There’s something about the arrival of summer that makes me miss my grandfather, or Grandaddy, as he was affectionately known, like the dickens. Maybe it’s the arrival of fresh tomatoes and green beans in the grocery store or the smell that the grass emits when it’s freshly cut. I hear the mourning dove high above all the other birds in the morning when I take my dogs for a walk and it’s the exact same sound that I used to hear all those years ago in their backyard at Lake Norman.
Sometimes I still hear him call out for me and I miss him so much. I wish that I could show him how I’m trying to grow my own vegetables in my backyard. (I’ve never seen anyone get so much enjoyment out of slicing a bright red tomato, adding a little salt and pepper and eating every slice off a white china plate.) I, on the other hand, can’t get my kids to eat vegetables of any kind, but I’m still going to try. I want him to know that I’m trying to outsmart the squirrels in my backyard with Cayenne pepper. I load up my suet feeder and sprinkle it into my sunflower seeds and get a little thrill out of watching the squirrels bounce off the suet when their tiny tongues touch the molten dough. I think he would’ve gotten a chuckle out of that, too.
I want to talk to him about writing, and finding the right words when it seems like all I can muster is a string of like’s, um’s, and expletives. I want to make a joke about a Mark Twain quote that I love, which is: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ‘Tis the difference between the lighting bug and the lightning.”
I want to know what books and magazines he was addicted to, and where he drew inspiration that made him walk on clouds as he was typing out words as fast as he could.
I wish I could unearth all the similarities we have. He was a writer. I liken myself to sometimes being a writer. He loved the outdoors and people. I love these things sometimes.
But I can’t. I can’t do those things. I haven’t been able to ask him anything since I was fourteen years old.
I can’t ask Grandaddy about the best way to keep bugs off my bell pepper plants. And I can’t ask him about the bird call I heard when I was out walking my dogs. But I can ask my Mom, who is pretty much the next best thing. While I do miss him, there is so much of him in her, and that makes me smile.
Because he taught her, she’s teaching me the difference between determinate and indeterminate tomato plants and just how exactly I should put them in the ground so that they bear the best fruit. (“Plant them sideways to help grow the root system to make it stronger.”) (See, Mom? I’m listening.) And I can share with her a glimpse of my bluebird family with their newly hatched bluebird babies and she understands how my heart swells when I see them.
Because he taught her, she’s teaching me. And to the best of my ability, I’ll teach G and Alex.
Because isn’t that what the generations do?