While I adored both of my grandfathers, my Granddaddy Malone is the one who always comes to mind in the spring. He’s probably where alot of my gardening pleasure comes from, though at the time, I didn’t realize exactly how important it would be to me later. Once the weather starts to clear and things begin to turn green, he’s always in my head.
There are so many things about him that have stayed with me. Watching him sleep in his chair with a kitten resting on his shoulder. Listening to
Grandaddy Loved Magnolias
him talk about Kentucky basketball. Watching him make my aunt’s boyfriends squirm when they came to pick her up. Seeing the glow of his cigar when we were all out there during the summer, sitting on the front porch in the dark, talking. And the yelling “conversations” he carried on with the people across the road.
And there were the dogs. Man, there were so many dogs. He raised coon hounds and beagles, a couple of bird dogs. I watched him be so gentle with them and was amazed that a man that gruff could be so sweet. He could love them, train them, raise them, trade them, and start all over again. Sometimes, I’d be upset that he’d traded one that I liked, but there would always be another one coming along.
It was part of who he was, you see. Just part of Grandaddy. Like he traded knives. I don’t remember alot of guns, but I remember pocket knives. There’s no telling how many of those he went through. I have stories about him and his dogs that would fill a blog, but that’s not for today. No, today is just Grandaddy day. And the garden thing. And I think that’s okay.
He was a pain, I won’t even deny that. He loved to aggravate and tease better than anyone I’ve ever known. And he could make you wish you’d never met him. And then, the next minute, he’d laugh and smile, and you forgave him. Just like that. You couldn’t help it. At least I couldn’t.
I remember watching him every spring, tilling that garden. Never a small spot, oh, no! If it didn’t take up most of the back field, it wasn’t big enough. He’d get home from work and be out there again, planting, hoeing, weeding, fertilizing. And singing or whistling. If he couldn’t think of a song that fit the mood, he’d make one up.
When the garden started coming in, we’d start picking and processing. Grandaddy would help pick and I remember him breaking a few beans or shucking corn. Maybe helping shell some peas. But the actual processing wasn’t his job. He had better things to do. Of course, that’s part of his generation. I wonder sometimes what he would say about Scott helping me. I’m sure he’d aggravate the crap out of Scott for it, like he always did my dad for the things he did for my mother. And Scott, like my Dad, would take it all in stride. They’d like each other. I know they would.
But the funny thing about the garden was I don’t remember my grandfather eating alot of it. He planted tons of stuff, but only ate a select group of things. Seriously. I remember my grandmother telling me he just loved to watch it grow. Watching it all come up and produce. That was the fun of it. And I understand that. I really do. I feel the same way. And I know he smiles when he watches me.
I know he’d like the ducks and chickens, too. He’s one of the reasons I wish we’d bought a bigger place. I’m he thinks I need some hogs to
Hey, Grandaddy? Our chickens are a bit spoiled...
slaughter. Well, I’m not too interesting in THAT, but I would like goats. Not too sure what he’d say about that one. I remember all sorts of animals, but not goats. They didn’t even have cows by the time I came along, or at least by the time I was big enough to remember them.
I guess, besides the garden, there’s another reason why spring always reminds me of him. Especially with the weather the way it’s been. See, my freshman year of college, there was a nasty system that blew through. Winds were awful and it whined and howled all night. The next day, Saturday, the wind was just as bad, though the clouds had passed. I was supposed to go and meet the mother of the guy I was dating at the time, taking a day trip to Milan, Tn. I decided not to go and got up early to call and let him know.
Daddy had been up most of the night with the storm, so he went back to bed after he knew I wasn’t going. I couldn’t sleep, so I just stayed up. Not long after Daddy went upstairs, I heard someone at the door. That was the first time I knew my grandfather made frequent stops on Saturday morning to have coffee with my parents when he “came to town.” Usually, I was in bed at that time.
When he heard Mom and Dad were still asleep, he got ready to go. I told him to come on in and I’d fix him coffee. I knew how, for goodness’ sake. He looked at me funny, but came in and sat down. We had coffee and talked for a while, then he went to run his errands.
I never thought anything about it until later. I was told he went home and told my grandmother I’d grown up. And I realized that was the first time we’d sat down and talked like adults. And I think it was the first time he truly realized I wasn’t a little girl any more. I wish I could remember what we talked about. Just a part of it to have now would be nice.
Less than two years later, I was married with a new baby and away from home for the first time. The day my mother called and told me my grandfather had cancer, I think part of me just melted. Zach was only a couple months old then, and there were so many things I wanted him to learn from my grandfather. I wanted him to see how to train a dog to hunt. To take the “scenic route” to places just down the road and see all of the things and places my grandfather had to share. I needed him to be there. To never go away.
My ex-husband made plans to move us closer to home so I could be with the family. He knew how much it meant to me to be able to see my grandfather as much as possible. That was at the end of October. My grandfather died the next fall. He got to see his only grandson born and his great grandson turn 1. I remember worrying because he stopped talking. When my grandmother asked him about it, he said he was just listening so he could remember. After ages of being the entertainer, how odd to find him being entertained by us.
At the time of his death, he was so tired, I knew it was time to let him go. But I miss him so much. I don’t think I’ve ever stopped. Zach doesn’t remember him. Elijah and Donovan, of course, never got a chance. Still, I think it’s okay. I think he’s never far away from them. The man who had nothing but daughters and no grandson until the end of his life would never be far from his three great-grandsons, now, would he?
Violets for my Grandfather
So in a couple of weeks, I start putting out the garden. And I’ll stand outside, looking at it, and I’ll talk to my grandfather for a while. Out in that spot where I let the little wild violets grow. I won’t let Scott mow them until they’re done. See, other than magnolias, I believe those were his favorite. Grandaddy never mowed that spot until they were done blooming. My grandmother used to say he’d dig them up from other parts of the yard and put them all together. We follow the same rule here. Well, not about the moving, but the mowing.
I’ll hope I don’t embarrass him too much and that he’ll forgive my imperfections. I’m sure he will. Though he’ll tease me a bit. I can hear him now, telling God about his crazy grand daughter, using that nickname he insisted on calling me. And he and God will smile and laugh.
I love you, Grandaddy.