Monday, July 23, 2012

Tomato sandwiches are better than kisses

    My first garden experience was last year when my husband was deployed. I really did not expect much to come of it since I really had no idea what I was doing. I was worried that I had taken on something I wouldn't be able to finish. I was scared my excitement to have a garden would lead to sadness if it didn't grow. I knew how difficult deployments were, this was our third in three years. Before, I had always been surrounded by other military wives to help me through. This time, we were new to town and I was all alone...just me, the pets and my garden. I knew I had to keep myself busy and stay positive. I had always wanted to grow my own garden and decided it would be a good distraction. Little did I know my personal challenge would bring much more than a plentiful harvest, it would bring me closer to my neighbors than I ever thought.

  I was fortunate enough to have a very knowledgeable neighbor and friend who guided me through the gardening process from tilling to planting, and from weeding to harvesting. My 80 year old neighbor and I bonded over our love of tomatoes and nature. He would smile his little quirky smile and say 'tomato sandwiches are better than kisses' (lol). He was a caring and humorous man, bringing a smile to everyone he came in contact with. I so much enjoyed his company. 

I have to say that summer, him and his wife, became my best friends. Their years of knowledge, concerning gardening and life in general were much appreciated. Their honesty and values offered such a refreshing view on the world around me. In addition, their appreciation for all things morale and good reminded me of why my husband was gone, and why I must persevere. I looked forward to caring for my garden and seeing them everyday. My garden, and their friendship, made the deployment fly by like no other had before. I was truly fortunate and thankful for them being brought into my life. I became a avid gardener and a better person for knowing them.

   When my husband came home, he was impressed with the amount of home grown foods I had stored away and the amount of money the garden had saved us. We were so very excited for spring and starting a garden together. We spent a lot of time with our neighbors throughout the winter, eagerly anticipating gardening season. As the days passed, and the first signs of spring appeared, we started buying seeds and tilling our land. Of course, we shared our excitement with our neighbor as he once again shared his wealth of knowledge. You could see he was just as happy to lend his guidance and friendship to us 'youngsters' as we were to learn from him.


As our crops started to grow, just before our first tomatoes came into season, our dear friend, suffered a massive stroke. Soon after, he was called home to his heavenly father. I was only eight years old when my grandfather passed. It felt just as sad to loose my dear friend and neighbor.

He had become family.

  I did not know what to do, except to care for his garden along with mine. I have to admit part of me felt like just ripping out the whole garden in anger but as I sat in his garden crying, I felt an amazing sense of calmness. I began to realize that even though he was not here physically, what he loved still was. His garden, his wife, his home and family. In this moment I knew his knowledge and friendship would remain in my heart forever. Even though he had passed, his spirit remained in that very garden. I got up and started weeding and watering and talking to him. I found myself laughing at memories and doing things he taught me as if it was second nature. He always said to me I was a natural farmer, though, I know he taught me so much more than I think even he realized.

     The crops came in and we started harvesting as time went on. Each tomato, squash, fruit and vegetable where a part of him. He was still sharing his knowledge with the world. I find myself often talking to him about my thoughts and feelings when I tend to our garden. It is hard work but so very rewarding. I know he would be proud of me for not giving up and sharing his knowledge of gardening with others. I dedicate each of our harvest to him, in thanks for everything he was and everything he did. Most of all, in dedication of the unexpected friendship we had.

   As the season comes to an end, as it always does, a bit of sadness seems to creep into my heart. I know next year I will be on my own. I won't be able to run over and ecstatically share my happiness with my friend when spring arrives but, I know he will be watching over. I know he would tell me to get my fanny out there and start a garden! So..I will. I will, in dedication to him, each and every year.

   Friendship is the most bountiful of gardens you can grow.
 It comes back year after year with a little maintenance and dedication.
 It is never time lost.
 It always endures.

   Rest in peace my dear friend, and feel free to pick a few tomatoes when you 'stop by' to check on us. I'm growing some just for you, after all.. I hear tomato sandwiches are better than kisses. :)

No comments:

Post a Comment