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My Grandpa's Garden

Poppies are for passion

I grow my poppies for Grandpa. He never owned his own house or grew his own garden, but he adored how the fragrance of orange blossoms caught a person off guard. Like an old friend you didn't expect for dinner, their sweet succulent aroma makes you feel as if you'll never feel loneliness again. He adored flowers, much like and he adored babies and children.

my grandpamy grandpaHe understood the importance of loving small things, that they both need gentle love to grow and bloom.

Although his looks never exceeded anything more than ordinary, Grandpa commanded attention wherever he went. It was his hands. Stained with nicotine and hard work, he told stories with hands, weaving in and out, painting a visual picture while he talked.

His hands fixed my roller skates and dropped quarters into my waiting hands for candy and other things children need. His hands wiped away more than their share of tears, long after they lost the strength to hold me close.

With no soil to plant a single seed, he grew a garden with his love.

Water this garden with love, please

poppies are for passionpoppies are for passionHe didn't love slices of people; he loved the whole person, good and bad. The seed, stem, pistil, leaf, and stamen combine to make a dazzling creation in progress. He reckoned people were the same and loved it all. And when the flower, friend, or child no longer graced his life he loved someone else with abandon. Just as a gardener accepts the passing of seasons, he accepted the turning pages of his life with grace.

When I was 10, teetering between childhood and adolescence, he took my brother and me to Woolworth's on Saturdays for lunch. Ken and I ordered chips and hot dogs and then laughed (to the point of falling off the stools) at calling French fries chips. He let us have our fun even though he shook his head and called us foolish. Unlike our parents, he indulged us and let us be. We filled our faces and our souls when we were with Grandpa. Like the wild grasses growing behind our house, he accepted us and enjoyed us most when we were wild and free.

My Grandpa's GardenMy Grandpa's GardenJust before my 11th birthday, Grandma and Grandpa celebrated their 50th anniversary. Their growing family crammed into their little duplex for a party; I sat to the side with my newly broken arm in a cast, sulking because I had been told rest quietly. Grandpa pulled me into his arms, as gently as he would have picked a rose, and held me close. He cradled my arm and led me around the room in a slow, sweet waltz. I smiled through my braces as I leaned into him. My aunts and my mom leaned against the wall to watch us. Their sad, wistful smiles told me more about their lives than all the stories I had heard at the dinner table.

Every child needs a grandpa

flowers soothe the spiritflowers soothe the spiritMy grandfather taught me how to feed my soul and not feel guilty about it. When I was newly married, he complimented the pansies I bought to fill my patio garden three floors above the street. He understood my need to see color dripping over my balcony. When I could least afford it. I needed the beautiful bold purple and scarlet faces winking at me when life spun out of control. He secretly tucked money into my hand to buy milk and diapers and then swore me to secrecy.

We all need a grandpa's older, wiser hugs and cuddles. We need those wonderful knees to scramble up and perch upon while begging for another story. Even adults need grandpas. In the folly of all that we chase in our lives, that sage presence keeps us grounded.

I wish I still had my grandpa to hug for no reason at all

I'll never forget the day he died

Asthma and emphysema robbed him of his vitality, leaving a frail shadow in their wake. He lived his last weeks in and out of consciousness, drugged on morphine. When I awoke that morning, my thoughts propelled me to his side.

Clutching the steering wheel, I raced through town, praying for him to be awake when I arrived.

a clutch of flowersa clutch of flowersI should have paused at the closed door. They don't close doors and post a nurse outside unless something is wrong. I flew into his room, not stopping to catch my breath or gather my thoughts. My mother, aunts and grandma stood around the bed softly weeping. The ventilator no longer hissed and the monitors ceased their beeping. The silence, like a gathering storm, hit me and pushed me back to the corner.

And then I looked out the window. It was December 6th, but we hadn't yet seen the first snow of the season. Looking out the hospital window, all I could see was snow. White and gloriously fluffy. Like a blanket being gently laid down upon the grass. Perhaps that snowfall was Grandpa's final goodbye whisper. It's going to be okay, I promise...

Now, in my garden, I grow poppies for a man I hold close to my heart, even though I'll never hold his hand again. Their lively red color fades before I'm ready. Every single time. All I want to do is pluck every single flower and hold it close, make it last a little longer. But I don't.

Poppies and people can't be preserved, only enjoyed and cherished while they're here.

I miss you, Grandpa.

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