I texted my brother yesterday to ask him if he remembered where it came from…the spider plant that weirdly thrived in the bathroom at Dad’s house.
He wasn’t positive, but I have this vague memory of the plant living in the cold part of the house for awhile and Dad had forgotten it was there. I had wondered if my brother left it behind when he moved, but he thought it might have arrived in the house years earlier. Either way – I do remember one year Dad forgetting to move it to the warm part of the house when the seasons changed.
You see, our house was only about 1,000 square feet and had no central heat or a/c. In the winter, we kept the door closed between the “common” area and the “back bedrooms” so that the tiny floorboard heater could almost keep the common areas livable in the winter.
The bedrooms didn’t need heat, you see, because they had electric blankets. Nothing should have survived in the cold part of the house without an electric blanket. Ask my husband who bravely suffered visits with me in the winter when I taught him how you build a tent over yourself with blankets and BREATHE and BREATHE and BREATHE, filling the area up with your own hot breath.
So, I have this vague memory of Dad going to the cold part of the house in the middle of winter (his bedroom was off the living room in the warm part of the house) and discovering the spider plant was still back there in the arctic and hanging on to life by a very frozen thread. He was so amazed and immediately moved it to the warm part of the house and see if he could perk it up a little bit.
He hung it by the window in the only bathroom. That room was in the warm half of the house, but that half of the house was still probably only 60 degrees at it warmest in the winter. That room did get direct sunlight through a window so Dad thought the plant might do best there. And of course – like my brother and I often joked due to the fact that the house had no central heat to circulate and filter air – that room was always filled with poop air.
And it thrived, which was weird considering it was cold as shit (no pun intended) in that room (I still have nightmares about taking lukewarm showers and exiting to the freezing air in a room with no heat) and – oh yeah – Dad would go out of town for WEEKS at a time with work.
He would water the hell out of that plant before he left, of course. And then just hope for the best.
And it just kept growing those baby shoots like it thrived on poop air and neglect.
It’s just a hilarious thing all around because Dad was not a green thumb. Well, who knows, maybe he was. But he never showed any signs of caring about plants or grass or landscaping or anything even remotely connected to chlorophyll.
But that spider plant, it suddenly became quite a source of pride that he couldn’t kill it, not with a cold house, and not with extended trips out of town.
I remember winter after winter it still survived, even if neglected for weeks at a time while Dad traveled, and I remember it always cracking me up.
There’s a plant at my office, not a spider plant, but some sort of generic ivy potted plant and it’s not doing well. It caught my eye the other day and I momentarily wondered if I should move it. And then I remembered the poop air loving spider plant and stopped for a moment to think about Dad.
Some days, man. I just still miss him so damn much. Especially this time of year which is the same time he was in hospice in 2009. I don’t remember if the spider plant was still alive in the end, I feel like one of us would have kept it if it had been. But there were so many emotions surrounding so many items during those clean-up weeks…who really knows.
Maybe it had already died. Dad really did travel a lot and maybe it was just one extended trip too many.
But I have this weird vivid memory of throwing the ball with Dad in the living room (you threw ball to keep warm in the winter) and glancing over to see the spider plant and laughing about it looking like it belonged in a jungle. It was SOOO full and green and lush. He insisted that it should have died a long time ago and credited the early weeks suffering in the “cold” part of the house as making it sturdy so that the “warm” part of the house was like a tropical climate.
I just wish everyone could have known my Dad, the spider plant whisperer.
I stumbled upon an email Dad sent in response to the ultrasound pictures when emailed him when we learned Nikki was a girl. He asked, “Do anyone of us know anything about raising a girl?”
He was funny and self-deprecating. He was the smartest guy I knew, or have known since. He was humble and giving. He bullet journaled before it had a cool name and he took notes in one of those journals after my wedding to help him remember the names of my friends. Something like: Betsy: Anastasia’s Mom. Black Dress.
And he learned the secret to spider plants was arctic poop air and periodic abandonment.
I miss him.