I imagine you as an old man somewhere in a self-built greenhouse.  Calloused hands tending to impending ivy with the tender touch of your trimming shears.  Your grey hair tucked under a safari hat.  You know if I were there I’d say, it’s the middle of winter in a heated greenhouse,  Sam, not sure there is much use of keeping the sun of your neck.  And you’d smile, old man, you’d give a gracious nod and slyly say something back to the tune of it’s the thought that counts. You’d lick your lips to convey hard work, and the hairs of your ever whitening beard would be slipping against your tongue, catching you up. 

I could ask you about this garden. I could ask you to tell me about this newest labor of love.  You have told me about every other labor of love in your life, after all, why should I have an expectation of this being any different.  You would, of course, provide me with gentle answers.  The botanist in you unleashed-- this is Raphanus sativus: the radish, and this is my friend Antirrhinum majus, or as you know him, the snapdragon. You’d pop a bud off the stalk and squeeze the bloom to produce the dragon’s roar. You’d tuck the dragon safely in my hands.  I imagine imaginary me would know to treasure this gift as much as real me knows to treasure the small things you’ve left behind

You’d try to smile, I see your eyes give way to thick wrinkles, but the moment still turns sad in your mind. Your eyes, the ones in my memories now, are dark, they are never glistening like before. I wonder when the same thing will happen to my eyes.  You belly-up to a work table and begin to sort dirt. The task is meaningless. It doesn’t occupy your mind like you hoped it would.  So you turn your attention back, I imagine it as such, to the science of the situation.  Did you know the Romans invented greenhouses in order to grow cucumbers year-round? I didn’t, Sam. Tell me more.  And you do.  You always had so much to teach me, even before I understood.

I catch your words sneaking up on me, old man.  I hear your advice as I turn corners. There are times I have only known which direction to go in because the resonance of your voice.   These are things I am left to think about in the wake of your departure.

When I finish your story, I write you off happy; I have no other way to thank you.