Phyllis Miller – 1914 – 2007

My grandmother passed away yesterday. And before anyone feels sorry for me, please know that it was the kind of death that makes one question the modern wisdom of wanting to live to 100. The body goes on while the mind fritters away. She had not been much more than a shell for a good long while. By this time, her passing was more of a blessing than a loss.

One of the terrible things about this kind of death it that it robs the love ones of the true memory of who the person was. So if you don’t mind, today, instead of my normal levity, I would like to try to remember my grandmother as I remember her in regards to the garden.

One of my earliest memories of my grandmother has to do with fresh garden peas. My grandparents lived in Connecticut and every year we would go and visit for two weeks. I must not have been much older than eight and I remember my grandparents were sitting in their kitchen shelling peas from their garden. My grandma was having a fit because my grandpa would not admit that the variety of peas that she was shelling was better than the variety that he was shelling.

I happened through at that time and my grandma pulled me to the table and demanded that I try the peas and declare which was better. I was only a little girl and I can’t even recall what my response was, but it was the first time in my life that I ever realized that peas came in more varieties than frozen or canned.

My grandma was the queen of rooting things. Winters never passed without impatiens and begonias rooting in the window of her house. She once even rooted a piece of basil from the grocery store that my mother had given to her so she could cook with it. She didn’t see an ingedient for dinner, she saw a new plant to grow.

She loved her garden, but I don’t think it was in the same way that I love my garden. She was a child of the Depression and a wife of a WWII soldier. Gardens were a means to feed your family and you loved them because at one point in time they had kept the wolf from the door.

I grew up hearing stories of how

… my great uncle had gotten the beating of his life for letting a chicken run headless after it had been killed for dinner

… my great grandfather bringing butchered chickens to the neighbors who had even less than him

… how to make ends meet with a baby in your arms when your husband is in a faraway land with shrapnel buried in his skin.

These stories and many more taught important lessons in respect for life, kindness and perseverance.

So today I remember my Grandma. I hope they have impatiens and begonias in Heaven. I just don’t think she would be happy there otherwise.

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