I Remember You, Grandpa Tom

Grandpa Tom and me

I remember you, Grandpa Tom.
Resilience forged in World Wars and dust bowls.
Kindness shaped by love and generosity.
Faith cultivated in times of struggle and uncertainty.

You grew vegetables in the back yard,
Three rotated crops,
Food harvested from March to November.
That was the way your people survived.

The garden — a statement of faith
In the One who created the seeds, the sun, the rain.
The garden you called your “Fitness Center.”

In these days of pandemic, I remember you.
Your resilience, your kindness, your faith.

I think of you, at the end of my day, when I put on my work clothes
And walk out the door to my “Fitness Center.”
Trimming bushes, sowing seed, spreading mulch.
Hoping that I, too, in this time of challenge
Might be a person of resilience, kindness, and faith.

The Color of Memory

I wait each spring,
watching the buds grow
on Grandpa’s peony,
flown from Oklahoma to Tennessee, 
tucked in a plastic grocery bag
when I came home from his funeral.

These fuchsia petals,
these golden stamens,
these rich green leaves,
are the colors of memory.

Grandpa carrying in a bucket
of yellow sweet corn,
giant red tomatoes,
and fuzzy green okra.

Grandpa planting in black earth,
Oklahoma red clay
coaxed into fertile soil
by years of care and compost.

Grandpa in crimson on game day,
in dark suit on Sunday morning,
in carpenter khaki off to work.

Grandpa in my heart, in my mind.
Grandpa love, Grandpa wisdom.
Grandpa always present, steady
like the peony bloom
that opens every spring.

Thank you, Creator.
Thank you, memory.
Thank you, Grandpa.

Find more of my prayers in my book Christ Beside Me, Christ Before Me: Celtic Blessings.

Grandpa Tom Becomes a Citizen

Grandpa Tom came to the U.S. when he was ten years old. Because his family arrived in the chaos of the United State’s entry into World War I, it took several years before he was able to become a naturalized citizen. (His family had been waiting to board the Lucitania to come to the U.S. when the boat was sunk on its way into England — but that’s a story for another day …)

In 1983, Grandpa was interviewed by my brother Charlie about many things, including Grandpa’s story of becoming a citizen. Here’s the story and a few pictures. I’m honored to be the granddaughter of one who left his home, came to this country, and became a citizen.

Grandpa’s Peonies — 2011

I wrote about Grandpa’s peonies a couple of years ago, so this year, I thought I’d document their growth. They bloom early in spring before much else has started blooming (even the other peonies) and every time they bloom, they bring me delight. This year’s spring was cool, so it took over a month between when the plants started coming up until when they bloomed. These photos span from around March 17th through April 23rd.

I call these “Grandpa’s peonies” because they came from Grandpa Tom’s yard in Norman, Oklahoma. After his funeral, I dug up a little clump, put them in a grocery bag, and brought them home to my front flower garden in Tennessee. When they bloom, Grandpa and Grandma Wilson are right here with me.

Here they are after the peonies started coming out of the ground. (You can see all the things they hide during the summer — the hose, down spout, etc.)

Getting taller and greener. I like how the stalks are red.

Now they’re all leafed out — and hiding the ugly stuff. Behind the peonies, the lilies are starting. And in the lower right part of the photo, you see the Lamb’s Ears. (I love to rub those leaves!)

Finally, a little peony bud — and some ants. The ants love the nectar produced with the budding of the peonies.

And, finally, this little triangle of color. I like that little shape that you see before the peony opens up. (And more ants.)

The buds on a rainy morning …

And . . . the first bloom. These are the old-fashioned, single-bloom peonies. I love the little yellow things in the middle of the flowers. The colors are so intense this time of year.

A riot of blooms on Easter weekend. Thank’s Grandpa and Grandma!


Grandpa’s Peonies

Grandpa's Peony
Grandpa's Peony

Grandpa’s peonies started blooming yesterday. My Grandpa Wilson was a gardener. His entire back yard in Norman, OK was dedicated to a garden that he started harvesting in February (potatoes) and finished harvesting in late fall (turnips). He rotated crops, planting and harvesting three vegetables per season in the same rows. His compost pile, at times, was so tall that he had to walk up on top of it — about 5 feet in the air — to dump his compost bucket.

Grandpa was born in the early 1900s in Kennelworth South Africa. His parents nearly starved during the siege of Kimberly in the Second Boer War. The story is that they were starving, but Great-Grandpa and Great-Grandma had planted a garden and knew there was food to be had. Great-Grandpa took a sack and snuck through the enemy lines one night to get to their garden. Though overgrown over with weeds, the plot was full of vegetables. Great-Grandpa filled up his sack and brought the food back through the siege lines.

Grandpa Tom didn’t have a lot of use for flowers (“You can’t eat them”), but there were a peonies planted in the back yard. After his funeral, I dug up a clump, put them in a grocery sack, and brought them back home to Tennessee. Early in the spring, they bloom, bringing alive memories of my Grandpa Tom. I’m blessed.