I wish I could tell you how often we talk about you. You come up about every 15 minutes because your name has become synonymous with every loud and scary noise. Your name has given my daughter some nugget of understanding when something frightens her. Your name has become a coping skill.
Whenever you come, R is a mess, and poor Papa is usually home alone with the kids. The dogs bark at you, and R hides behind whoever she can find, trying to claw her way up like a cat. There are round eyes and frightened screams. We try not to laugh, as our daughter is truly terrified by your leaf blower and lawn mower.
She’ll bite her fingers and cover herself in blankets. We’ll turn up the volume on our movie, in an attempt to drown you out. But really, the most effective way to help R through her fears is to let her see you. So we’ll open the front door, and she’ll wave to you, “Hello, gardener.” And you are kind enough to wave back and smile. R will smile in return and point, “Gardener!”
Then we will shut the door, and she’ll watch you as you walk towards the backyard. As you pass the trash cans, she’ll point, “Trash cans. Clean up!” We’ll nod and smile. And when you make it to the back yard, we will continue to wave at you and talk about you. Although you only come once a week, in R’s mind you are omnipresent.
If the gate swings open with the wind, she immediately inhales with fear, “Oh gardener!”
If the mailman is not careful delivering a package, and it slams against the door, “Oh gardener!”
When a neighbor’s car has a loud engine, “Oh gardener! Big truck!”
When the trash men come, “Oh gardener! Clean up!”
With every instance, we greet the air, “Coo coo, gardener.”
And after each instance, we wave goodbye, “Paca, gardener. Gardener all gone.”
This continues a couple of times an hour, and you’re not even here to witness it. I wish you could know how significant you’ve become in our daughter’s life. She talks to your invisible spirit more often than she talks to most family members.
Thank you for your kindness and patience each week, as you pause to wave and smile back at us. It has greatly helped her overcome her fears, and now we simply say hello to you, even when you’re not here 😊.