MY FATHER DIED a quarter century ago when he was just three years older than I am right now.
He was a sad man, but he loved summer. He worked evenings, which gave him days free to labor in the yard where we lived in Northern Florida in a ranch house.
He loved the Atlantic beach, sand and saltwater, and he loved tending the yard. Neither interfered with his drinking, however. Heat stirs well with highballs.
I don’t drink — well, not anymore — and maybe that’s why I don’t like gardening, and I don’t live near the beach though we can get there in three hours down the autopista.
And I loathe heat, the lack of which makes my mountaintop home wonderful in summertime. But things really grow here, much better than they did in my father’s yard.
Gotta be the latitude.
Every winter I blaze through the yard like a machete-wielding madman even though I actually use a small saw and branch trimmer. The golden datura is slashed back to basics, leaving the trunk and some nubs. It’s soft wood.
It booms back in June once it feels a touch of rain.
My father had a pink-flowered mimosa of similar size in our Florida yard. It was the only thing of any height. The rest were pansies, petunias, such stuff, all planted in rows.
Here I have a Willy-Nilly Zone where things grow, hemmed in by rock and concrete, in any direction they desire.
And for things of size, there’s monster bougainvillea, the towering nopal, a gigantic fan palm.
I was pressed, as a boy, into yard-mowing duties, and I received a small sum. I forget how much. And I once cut the Hacienda lawn too, years ago, but not anymore.
That’s why the Goddess invented pesos for me to pay Abel the Deadpan Yardman.
About a decade back, after I moved to Mexico, I drove a rented car slowly by the Florida house. The mimosa was gone. Everything was bleak. The grass was spotty due to cars being parked on it, just like a rack of rednecks would do.
There were no flowers at all. Nothing.
In the 1950s, the area was the middle class moving up. Now it’s the working class barely holding on.
Summers separated by half a century of time.