when i was a smaller boy, our family hosted an esteemed physician from the U.K. for around a week. her name was alice stewart; she was renown for her work on effects of radiation on the thyroid and came to consult with my father who, at the time, was doing a lot of work to investigate the radioactive leakage at hanford, in the Washington desert. she took an interest in playing some pitch and toss with me in the backyard one day, i think after having watched me pitching for hours at the sprung toss-back device i had in those baseballful years. she was honestly pretty bad at throwing the ball and within a few tries, had thrown it into my father’s orchard, snapping a small limb from one of the perimeter trees. i felt my viscera contracting and heaving, predicting the reaction of my dad. i might have let out kind of a shriek of alarm. the doctor and i examined the tree, she with no trepidation and me with anxiety and slight trembling. she ordered me to fetch some masking tape; i thought it her idea of a joke, or a way of distracting me from my father’s OCD over his trees. she proceeded to tape up the young limb and explained that she wasn’t joking, that it would probably re-graft to the tree. it was so simple, i had never imagined how useful tape could be. for years i knew where that limb was in the yard… it grew in that part of my mind that anticipated magic, and in that part of the yard the doctor had touched.
several nights ago a drunk driver ran over four of my new magnolia trees in the parking strip at my house. it’s funny, the first feeling upon seeing this was that gut wrenching knowledge that FATHER is mad, that somebody’s in trouble. i could smell the grass in my old backyard, and see the light shining behind that wise old woman throwing errant baseballs. the second thought was one of relief: that i wasn’t witness to this transgression… as i played out in my mind my treatment of the driver. i busied about the trees for a few hours, trying to re-root some of the branches that looked like they might survive with some hormone help; i mourned the dead ones and cried a little. the driver had taken out a very nice japanese pine i planted on the corner; i called my dad to consult on the likelihood that this species could re-graft. he said, “that tree is dead.” i felt like the doctor for a moment, like, “what’s wrong with a little effort with some tape.” i went out and carefully duct-taped the tree back into place and said some prayers for the roots that are wondering where the hell the rest of the tree is, that are pumping sap up into nothing, now into a duct tape wound treatment.
it’s a longshot, but i’m hoping the tree will make it.
i wish that tree had been four years older and STOPPED the car that ran into it. i wish alice stewart was still alive so i could call her and tell her my sadness about this lovely tree. i wish sometimes that men were different than they are.