Meril “Gene” Rhoades: 1924 – 2008

As some of you may have noticed, I have been lax in posting since my vacation. I just did not feel like posting. I came home to cold and dreary. Death had firmly settled on the world around me in more ways than one. And I was feeling just a bit petulant about the whole order of things. Death is not supposed to happen, not in the garden, not to my grandfather.

I came home from vacation to learn that my grandfather had been admitted to the hospital and was not expected to leave. My grandfather was a proud man and age had slipped in like a taxi cab in New York in the pouring rain. A few months ago, his vitality had been whisked away by emphysema in an rude rush, leaving him standing on the curb, short of breath and forlorn. Then, these past few weeks, a common cold took advantage of his stunned state and snatched his life like a common thief.

To be honest, my grandfather seemed to me to be made of mythic materials. Each part of him seemed bigger than me, and it made it hard for me to feel close to him some of the time.

I am told that when he worked in the steel mills, he was renowned for his ability to understand what misbehaving steel was wanting. With a touch of his hand, he could draw out the very soul of the cooled steel in front of him and recommend a correct solution. Indeed, he was so accurate that he was loaned out to other steel mills around the country to correct their smelting processes as well. When he retired, he was replaced by a slew of chemical engineers who accomplished the same thing, though with far more test tubes and fancy machines than my high school educated grandfather ever needed.

He was also an accomplished singer, whose voice was tempered and true as the steel he had cured. He sang for many years in a group that traveled around from church to church raising voices and souls.

He was a man who was dedicated to his faith and his God in a way that I could never hope to understand. God came before everything, except for perhaps his wife.

And, most importantly to me, he was a suburb Uno player, at least minds of his grandchildren. So often did he win, that we frequently accused him of cheating when we were children who knew no better. This grandchild/grandfather bond of Uno was immortalized by the fact that my grandfather will be laid to rest with a pack of the cards at his side. It amuses me to think that some day, thousands of years from now when future archaeologists discover my grandfather’s grave, they will ponder the significance of a pack of brightly colored cards.

As always, since this is a gardening blog, I must remember something from the garden about him. I don’t remember him being a gardener beyond what was necessary to keep the yard up, but I do remember one thing and that was the red raspberries. Along the back fence there were several bushes. And if I was very good, I might be rewarded with a few. And they were a very sweet reward of which my grandfather was very proud.

For as much as I rail against death, I know it is necessary. I may not like it, but death must happen to my garden and to my grandfather. It is wearying to live a full life and we must grant all things their final rest. The beautiful flower, or the wondrous man will live on in memory long past the time that their spots in the world have been covered in snow.

11 thoughts on “Meril “Gene” Rhoades: 1924 – 2008
  1. Your tributes to your loved ones are always so touching. Thank you for sharing your grandfather with us. I’m sorry for your loss.


  2. Nice tribute to your grandfather. I have always loved playing UNO, and I miss playing it with my kids, who have grown up. My granddaughter lives far away.

    Your grandfather knew the bond that would develop with this simple game. Love the pack of cards taking the trip with him! He would love it.

    Unfortunately, it seems like I comment here only when something like this happens. I do keep an eye on you blog, and hope you will feel better soon.


  3. Hanna,

    Amen ! Your grandfather sounds like a special man.

    Do you think there could be the seeds a landscape architecture theory here ? Landscaping with UNO ! Plant 3 red plants, reverse! The wild card option might even be two chapters.


  4. Hanna,

    I am really sorry for your loss it is never easy when you loose someone so close to you. I think one of the nicest things you can do is to plant something that will remind you of him and bring you joy in the future.



  5. kristin on

    I am sorry to hear about your grandfather. I am sure he would be touched to be remembered so fondly.


  6. Hanna on

    Thank you all for your condolances. I appreciate them. I am thinking that it is time to plant a red rasberry bush in my yard this year.


  7. Lovely post, lovely tribute, lovely writing. When the writing meets the subject, and the two intertwine, transcendence happens.


  8. Beautiful post. I lost my grandfather last week and coincidentally came across your blog and this tribute. I hope you’re able to see him in all things good for the rest of your life.


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