Stepping off the plane, I was immediately greeted by a gust of warm air. Weather in New England had already turned cold, with grey skies and dipping temperatures more consistent with late November than early October. Florida, however, was sunny and pleasant, and I couldn’t help but feel excited by the week that lay ahead.
My plans were not entirely frivolous; it was true that I would be spending some time on the beach, but the majority of my time would be spent with my 86 year-old grandmother, who lived in a small mobile home, located on her sister’s property just outside of Jacksonville. Since we lived so far apart, most of the time we had to content ourselves with communicating by phone or letter, so this week would be a special treat.
After picking my rental car, I drove to Grandma Carol’s house, luxuriating in the brilliant sunshine and blooming flowers that seemed to be everywhere. Arriving at my destination, I found that my grandmother’s house was surrounded by a plethora of vegetation unusual even in her neighborhood. A veteran gardener, Grandma Carol still spent most of her afternoons pulling weeds and planting seeds. When I turned into the drive, therefore, I was not surprised to see her stand up from behind a patch of enormous sunflowers, resplendent in gardening apron, sunhat, and gardening gloves. She waved a soiled hand at me, and I waved cheerily back.
Once we were indoors and settled in comfortable chairs, sipping iced tea, I asked her about the garden.
“It looks lovely,” I complimented her. “How do you do it? It looks like so much work.”
She looked out at her shrubs and flowers serenely. “Thank you, dear. You know, my doctor actually prescribed gardening for me. He told me that I needed exercise, and gardening was a good way to get it. He says now that it’s part of what keeps me so active.”
I pondered this, remembering my own experiences with gardening, which always seemed to involve backbreaking work and scalding sunshine. “It’s not too stressful on your back?” I asked.
She shook her head. “No, it would be, if I had the same garden that I had back in Maine, but I’ve made a few adjustments here. I have raised beds, so I don’t have to bend down as much, and a raised pool in the center too. The garden paths here are wide and paved, so I won’t slip. I keep plenty of chairs around too, so that I can stop and rest. I do have to make sure that I don’t push myself too hard,” she admitted.
“Your garden is so colorful, I just can’t get over it,” I said, thinking of the one plant that sat, half-dead, on my own windowsill back home.
“I’ve started planting more bright colored flowers recently. They look nice, but they’re also easier to see, now that my eyesight has deteriorated a bit,” she confessed.
Over the next week, we spent quite a number of hours in that garden, chatting and working. Grandma Carol taught me about the plants, showing me which ones were hardiest, and thus most likely to survive my inept attempts at gardening. Observing how much energy she still had, I decided that maybe I should take up gardening too. I would be extremely lucky if I had half her energy when I reached her age. Her hobby had undoubtedly kept her young.
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