Flora and Jasper

Recently I have been on a mission to catalog all of my writing. The goal is moving toward more flexibility in how how write and create and to yield a more bountiful offering in my publishing venues.  This mission, so far, has had several unexpected consequences.

First, I have been amazed. I have created quite a lot in my career and most has stood the test of time. Though, I can certainly see my evolution.

Second, the process of organizing and cataloguing has given me a huge 100,000-foot view. A view which is hard to get to daily in the press of specific tasks and full schedules.

Third and best of all, combing through my files has been like finding a forgotten trunk at the back of the attic. Cobwebs pull away as the lid squeaks open revealing treasures of long ago.

The following two pieces I wrote about four years apart over fifteen years ago. My father’s parents were amazing and beloved by four sons and a huge pack of grandchildren and great grandchildren.

As the oldest child of the oldest child, I had their attention and their praise long before I was aware though my memories of both of them goes back to the earliest days of my childhood.

They both were with me then as they are both with me now.

Here’s my part of my story of Flora and Jasper.

Written in 1996 when I was the owner of an Internet gardening business:

Flora and Jasper are my paternal grandparents.

Flora and Jasper have been married 66 years, gardeners all of their lives.

In fact, my earliest and many of my best memories of my grandparents are connected to their beautiful gardens and all the wonderful plants grown and shared.

Born in Indian Territory in the early 1900’s, they both grew up in agricultural families. In marriage, their gardening abilities helped support four young and growing sons during Depression-time Oklahoma. Gardening was not simply a leisure time activity, but a necessity to sustain their lives.

As long as I can remember, every spring my Grandfather and Grandmother planned and planted a garden whose yields could feed and support a dozen families for over a year.

Sweet potatoes the size and length of a large man’s arm.

Melt-in-your-mouth strawberries, yummy asparagus, and mountains of potatoes. Tomatoes the size of Grandfather’s large palm.

Zucchini forever.

And a generosity of spirit, tended and shared with family, friends, neighbors, and passers-by over a lifetime of gardening.

Last spring in his 90th year, my Grandfather planted the garden with his usual enthusiasm.  Yet when harvest time came in September, my Grandfather had been confined to a care center diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Without her helpmate, my Grandmother gathered the year’s harvest with the assistance of a team of caring children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.

Much more than coincidence, I created my own garden business at the time of my Grandfather’s last spring planting.

Carrying on the work begun by a previous generation is often the inevitable business of gardeners everywhere.

In memory of the gardeners in our lives, may we all strive for the best in spirit and action.

My grandparents have.

P. S. April 9, 1996: My Grandfather died this morning.

Written June 18, 2005

I am indeed the most fortunate of people.

Growing up I had two grandmothers, both world class, Grandmother Jessie and Grandmother Flora.  They loved me, doted on me, cared for me and sought out my company, teaching me about the world, guiding me as I learned.  Hugs and kisses, giggles and awes of wonder – all never failed to come in my times with them.

Grandmother Jessie loved to play cards with me and my sister.  And we would always wait in delight for the moment when she would shuffle the cards and they would fly through the air and we would all collapse in laughter.

Grandmother Flora taught me to knit and, thankfully, we soon put that aside when she taught me to crochet.  Visits to her house were always filled with crafts and cooking, turning flowers and butterflies into pretty plaques gilded with gold that she let me paint on.  We would always gather on the hour for the cuckoo clock to announce the time.  Her kitchen counters were filled with pies, cakes and jellies, and those brightly colored little peppers in jars of vinegar.

I lived for and loved the times my grandmothers surrounded me with their love and enthusiasm, their smiles, hands to hold and laps to curl up on.

When I was eleven, Grandmother Jessie died.  The first time I had ever knowingly experienced the passing of a loved one.  After the services I was inconsolable, and Grandmother Flora took my hand and led me to the sofa in the parlor alongside the chapel.  Gathering me on her lap she held me tight, letting my tears flow freely.  I’ve never forgotten what she said.  “Cheryl, don’t worry about your Grandmother Jessie.  She has gone to heaven as an angel where she can see you every day and send you her love.”  Somehow her words and her love eased my pain and helped quiet my tears.  I had now a vision of Grandmother Jessie which I could hold even though I could never again hold her hand.

Now on this day, June 18, 2005, Grandmother Flora in her 98th year has made her passing, in the quiet and peace that I felt sure were ever hers to claim.

Yet even within the cynical adult that I know I can sometimes be, I know now with absolute certainty what I couldn’t grasp at eleven.  The reason Grammy Flora could tell me about Grandmother Jessie is that Grammy Flora was, is, and forever will be herself an angel.  She came to us with loving eyes and caring hands.  Her angelic presence reflected to us in her actions and words for family, friends and strangers alike.

Knowing Flora was to know the grace of faith and the peace of a long life lived well.

I can hear her now, sitting on her garden patio together.  “Look here, Cheryl.  See that robin out there among the iris.  Her nest is up there in that tree just beyond the fence.”

And we both look, and she takes my hand, squeezing and loving me as she always has done.

I see you Grandmother, I always will.


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