Thursday, September 8, 2016

Green Thumb

A year ago tonight, we got the call that my uncle (and godfather) lost his battle to esophageal cancer. Prior to his diagnosis 19 months earlier, he'd been the picture of health. One of the best things I can say about him is the absolute passion and zeal with which he lived his much too short life. The list of his accomplishments is extensive, but tonight I want to share a story about this great man.


My uncle loved to garden. Each spring, he planted thousands of seedlings. At one time, he had three gardens going, in addition to tending the church garden. Among many other things, growing food from the earth was certainly a passion that he shared. As such, he was a wealth of knowledge about all things plants and was the guy we asked whenever we had a question.

When Sophia was in pre-school (I think 4 year-old, but it could have even been 3 year-old), they read the story of Johnny Appleseed. Her wheels are always turning, and she started pilfering apple seeds to plant because she wanted an apple tree to grow in our yard. Knowing that planting trees from seeds outside is not always successful, we told her we'd have to ask Uncle Andy the best thing to do. And he, being the generous soul that he was, gave Sophia her own sapling that he cut from one of his apple trees. It was about 18" tall. Sophia and my dad planted it in our backyard, and then we waited. We prepared her that for the tree to really have apples would take years, and that she would probably be in high school before it happened. There are a few crab apple trees in our neighborhood, but not many apple trees for pollination.

The first year, a deer took a several nibbles out of her tree. We weren't sure it would make it.

But it did.

Then last summer, as we knew it would be Uncle Andy's last summer, Sophia discovered three apples growing on her tree. I didn't believe her when she told me. But she was right. Her tree had apples. Almost unbelievable, considering the tree is only about 4 years old.





The last time we went to see Uncle Andy, Sophia picked the apples, and we made applesauce for him. He wasn't able to swallow much, and I don't know that he actually got to eat it. He passed away about a week later.
















This year, we had an unusually warm winter that caused the fruit trees to bud early, only to be damaged by a heavy frost. There are no apples this year.

I really felt that the apples last year were a fluke and had something to do with Uncle Andy. The lack of apples this year reinforces it.

To a great man, our own personal Johnny Appleseed... may we all have such a passion in life and for life.

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