Several years later it towered about 20 feet above my head and produced the sweetest, most delectable mangoes. At least that’s what I’m told. You see, I don’t eat mangoes. I just never acquired the taste for them. But my dad couldn’t get enough of them. The little shoot I had planted and nurtured which had grown into a mighty tree became known as Fred’s Mango Tree. Every time he came over to the house, the first thing he’d do was head outside to check on “his” mango tree. We’d stand under that tree together, and he would gaze up into the canopy and say, “Nan, do you think we’ll have mangoes this year?” “Yeah dad,” I’d say. “It looks like we’re gonna have a good crop.”
One year Hurricane Wilma swept through South Florida and Fred’s Mango Tree had its top shorn off. We were devastated, but that plucky tree came back even better than before, bigger, fuller and loaded with fruit. But as the mango tree flourished, my dad’s health declined, and in 2009 he passed away. I was assigned the task of collecting his ashes from the funeral home. Before I delivered the ashes to my mom to place in the urn she had chosen, I held the small sealed box that contained my dad’s remains and wondered what final thing I could say to him. And then it came to me. I carried the box outside and sat on the ground with it beside me to give him one last visit under the mango tree. “It looks like we’re gonna have a good crop,” I told him.
I moved away from that house five years ago and had to leave the tree behind. But before the move I dug up two small shoots that had sprouted from mangoes that had fallen to the ground and which the squirrels hadn’t stolen. The first thing I did when I got to the new house was plant them in pots. Over the last five years both trees have grown. One is now about six feet, the other is around ten. For the first time since being planted the bigger tree bloomed this year. Every day I’d go outside to look for mangoes. At first I saw nothing. Then, lo and behold, there they were, tiny round things that have slowly grown over the weeks into recognizable mangoes.
It comforts me to stand beneath Fred’s Mango Tree and watch the fruit getting bigger. I can hear his voice as plain as day. “Nan, do you think we’ll have mangoes this year?” Yeah, dad, it looks like we’re gonna have a good crop.