I wish my brother had lived to become an old man gardener. I wish I could call him up and invite him over so I could press a beer into his hand and show him the tomatoes I have growing in my back garden. He would be surprised to see where I am. My back garden overlooks the East China Sea, here in Okinawa where I have been reassigned. Just over the horizon, just right over there, is the Taiwan Strait where the USS Alfred A. Cunningham—and my brother—patrolled during Vietnam. I wish I could invite him into my classroom where I live-stream to the sailors at Yokosuka. I wish I could show him how very, very like him I have become—how chipped and scarred and glued back together my heart has become, existing simply for its beauty—the beauty of a broken heart. I wish I could tell him how I understand the redemption one finds, when feeling so worthless after being discarded by a lover yet again, by going out back and coaxing tomato plants to flower their tiny, promising yellow blooms. I wish I could tell him that I understand the jubilation of the taste of the first tomato of the season. That I have finally learned what he did: There is green redemption in a garden.
Thirty years is a long time and I have so much to tell him.
—By Theresa Sanford-Schmits.
This article was published originally in 2022, in GreenPrints Issue #132.