I am reminded of a time many years ago when our first grandchildren were young. Kyle was three and Ashley was seven when they helped plant
Grandpa’s Gardenpublished in The Ultimate Gardener, HCI Communications, Inc. 2009
pick his veggies. Kyle, then three, nibbled as many elongated banana peppers as he picked, and
Ashley, then seven, harvested tomatoes until they overflowed the crook in her arm. They ate ripe,
red, juicy tomatoes as if they were apples. Forget the toy box in the guest room. The kids were
anxious to get into grandpa’s garden every time they came for a visit that first summer. Bill
showed them how to walk on the stepping stones between the rows, and he taught them about
roots and shoots, leaves and stems. Every visit was a hands-on, fingers-in-the-soil nature lesson
when they came to our house.
“We love it in Grandpa’s Garden,” they both said. They loved the dirt, the worms and the buried
treasure they discovered.
One late fall day, they came for a visit and ran out the back door. They stopped abruptly in
their tracks. My flowers had all withered, and Grandpa’s garden was barren; he had ripped out all
of the plants. Devastated, they stood on the dry earth and cried, “Our garden!” Bill, a hulking six
foot two, two-hundred-fifty-pounder knelt down in the dirt beside the children. At their eye-level,
and with a gentle touch, he consoled them as he explained the life cycle of plants. He told them
to expect a new crop next year, and he promised them that they could even help him plant in the
In March, spring teased our town with a premature warm snap. Bill tilled the rich earth in his
shirt sleeves in the hot sun; he was as anxious as the kids to dig in the dirt. He was wise enough
to know that a frost would destroy a prematurely planted tomato crop. Each time Ashley and
Kyle arrived they’d plead with him to plant the garden. Together they counted the days until May
15th, when they could plant again without the threat of frost.
The week before the scheduled planting, unexpectedly, Bill had to have foot surgery and
was incapacitated. The planting had to be delayed two more weeks. Patience is not a child’s
virtue. So Grandpa gave them permission to go dig in his garden when they came to visit. I
handed each of them a big serving spoon and they happily darted outside. Every now and then
they came in to share a treasure they had unearthed. Then they’d rush back to the garden for
more fun. This went on for over an hour; the adults were content to stay inside and the kids
happily played outside. The last time they came in, they lingered in the guest room a little
longer than usual; then they slipped out the back door unnoticed for more fun in Grandpa’s
When I peeked out the kitchen window to check on them, I gasped. Ashley and Kyle were
tromping though the plot of dirt, bent over, each of them digging and planting. There were
hundreds of flowers in full bloom, an array in every color and in every variety imaginable. A
rainbow of flowers blanketed more than two thirds of Grandpa’s garden and they were still at it!
“Bill, come quick! You have to see this.” He hobbled to the window and chuckled loudly.
with my shopping bag which was filled with an assortment of artificial flowers. I had intended
to use them with my preschool classes for a combined science, arts and crafts project. Bill and
I laughed with delight at the brilliant crazy quilt of fake flowers they had stuck in the dirt, a
compassionate gift, intended for their recuperating grandpa.
The grandchildren, now fifteen and eighteen, fondly remember playing Grandpa’s Garden.
Kyle grows his own tomatoes and peppers each summer, and eighteen year old Ashley still has
an affinity for pastel flowers - only now, they come from her boyfriend. Thanks to ‘Grandpa’s
Garden’ they both developed a deep appreciation for the good earth and what it can produce.
One very special grandpa planted the seeds of love that sprouted a crop of compassion.
Kyle is now almost 23 and Ashley is almost 27, and still this memory holds a special place in all our hearts.