Tribute to My Father

Sue Wiygul Martin
Sue and her dog guide at the Seeing Eye

In the first weeks and months after I became blind I struggled to find things to do, things that would interest and engage me. Even before my rehab teacher, now called a vision rehabilitation therapist, came to see me for the first time, I learned something infinitely precious from my father. Daddy had lots of hobbies, including doing needlepoint and crossword puzzles. One of his greatest passions was growing plants.

As my sighted self, I had never taken too much interest in this hobby of my father’s. However, seeing me struggling to find things to do in those early days after becoming blind, he took me downstairs to the basement. This was in January so our first plant lessons took place indoors. He used the basement as a sort of greenhouse in the winter. He had grow lights hung up over a huge table.

First, he taught me to always begin with a clean pot. Then he showed me how to break up a few pieces of pottery to place in the bottom of the pot. This allowed water to drain but prevented the soil from flowing out when the plant was watered.

Next, he showed me how to grasp the plant I was transplanting and invert the pot it was in, until it slipped out. The next trick was to place some soil in the bottom of the pot to which I was transplanting the plant. I had to get just enough soil in the bottom of the pot so that, when I put the plant in the new, larger pot, it would rest just below the rim of the new pot.

Then, holding the plant steady, he showed me how to add soil all around the sides and pack it down gently. He showed me how to pack it down so that it would be firm and hold the plant but not so firm that it was difficult for the water to flow into the soil.

What a feeling of accomplishment when I held up the very first plant I transplanted.

That was 30 years ago. As we move into spring, I’m transplanting lots of little plants. I love to remember how my gentle father got me started all those years ago. I still use the skills he taught me.

Were he alive today, my father would be 100 years old. He died 12 years ago. Thanks, Daddy. Thanks for seeing what I needed and for helping me start a new passion. You live on. Every plant I transplant and cultivate has a little bit of you in it. I love you.