Two years ago today, my sweet grandpa passed away. He was 92, though he always seemed like a bit of a spring chicken. He had the softest hands, achieved through years of hard work in the garden and sinks full of dishwater just this side of boiling hot. Though at a young age I was confused by his sometimes gruff demeanor, I eventually learned that his heart was as soft as his hands.
I loved stopping to see my grandparents in Cedar City anytime I drove between St. George and Salt Lake or Provo. A road trip hardly seemed complete without it. But Grandpa never let me stay long, insisting that it would be getting dark soon (even at 1 p.m.), and I had better get on the road.
He’d say, “Now get outta here!” then grab my hand, sneaking a $20 bill into my palm. Then he’d say, with a waver in his voice like he was channeling a dying cowboy, “Before you go, there’s just one thing I gotta say: So long, Cactus!” I’m not sure how it started or how it became such an integral part of our repertoire, but no visit seemed complete without it.
And what I wouldn’t give to hear that sad cowboy voice say it again now.
I miss my grandpa, his singing, his smile, and his little “heh heh” chuckle. I miss seeing him out in his garden, carefully tending and watering it. I see summer squash in the grocery store, and I think of him (and thing of how much better the squash from his garden tasted).
As the spring comes on here and planting time approaches, I look at the vast swath of dirt in my backyard and yearn to see things growing. But I really have no idea what I’m doing. How I wish I still had my grandpa here to show me what to do (even though it would surely start out with, “My Hell, Michelle!”). I regret that I didn’t spend more time in the garden with him, learning all that he knew, hoping that some of his talent and work ethic would rub off on me.
But instead of kicking myself over this missed opportunity, I have to move ahead, learn what I can from other people (and from experience), and hope that I can develop the same love for my own garden that my grandpa had for his. Hopefully I can at least grow a squash he would be proud of.