Friday, April 15, 2016

You won't believe what grew in Grandpa's garden

The weather is delightful here in St. Louis, 78 degrees and sunny. Hubby tilled his vegetable garden and is itching to get his crop of tomatoes and peppers planted. Our weather is unpredictable and usually  everyone waits at least until April 30th to put in tomato plants.

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 Garden

published in The Ultimate Gardener, HCI Communications, Inc.  2009

       Along with a healthy crop of tomatoes and peppers, one season compassion grew in my husband’s garden.  After our children grew up and married, we moved into a condo. When our grandchildren started arriving, we purchased a small ranch house with an even smaller back yard. Although we gave up the luxury of a community pool, we absolutely felt like we had traded up. We were thrilled with the 6’x15’ patch of rich, dark soil at the far corner of our backyard. Bill had his idea of gardening, and I had mine. We couldn’t wait to get our hands in the dirt. He had grandiose visions of a garden boasting the reddest, roundest and plumpest tomatoes, and crunchy green and yellow peppers. He even generously planted a few extra tomato bushes for the wildlife and neighbors. I envisioned my garden as a small artist’s palette of petunias, marigolds and miniature rose bushes – just a strip of soil along the perimeter of the patio. It was very satisfying planting, nurturing and watching our gardens grow.
       When the tomatoes and peppers were ripe, our grandchildren couldn’t wait to help Grandpa

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.

     “What are you kids doing?” he called.
     “We’re helping you, Paw-Paw, ‘cause your foot’s hurt,” Kyle said.

     “Yeah, Grandpa, we’re planting your garden for you!” Ashley exclaimed proudly.
     I soon discovered what they had discovered in the guest room. They had sneaked outside

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.




















Kim said...

That was lovely, Linda. I hope our grandkids want to play in our garden (when we get one), and I hope they'll help with the chickens.

Sandi said...

Sweet :)

I aspire to this kind of grandparenting one day!

Bookie said...

What a cute story...and such stories make for good memories!

Val said...

What a surprise from those "bloomin'" kids!

Sioux said...

Linda--What a touching story. I'm so glad you shared it now, since Spring has sprung.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Love this! I might have to try my hand at gardening (I do NOT have a green thumb) just so I'm ready when the grand-babies finally show up. Also, you've just changed my thinking on downsizing to a condo. We will (God willing) have grand-kids one day, and a condo will likely be too small to accommodate. I wonder what the hubster is going to say when I tell him I changed my mind about a condo in favor of a little house to accommodate the grandchildren we don't even have yet!

DUTA said...

Grandpa's Garden is a great life concept. There are books, farms, shops named Grandpa's Garden. This is the place where kids see things for the first time, and find it fascinating. Grandpa is the one who knows everything and takes the time and pleasure to tell them about seeds, flowers, plants, worms, seasons etc. He answers their questions and inspires their imagination. That's why they love to visit the place.

Connie said...

This is a a sweet story. Such a great memory for all of you to treasure.

Susan said...

Awwwwww, that was an adorable story, Linda. Thanks for all your visits to my blog. Always a pleasure to see that you stopped by. Susan

K9friend said...

Sweet story, perfect for spring. Makes me want to buy some new little plants!

Critter Alley