the road to look at the crops and livestock. When asked, I would always go with him. Later in life his yard became his kingdom.
Out the back door, with the dogs following closely behind, we paused by the Bradford Pear. “This is Emily’s tree; it’s 17 years old…I planted it the year she was born,” he said of his oldest granddaughter, and her corresponding tree.
We stood there for a few minutes as the breeze whispered through the near-bare branches. Dad pointed to one of the birdfeeders hanging there – some that I had given to him over the years. “That one’s always been my favorite; the birds like it, too.”
Next along his usual walking route was a pair of Red Bud trees. He commented on the fact that one was much smaller than the other because a storm had taken one of them out, and the replacement wasn’t nearly the same size…but that he did what he could. I’d heard the story many times before and could have told it myself. Instead, I waited until he finished to ask the question to which I already knew the answer. “Who’s trees are these?”
“Amy’s,” was his reply, “I planted them the spring after she was born; 1995.” Wow, nearly 14 years ago.
We walked a bit further, past the Lilac bushes he had coaxed into growing out of their indigenous zone; the tall Evergreens he had had the foresight to plant along the property as a barrier to the neighbors—before there were neighbors, and the Dogwoods he’d planted because he’d fallen in love with that tree when he had moved to Arkansas.
Dad was a little tired, so we didn’t go down past the pond; at the top of the slope we stood together for a bit. “I sure wish I would have been able to clear out that area around the pond like I had hoped to do.” And then, with a catch in his voice, he pointed down the hill, “That’s where I buried Maggie” (a dog he had for many years, who made the move from Iowa with him).
Turning back toward the house, we walked in silence. We stopped in the middle of the yard and Dad called for his dogs: Salty, Pepper, and Cinnamon all came running, and we kept walking. He didn’t want to tell me so, but I think our walk was tiring him out.
Just before reaching the house, Dad leaned against the post at one end of a flower bed; Katy’s Butterfly Garden, to be more precise. “Twelve years of butterflies; they’re so beautiful,” was all he said, as if now, in the winter, he could still see them. He reached out and touched the edge of the bird bath as he called to his dogs once more.
We walked that Thanksgiving. Little did I know it would be our last.
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Written for the prompt at Flashy Fiction…and dedicated to the memory of my dad and that walk we took in November 2009.