Our garden this summer could have rivalled Miss Havisham’s for the neglected state of its borders and flower beds.
At one point the weeds were encroaching so much they needed industrial strimming just to see the rose bushes underneath.
I’m not that green-fingered at the best of times, but my dad’s increasing poor health over recent months meant getting out the hoe fell right off my radar.
So it was with some satisfaction this week that I took the secateurs and the spade to the shrub border alongside the house.
There’s something deeply rewarding about clearing a patch of ground, seeing freshly turned crumbly brown earth emerge from a jungle of green.
But for every shoot on the surface, hundreds more lay deeply embedded.
Underneath the top soil was a web of winding creepers, interwoven tendrils, sunken tap roots – a matted tapestry of where this life had sprung from.
I helped my mum as well this week as she began to sort through some of my dad’s belongings – his vast array of tools, from screwdrivers and hammers to power saws and drills, amassed in a lifetime of building and making things; his extensive bookshelf of maps, pored over time and again, testament to countless walks enjoyed; his well-worn compass, which guided him along many an unfamiliar path and which he never gave up for a new-fangled GPS.
Unlike the garden, this clearing brought tears and sadness, a desire to hang on, not root out.
I visited dad at the care home today – he was asleep for most of the hour that I was there. A nodding head, eyes closed, little to distinguish him from his fellow residents in their collective quiet detachment.
Of course, they all have an individual past, roots of their own, a tapestry of tendrils, hidden now under the surface of dementia – tough ground, which no spade can penetrate.
Clearing the garden was hard, back-breaking work but the roots from the shrubbery I pulled out eventually, and have consigned to the compost heap.
It was difficult sorting through Dad’s maps, compass and tools, but several I’ve kept, and brought home with me. He may not be able to remember and think back to his roots, but it’s a comfort to me to know I can.