Outside in our little orchard today, the one we planted together six years ago, sweat running down our backs as the heat rose up from the ground to meet us, I noticed the grape vine I bought my husband for Father’s Day several years ago had sprung to life again. Though every year it looked as if it would die, he tended it, digging around it, building a little trellis for his vine that never produced any fruit.

I went out pruning because the weather was cool, a good day to get those low-lying branches on the apple tree off the ground. With my hand pruners, I began trimming here and there, finally running into a bough so pregnant with green fruit that it touched the dirt. “Tsk,” I said to it, knowing it would have to be sacrificed for the good of the tree. Where were my big tree trimmers? Last year I’d had two, short-handled and long-handled; but this year, they were nowhere to be found. Some child had doubtless taken both to the forest, working on some fort or project, and they lay out there, rusting.

I returned to the tree, grunting with effort. The branch wouldn’t budge. Going back to the pool house for the hand saw, I felt tears threatening behind my eyes.

“Why is everything so hard?”

Back at the tree, saw in hand, I attacked the branch with vigor, determined to be the woman as strong as the many who came before me, whose strength and survival I appreciate as I stand here, saw in hand. But the saw had a mind of its own and wouldn’t cooperate. It cut here, there, over here again, criss-crossing the branch until it looked as scarred and beleaguered as I’ve felt since my husband died. 

Was I going to cry about it or find the proper tool? I threw the saw on the ground and marched to the barn, where my husband’s shop is (was), and where my son-in-law and the workers for the company I owned until last week were loading cabinets, tools, and machinery into the van I also signed over to him because I’d no longer need such a large vehicle. The workers turned their backs to me, reinforcing my feeling of being a discarded appendage of the man they called their boss, emphasizing as if in bright lights the message, “UNWANTED,” the mandate to GET LOST.

My son-in-law greeted me and I told him haltingly that I needed pruners, feeling a stranger on my own property. He looked at me quizzically. “Pruners, the big ones. I’m pruning the apple tree, the branch is on the ground. The kids must have taken mine, so I wondered if they’re down here.”

We looked around but found no pruners, so cussed the kids together and laughed a little. He began walking toward the house with me, to the orchard. “I can do it,” I said weakly, knowing I couldn’t do it without the big pruners. We arrived at the tree and he held his hand out for the hand pruners. I put them in his hand and with one heft, he had the offending branch off.

Tears came to my eyes, but I turned away so he wouldn’t see. I’m weak, and yet here I am, left to handle such a big property without my big man. This is what I thought. I thanked my son-in-law and he recommended more locks on the tool sheds. I thought to myself that maybe fewer children would be the practical solution, but kept this little joke to myself.

I continued with my pruning, doing what I could with my weak woman’s hand and my small hand pruners. As I pruned, tears ran down my face for the first of what I was sure would be several crying jags throughout the day. As I made my way from tree to tree, an unhappy peace settled on me: This is the way things are now that my husband is dead. I don’t know how they will be in the future. I only know how they are now: they’re difficult and terrible, and my loneliness is intense even while surrounded by family and friends. They all have one another, and they have me; but I have no one whose always-open arms welcome me. The one whose arms always welcomed me is dead.

Arriving at the grape vine, I examined it to see whether it needed any pruning. Its little tendrils had grown here and there, anchoring it firmly to the wire trellis my husband built. Suddenly I noticed foetal grapes growing underneath first one leaf, then another, and then another: our first grapes. Grapes my husband didn’t live to see, grapes I would harvest.

“Look at these, sweetie,” I murmured to him. “Just look at what’s growing now.”

12 responses to “Tendrils”

  1. Scott Erb Avatar

    I think the grapes are a gift — he’s giving them to you to remind you that he’s still with you at a deeper level.

  2. renaissanceguy Avatar

    The grapes remind me too of your husband’s entire legacy. From what I know it is truly a fruitful one.

  3. brokenheartedseoul Avatar

    Huh…its been a while since I’ve been on wordpress. Thats a little bit of an understatement. I’ve been reflecting and thinking back when I tried to start this blog and looking through my blogroll, my heart breaks as I read this. Don’t know exactly what to do with my own blog anymore, but I thought I’d pass this along at such a time as this. Hope it eases some of the heartache and helps you smile through the tears =): http://www.reverbnation.com/justinlittle

    1. Eve Avatar

      Thank you, I really love this music. “Empty Space” is particularly lovely.

  4. Mary Jane Hurley Brant Avatar

    Fruit of the vine; work of human hands. Take this cup and drink. Do this in remembrance of me. A painful myth that never stops hurting because it doesn’t make sense.

    I think that is one of the most painful places of grieving – none of it makes any sense so we weep with you, Eve. Yes, all of us here whether we are posting or not we think of you, pray for you, send our vibes across the miles to you.

    So next time you head out to the barn open wide your arms and receive from us and receive from me.

  5. Irene Avatar

    I don’t know why, but the grapes growing now feel like your husband is near your side – such a beautiful discovery. I have tears rolling too. So pleased you wrote and shared this. (I must go and thank my husband now for his always-open arms.)

  6. Deb Avatar

    You made me cry. I know that feeling, of being left with everything and having to manage. It sucks.

    Sending a hug.

  7. cdnv Avatar

    God be with you dear Eve. Your posts have helped me immensely over the years, more than you’ll ever know. I’ve been sending prayers that the Great Comforter should descend upon you during this unbearable time of loss to comfort you, in the way that only He can. May you feel His love enfold you.

  8. DJ Avatar

    I’ve so missed you & your posts, dear Eve. A Very big hug,
    You are more cared for & loved (even from afar) than you
    might imagine.

  9. Lee Avatar

    How beautiful to hear that his grape vine will bear fruit this year, tangible reminder of the love you have for one too soon departed. Thinking of you.

  10. ChristineZ Avatar

    Life going on–it is both comfort, and horror. I hope the grapes give you great comfort. May this season’s fruit be sweetest of all.

  11. orwhatyouwill Avatar

    Some new beginnings and something to look forward to as you watch the grapes mature over the growing season. I’m glad to see you post. Hugs to you!

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