Today I was blessed by the bounty from the efforts of another. I had the privilege of picking beans I didn’t have to plow, plant, weed, and care for. All I had to do was spend a little time out there picking them and putting them in the bag to bring home.
Wow. What a gift.
As I worked my way down the row, lifting the plants gently to find the beans hidden underneath, plucking one after another, I thought of my Daddy. I used to pick from the garden with him just like this. First at my Granny’s where she and my Granddaddy had planted more than enough and let us pick whatever we could use. I loved sitting on the edge of the metal bucket, picking and dreaming and being with my Daddy. Guess which one of those was my favorite? I think picking beans and peas with Daddy was when I learned about a companionable silence. Oh we would chat some too. (Okay–me.) But a lot of those times we’d quietly work in tandem, gently taking nature’s gift to fill our table and our freezers. Later on after we moved to Blackberry Flats we’d pick together in the garden there. Where Daddy rotated his planting year after year, working to find the best spot for growing and so as not to overtax the land. After tilling, he’d use two bricks with string tied between to line up his rows for hoeing. I sometimes helped with the planting phase too. Again, the quiet.
Much like today.
I thought of him so much as I worked my way down the row. I was determined to get through one row completely before I stopped. He would have liked that. Be methodical and commit. Don’t go in there willy-nilly, picking first from this plant on that row and then from that plant two rows over. Start, focus, work hard, and finish.
When I was about a third of the way down the row, I almost broke the silence by laughing as a memory came flooding back. One time when we were picking together, I was maybe nine or ten, I started slowing down my pace. Daddy asked me what was wrong.
“My back hurts,” I said. (and possibly whined)
“Oh, you’re too young to have a back,” he said, dismissing my woes.
And that became the thing. When I was toting around his first grandchild, I was reminded I was young, too young to have a back. When I was working at a packing shed and helping load boxes of peaches, too young to have a back. When I was in graduate school, carrying my backpack to and fro, still too young to have a back.
It was almost three years ago now, when Daddy was just about completely bedridden with the lymphoma and his broken hip that was slow to mend. We were still taking him for consultations at the Cancer Center. I had ridden over to drive him and Mama to the appointment. At one point, I positioned myself so Daddy could put his arms around my neck, and I could help lift him from the car and swing him around into the wheelchair so he could go into the building. I wasn’t very good at it, not nearly as strong as I wished I could be, and it was the kindness of a stranger that got the job done, bless her. Trying to lighten the moment, I said something to Daddy like, “Well, if I’d a had a back, maybe that would have gone better. But I’m not old enough to have a back.” He looked over at me, from where he was sitting waiting to be called back, raised his eyebrows just like my Granny would have and said, “Oh no, you’re old enough. You have a back.”
Huh. Well good to know.
I wonder when on earth THAT changed. Can you imagine all the time I missed, when I could have been legitimately complaining about the back I finally had?
Today I smiled again as I stood, looking back at the completed row. I enjoyed picking beans with my Daddy today. I enjoyed my crew spending time with Aunt, whom they love dearly. I enjoyed the generosity of my Uncle who works so hard to be a good steward of the land he has. And I really enjoyed the twinges that had me stooped over for a full five minutes after I tried to stand up straight. I was reminded all over again that I do indeed have a back. And it wasn’t happy with me at all.
And yet, for some reason, all I could do was giggle.
For those of you old enough to have a back, congratulations. You may express your discomfort all you want. You’ve earned it. All the rest of you, you’ll get there one day. Until then, we don’t want to hear a peep about your nonexistent back. You’re not old enough to have one yet. 😉
Love to all.