My neighbor, Mike, inspires my gardening
By his example of helping things live and thrive.
He runs a sprout orphanage next to his garage.
He houses a seedling nursery on his patio table.
His elderly junipers overrun the front walk way.
Cutting it back hurts too much. He is its friend.

Legs moving like tree limbs in the wind,
He ambles from alley way to back door.
The wind has knocked things over.
He rescues a fallen, potted rhododendron.
It is waiting to be planted. It needs a friend.

The wind knocks things over that are not wary.
When Mike was a child, he lost one of his sisters.
I never had a sister. I can’t imagine losing one.
I didn’t know Mike back then. We didn’t live here.

Thirteen years ago, we moved in
Next door to Mike and his mother and father.
Theirs gave me hope for our dog-edged yard.
Mike’s mother died shortly after we moved in.
I wanted to say something about it to him.
I wanted to say the right thing, to say I was sorry.
I wanted to rescue him, to be his friend.

I guess Mike just wanted to cope with his pain.
I think he wanted to get back to gardening.
I don’t think he wanted to deal with his grief.
I don’t think he wanted to deal with his father’s grief.
I know Mike didn’t want to deal with his father.
I don’t think his father wanted to deal with his own grief.
Maybe they didn’t know how to grieve.
I know I didn’t know how to be his friend.

Three or four years ago, Mike’s father died.
Mike buried his pain. Mike’s family came to bury his father.
His father had been old, and too much and not enough in charge.
Mike said he struggled to live with his father.
He spent his time gardening, moving plants around.
He rescued alley furniture and rebuilt broken tables.
He had held yard sales of refurbished dressers. I had joined in.
I think maybe we had become friends.

Now one of Mike’s brothers is quite ill.
Mike takes his brother to the doctor sometimes.
His brother has been loud and quirky and kind.
Mike has made out that his brother is a pain.
Now Mike’s brother is in pain. He is dying.
Mike rescues upstart garden plants, ferns and flowers.
He puts them into plastic pots to sell at a yard sale.
I ask about his brother. I don’t join in on his plant sale.
I am glad Mike’s my friend.

April 2012

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