He took a sabbatical that summer. We spent most of the days digging in the dirt. I couldn't have been much help at the age of four but I remember it fondly. His hands were constantly covered in dirt. He'd surrendered his gloves to me upon request. They were several sizes too large but I gleefully wore them anyway. He grinned as I skipped around the garden waving them around like trophies. The gloves he'd replicated for me in my own size bulged with soil. A carrot resided in the right and a kava root in the left.
"Anna, come help me plant," he encouraged.
"I did!" I pointed to the two gloves standing upright at the end of the row.
"Yes that's a very good start. But I think we'll need more than one vegetable per person per season," he explained, amused. He stretched out his hand to me, seeds nestled in his palm.
I picked one out and very carefully looked it over. "It's a pea!"
"Very good. What kind?"
"A pea pea!"
He laughed and gestured to the first of two shallow troughs. "Put it there. Not too deep. Put the next one about five centimeters away."
"How much is that?"
He demonstrated using his thumb and index finger.
"Can I plant them all?"
"Of course you may. Just remember what I said about not putting them too close together."
"What will happen if I do?"
"Plant them too close together? They won't have enough room to grow."
I made a face. "That would be bad," I stated.
"Yes, that would most certainly be bad," he echoed. He pointed to the trellis between the two rows. "If we water them regularly, they'll grow right up the lattice work. In a couple months, we'll have more peas than we know what to do with."
"That's silly. You can't have too many peas."
He smiled again. "Will you promise to help me eat them all?"
"Promise! Can Aunt Nerys help too?"
"You're welcome to ask. She's coming over for dinner tonight."
"She is? Can she stay? Can she stay?" I was so excited I nearly dropped my peas.
"Just for the evening. She has duty tomorrow morning."
I deflated like a spent balloon.
A moment later, he hooked a dirty finger under my chin and forced me to look him straight in the eye. "None of that."
"But I want her to stay."
"Is sulking going to get you what you want?"
I shook my head dejectedly. He never did let me get away with pouting.
"The colonel is very busy," he reminded me.
"'We make time for things that are important'," I quoted, throwing his own words back at him, not fully understanding the meaning of the phrase.
He reeled, as if physically stricken. I knew immediately I'd said something wrong. I wanted to take it back but didn't know how. He gently placed his hands around my upper arms and drew me closer. "Nerys has come at least one day every week for the past three weeks. You are very important to her. Otherwise, she wouldn't have come at all."
I felt about as small as the peas I still clutched in my fist. "Why does she have to work so much?"
"Running the station isn't an easy job."
"She runs the whole station?" My eyes grew wide in astonishment. To me, Deep Space Nine was larger than life itself.
He nodded. "She's the Commanding Officer."
I was impressed. It was a big title. They all seemed to have big titles. "What are you?"
"I'm the Chief Medical Officer."
A dumbfounded expression must have crossed my face because he went on to explain. "I tend to the medical needs of the crew. When people get sick or injured, I take care of them."
That made sense. I'd seen him at work. The Infirmary was just as familiar to me as our hillside Bajoran home. "Who takes care of you?"
Taken aback, the question gave him pause for thought. "I suppose I take care of myself."
Over the years that followed, I came to discover his response couldn't have been farther from the truth.