Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Florida Oranges and Happy Birthday Mike

Today I'd like to talk to you about oranges.

But first take a moment to look at the cute kid with an orange section stuffed in her mouth. 
This would be Gary's daughter Athena, when she was little.

While In Florida in 2005 Gary purchased this orange tree.  What was he thinking?  This tree would never make it in our neck of the woods!

In April of 2006 Mike, (Gary's father), stopped by for a few days en route from his Florida winter retreat to his Bethlehem Pa. apartment.  He gifted me a lemon tree, and Gary 2 more orange trees.  

So then there were 4.

Gary and Mike planted the trees together in this oblong planter.  

Gary's love for his father was evident in that they were best friends as well as father and son.  We were living in WV at the time.  The Man Cave was downstairs, and that is where  sounds of  laughter and loud boomy movies would carry up through the vents and infiltrate my own quiet place in the living room as the two of them either watched movies together or carried out their father-son bond from afar via phone. 

Together they constructed a deck off of the side of our house, put together a shed, planted flowers and shrubs, and pulled weeds. Always laughing.

On April 30, 2006, as we stood beside our Buick, Gary put his arm around me and we looked at Mike as he held one of those disposable drug store cameras, and we smiled.  Unbeknownst to us, it would be the last time we would see him alive.

On May 12, 2006 Gary and I stopped at the post office to pick up our mail on our way out of town.  He smiled when he read the card from his father.  

We'd be seeing Mike the following day and Gary couldn't wait to give him the box of DVD's that he had ready for him, ones he was sure his dad would enjoy when we visited with him in Bethlehem Pa. on our way home from King of Prussia, Pa.  

The next day Gary got the call as he sat on the bed in our hotel room.  There would be no visit with his father that day as planned.  On May 12, 2006, (the very day that Gary received the card and after he called and thanked him for it), Mike had a heart attack and died suddenly while raking leaves in his granddaughter's yard.  He wasn't found until the next morning.

There's so much more to this story.  But let's stick with the oranges.  

In the spring we lug the heavy planter outdoors and the oranges and lemons smile big and soak up the sun.  

Before the first frost, we carry them back inside and place them in the laundry room under a UV light.  

Who would've thought these trees would make it this far...  and in Maryland?    

I often wonder if Mike thought they'd survive this long.

But then again, knowing his son...  he probably expected this.  Gary doesn't give up easily.  

Trust me, the oranges are bitter and not fit to eat.  Somebody told me that they have to be germinated (is that right?) or something like that.    

Look at those lemons!  

I say it's the country music that blares from the laundry room that keeps our tropical trees thriving.  Gary thinks his Dad's spirit might be giving them a boost.  

Today would be Mike's 77th birthday.  A part of Gary died the day his father passed away. A couple of months later, his X refused him visitation with Athena, his daughter.  And the worse parental alienation I've ever read about or witnessed took place.  Another part of him died at that time as well.  

So it's with a heavy heart that he celebrates his father's life today.  But the words from the card keep him strong.  

Happy Birthday Mike.