Throughout my childhood, I visited with my grandparents almost daily. My grandmother would make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, cut the crusts off and then slice it in to two pieces. After my grandfather and I settled into the same rocker, I would choose my half of the sandwich and he would be the recipient of the other. As I sat on his lap eating the PB&J, he would rock the old chair back and forth while the sound of the rhythmic squeak from the aged wood filled the air. After we were done he'd say, "C'mon ma belle fille," while waving his hand for me to follow. I'd always chase after him with precious excitement, all the while knowing exactly where we were going.
He'd lead the way off the porch, out the door, and down the sloping lawn to his most amazing and beautiful garden. It was a very large garden that occupied most of the space in the backyard. It contained mainly vegetables but did have a few scattered black eyed susans and johnny jump ups. My grandfather would take my hand and carefully guide me around the mounds of beets and cabbage, through the tangled web of tomatoes to the line of beanpoles that were firmly anchored at the back of the garden. I loved the green beans. They were my favorite. I was fascinated with seeing how high they grew on the pole and the sound they made when I'd bite into them. My grandfather would show me how to carefully pick them and allowed me to fill the garden pot with my favorite vegetable. Even now I am smiling as I remember plucking the beans off the vine.
My grandfather showed me how to care for his garden. He taught me which greens were acceptable and which were weeds. He also taught me how to cut the swiss chard, how to pull up the beets, and what parsley looked like when it was mature. After the maintenance was completed, he would uncoil the garden hose and sprinkle water over his labor of love. While he watered his crop, my grandfather and I would sit together on the old wooden bench he assembled as a young man. Without fail, he would put his arm around my waist and sing me his song. He told me it reminded him of a day during World War II when the ship he was assigned to was bombed and how he narrowly escaped the attack with his life. He spoke of the friends he lost that day and of the prayers he directed to his God for a safe return home. He would always end his story by saying this was his favorite song because it reminded him he was alive and of how blessed he was to have been given another day. He used to say "After that day, every new morning and every sunset was a bonus."
Hearing this song again reminded me of the beautiful and priceless memory of my grandfather and I and his garden. It also reminded me that even though he is gone from this life, he, his stories, and his lessons still live on within my heart.