When we are in a hurry to pick something up at the grocery store Ward will wait outside with car running and he is apt to instruct me:
“Just go to the _______ aisle, grab the __________ and go to the check out.
When I get back in our car and immediately point to some older gentleman loading his groceries in his car and say something like:
“That poor guy lost his wife and his son lives in Ohio and doesn’t call him.”
Ward asks me “How could you possibly know that?”
“The whole thing. How do you know any of that?”
“Well, this lady and I were talking to him and…”
“Lady? What lady? You talked to more than one person in there?”
“The lady who just had a hernia surgery and has a daughter who could care less. Her daughter lives…”
“Stop, I don’t care where the daughter lives. Is it possible for you to go in a store and not strike up a random conversation?”
Sometimes these encounters go beyond a fleeting conversation and sometimes they don’t. This week I found myself in an intimate conversation with a woman I met on the beach about our son’s strengths – hers with autism and mine with Ds. I gave her my email.
Ward can’t fathom these chance encounters of mine and I can’t understand this thing he calls ‘gardening’.
When we first moved in together we lived in what could only be described as a hovel – for Hobbits. Everything was slightly built – rooms, doors and windows. About a hundred years before, it had been a stable where I imagine freakishly small and likely disgruntled horses lived.
The yard wasn’t more than a patch of dirt. Over the course of several months Ward built a curious arrangement from the dirt. The process began with weeks of sifting the dirt, which he accomplished by setting an old window screen on the discarded cast iron legs of a sewing machine. For hours at a time alone in the yard he moved dirt across that screen.
Prior to this, I had never heard much less seen dirt sifting. I didn’t delve too much because we were newly living together and there seemed to be bigger things about Ward I was trying to decipher that sifting dirt became low on the list. Plus as my mom and I watched him from the porch one morning she said, “He seems content. I would focus on that.”
Overtime the sifted dirt joined rocks and plants becoming an organized pile in the center of the yard not unlike the structures Richard Dreyfuss created in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Dirt sifting and combing the neighborhood for rocks and bricks has mutated through the years ending up in more recognizable things to me such as re-built patios and lovingly made garden supports.
Ward will never understand how I end up in personal conversations with complete strangers and I will never understand his gardening.
Thorin has embraced both of our endeavors as valid and normal. He engages with people in the check out line, kids on the beach and he likes to work alone outside moving rocks and dirt from randomness to meaning.