We planted tomatoes in our front yard this spring. Well, not in our yard, but in terra cotta colored plastic planters on our sidewalk in front of our rental house’s bay window. Two Juliet tomato plants and two Roma tomato plants.

The tomatoes along with two zucchini plants were the only starter plants Kevin agreed to spend $3.89 a piece on. We bought seeds for the rest of our landscape garden.

I can count the number of times I’ve come home through the front door of our 1950’s house on one hand, but tonight is different largely because of the boat sitting in our carport blocking the side door that smells of mildew and fish. Some obstacles aren’t meant to be overcome.

As I walked down the sidewalk to get to the front door, I noticed three little green orbs sitting on our tomato branches. We grew tomatoes.

I crouched down beside them to get a better look and smelled the familiar earthly scent of the tomato plant. It smelled like my papa.

Papa spent hours in the sun every day from spring until fall. Most of the time he was on his tractor, but the other times he walked up and down the rows of corn, green beans, snap peas, and tomatoes carefully inspecting the plants and plotting his deer deterrents. My favorite was the orange traffic cones and aluminum pie plates.

He’s been gone for five years now. I wish he could have met Kevin. I wish he could have met my nephew. I wish he could make good on his promise to dance with me at my wedding. But mostly I wish he was still here making smart remarks and somehow keeping all his cuss words out of earshot of his girls.

Even though he’s gone and that makes me feel sad and face my own mortality, I’m thankful there are still things in the world that remind me of him. Like a cold can of Dr. Pepper on a hot day and the smell of tomatoes growing on a vine.

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