Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Grandpa's "Rod and Staff"

In the year 1997 my husband' s paternal grandparents, Jim and Juanita, sold their home in Sun City Center, Florida. They had lived there for many many years (since the early 70’s). They had retired to Sun City from Indiana, where they had raised their family. I had such fond memories of visiting their home with Big Daddy. We lived in Sarasota, which was about a hour south from them. They were thrilled when we moved so close to them. We were the nearest relatives to them by several hundreds of miles. It was wonderful to see my husband cultivate a renewed relationship with his grandparents. I was also happy to see them with the great grandson, Bama. Sadly, our time in Sarasota drew to a close. Big Daddy and I returned to Birmingham, leaving who we fondly call "G&G" back in Sun City. We missed them. I inparticular missed Grandpa, after never having a grandfather myself. Sure he was sometimes a bit eccentric at times, but isnt that one of the grand things about a grandparent? Things that can leave us laughing? Grandpa was certainly one who doted on me. I wasn't his grand-daughter-in-law....I was his grand daughter and he treated me as such.

Soon after, they announced they too were moving to Alabama to be close to our family once again. We were elated. At the same time, I was a bit saddened of the thought of never visiting their home again in Sun City. We had such great memories of being there. Sometimes we drove around in their golf cart around the neighborhood (no one drove cars!). It was a great way to meet the neighbors. One day a huge alligator snapping turtle found it’s way from the golf course that was across the street. We had been visiting with G&G inside their home. I heard a "knock" at the door and went to open it only to find the turtle hissing at my feet. It was as big as a semi tire! To see Grandpa and Grandma's faces of surprise was hysterical. One of the fondest memories, though, is the fruit trees in the backyard and harvesting the fruit from the trees. It was delicious in cooking, and baking and of course, just eating it right off the branch. I am quite certain I will never have lemonade as good as Grandpa's lemons made.

I never realized how much I would also miss the fruit trees that Grandpa planted in the backyard. He always had a green thumb and the fruit trees bared the fruit of his labor in maintaining them. I recall tangelos, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, even pineapple! I have never in my life tasted fruit so fresh and juicy. And I never will again. It indeed tasted like the Florida sun shine and I feel certain that by Grandpa’s hands it was so delicious.. Now when I eat fruit I purchase at the market, I can only wish it could taste like “Grandpa’s fruit”.

I recall at Christmas the worktable in his carport being completely covered in fruit that spanned the entire length of the carport. He carefully packaged up the fruit to send to loved ones. I am certain it cost him a small fortune to ship it all (Those boxes were heavy, actually the size of banana boxes but filled with fruit), but that was Grandpa. He took pride in his harvest and wanted always wanted to share it with others. I recall him boxing up several boxes and bringing it down to the migrant workers at the strawberry fields. They had very little and Grandpa was always wanting to do for others, especially those in need.

As a great grandparent, he shared his love of planting and harvesting with his great grandchildren. I vividly recall the day that I looked out into the yard to see my grandpa, all of 70 “something” years old high in the grapefruit tree, holding his fruit picker (a long stick with a red steel “comb” net on the end that caught the fruit) along with my 6 year old son. Grandpa was on a ladder and Bama sat beside him on a tree branch, grapefruit in hand, juice running down his tiny chin. It was the making of memories that were shared between at least three generations.

After the move back to Birmingham, many times we sat together recalling such wonderful memories and how something as simple as fruit many times brought the family together. I asked Grandpa what happened to the fruit picker that he had (the actual instrument he used to pick fruit from the tree); I was saddened when he told me that he had “sold it with the house in Sun City”. For me, it held such memories and such sentimentality. So, I am on a quest-to have the fruit picker returned to "the family". I haven't a single fruit tree in my yard, but I would cherish that picker for all the fruits it picked, the many bellies it fed and the love of Grandpa's hobby, gardening, that is attached to it. If I get it, I am going to use it in my kitchen as a curtain rod!

"The fruit picker shall be returned to the one who bore the fruit" (why do I feel like King Arthur?)

There is an update to this story, one that I would never ever share with our grandparents, and it is a sad one.  After I posted this story I did some investigating and I mailed a letter to the persons who purchased the home of Gma and Gpa. The letter was received my a neighbor who informed me that the home was now in foreclosure (by the ones who purchased their home) and that she looked for the fruit picker and it was nowhere to be found. Even more sad, the people who purchased out Grandparents home...chopped down all of the fruit trees. There was no paper trail to follow up on the picker.
Last year when our family traveled to Florida we made a point to go by the home. It was almost unrecognizable, still vacated and overgrown. So sad. :(


jennyhope said...

I like your hair in that last pic! What fun times. I miss being out in the country and able to roam the land with freedom! Poor Morgan...today we were outside all day and she could hardly run free because I am scared a car could come hit her.
I am up waiting on that storm to pass when I should be sleeping in the boat! =)
hope you are feeling better!

jennyhope said...


I found one in the United Kingdom if that fam won't part with it! =)

Lulu said...

What a sweet story! I do hope that you get the fruit picker!!

once in a blue moon... said...

that was a great story, did you ever find your fruit picker?