Gram’s Garden

Gram’s Garden

From Chicken Soup for the Grandma's Soul

Gram’s Garden

Nature and wisdom always stay the same.

Juvenal

My cousins Michelle and Joey and I were fortunate to live with our grandmother in her home during her final years. At ninety-three, her health declined, and we became homebound along with her. That was when the real heart work began. We knew we were going to keep Gram home and her spirit alive. She had given all of us so much, so our hearts opened up and accepted the direction our lives were meant to take.

Gram loved her garden and planted one every year. But this summer she was too weak and frail even to walk outside. Still she said, “I want to plan the garden like I always did, and help with the planting and picking, too.” Her bedroom was on the side of the house on the first floor, where the sun shined bright every morning. The four of us decided to plant the garden right outside her bedroom window.

On that sunny morning, as we tilled the soil, Gram’s head peeked out the window and her fingers pointed to the middle of the garden. “Plant the Italian pole beans right here.” Then, “Hand some seeds to me, Joey.” She tossed them out the window into the dirt. “There, I wanted to show you how to do it,” she said, wiping her hands on her apron. “Now, plant the rest of the vegetables over there, and we will sit and watch them grow.”

As weeks went by, Gram often walked the few steps from the living room into her bedroom and sat in the chair looking out the window, watching her garden coming alive.

Joey and I asked her once, “Gram, did we do okay with the planting?” Her arms stretched out, pointing to the garden, as she said, “Look how high the plants are!”

As the summer went by, Gram reveled in the joy of watching her garden grow. She never lamented about not going outdoors anymore.

When the beans were ready she told us, “Let me help you pick them.”

Joey opened the window as she sat in a chair wearing her apron. He picked the beans, handed them to her through the window, and she gathered them in her lap. “There,” she said, as she stood up with her apron filled with the beans, “I have some work to do now.” She sat on the porch later and snapped them. “These are really good,” she boasted, tasting them. “Not too stringy or tough.” Joey and I relaxed on the porch reading the paper while Gram tended her harvest.

The tomatoes were her favorite. Joey pulled the six-foot vine close to the window, and she reached to pick one. With salt shaker in hand, she took a bite and juice squirted down her chin. “Not only are these plump and red, they are so juicy this year.” We knew life couldn’t get any better than this.

There were a few mistakes the first year we assisted with the garden. We didn’t ask Gram how many zucchini seeds to plant. We checked them at first and saw they were small and few in number. Then one midsummer day Gram told us, “You should check on the zucchini, they are probably coming in by now.” Joey and Michelle went out and the garden was full of them! Hundreds, it seemed! Joey kept walking in with more and more armfuls, gasping, “These plants are out of control!” Much to our surprise, they kept growing and growing. We gave many zucchini away that summer, and for weeks the three of us ate it fried, baked and sautéed, and in zucchini cakes and breads.

Little did we know how much closer we’d all become on this gardening journey of ours. Not only were we taking care of Gram, she was taking care of us, too. At the end of the day, I still rested my head on her lap and told her how much I loved her. A smile would come across her face while she rubbed my head and said, “I know.”

Our love and closeness grew more abundant than zucchini.

Paula Mauqiri Tindall

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