The Grandpa plant: remembering someone I loved

If you thought that story was odd, here’s another even less explicable.


Confession: Once upon a time, I noticed a beautiful plant in a loosely monitored location. It may or may not have been the windowsill of my grandpa’s nursing home. Okay, it was. I made sure the plant was hearty enough to withstand a little pinch. I felt around in the dirt at the edge of the pot until I could extract a single root. I wrapped it in a damp napkin. Then I brought it home and planted it. (I told you before I have occasional problems with plant snitching.)

I named it the Grandpa plant until I could find out what it was really called. I love having plants that remind me of special people. I have Yvonne’s lily and Marlene’s philodendron and my mom-in-law’s Bethlehem sage and Cynthia’s spider plant and April’s creeping jenny and Aunt Rose’s oregano and the kids’ columbine and Sherry’s cilantro… and so many more. Even after I knew this one was technically “purple shamrock,” I called it “the Grandpa plant” for short. Kind of like how Robert goes by Bob.

I enjoyed it for several years, and watched it grow.

That was the story of the Grandpa plant until this spring, when I brought all my houseplants into the laundry room for their great annual shake-up – pruning, transplanting, and regrouping. I had noticed the Grandpa plant was not doing as well as I would have liked in its deep crock; it had grown better when it was cramped. I dug out all the roots (there were a surprising number of them, like mini bulbs), and placed them carefully into a smaller, shallower pot. Then I put the collection by a window – a different window, which was my big mistake.

They all died.

Every stem keeled over and bit the dust, and only one of the bulbs produced a new shoot, a baby thing of hopeful promise until it, too, collapsed.

I was horrified. I’d killed the Grandpa plant, and now it was gone.

Several weeks later, as I filled a jug of water at my laundry room sink, I saw something odd coming up in my African violet pot. You won’t believe this, but it was purple shamrock – the Grandpa plant – just two little curls of leaf, sturdy and determined.

I had not planted it there. I’d never grown purple shamrock in that pot. In the great annual shake-up strange things can happen, but this one felt like a resurrection. How did it get there? How did it survive when my careful tending did nothing for its brothers? (Don’t even think that snarky thought – you are suggesting I babied the others into an early grave?)

I watched it grow, delightedly.


Soon it had five stems or more, and one day as I looked at how the leaves of the shamrock intertwined with the leaves of the African violet, my eyes opened wide.

That violet came from my grandma.

I’d not thought of it before,
but of all my two dozen houseplants (and countless outdoor varieties)
it’s the only plant I have from
Grandpa’s
wife.

I like to think of him in heaven, and her in Ohio, and their plant starts twining together beside my sink.

Spoiler Alert: When Jesus healed my freezer

“What is that awful noise?!” I said.

“Bdddrrrrddrrrrrdddrrrrddrrrrr,” replied a throbbing vibration from the laundry room.

I hurried in to look, and found the door of my upright freezer hanging open several inches, the contents melting, and the motor making a fearsome racket. “No! Son, when I sent you for bread an hour or two ago, did you really leave the freezer door standing open?”

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The string cheese incident

Once upon a time in the aisles of Aldi, I came up against a stranger at the cheese cooler.

She was tall and trim, with lush curly hair. She flashed a megawatt smile at my daughter and flitted through her purchases, energy oozing out of her. We chatted a little.

“String cheese, string cheese,” she said to herself. “Don’t tell me they’re out. I need some for children’s church tonight!”

I was looking for string cheese too, and helped her look. We scanned the shelves together. “I don’t think there’s any here,” I said. Suddenly her hand shot out and snatched (I do not think “snatched” is too strong a word) a pack of string cheese from the cooler right in front of me. A single pack had been sitting out of place on top of another cheese box.

She practically hugged it. “Oh my goodness!” she said, her face alight. “Jesus put this here just for me! Isn’t He so good?! He knew just what I needed!”

By now I was thinking two things.

  1. You are a beautiful lady of courage and charisma.
  2. Did He also give you permission to snatch it from in front of me?

I said something kind, since I don’t fight with strangers [only sisters and husbands], and stood there scanning the shelves one last time. On the highest shelf, out of its usual place, sat an entire box of string cheese packages.

“Look,” I said. “Here’s more.” And I took down a package for myself. “Do you need more packs?”

No, she only needed one. She bubbled on her way, a radiant lady.

I admire her still, and I do not tell this story to paint me as the good guy: I would have liked to snatch up that cheese myself. I tell the story because I began to feel, after a time—not at first—that what she did with cheese, I might be doing with quarters in Aldi carts.

I began to wonder if The Miraculous Provision of Jesus Just For Me is sometimes code for Being a Better Snatcher? We Christians have an easy handle on this brand of selfishness.

“Pass it on,” those liberal strangers at the carts always told me. And I did. But I wonder how often I found a cart outside the store without an owner, just sitting there waiting, as I said in my last post, and mentally added …for me!

I want to be a NonSnatcher. That’s why I started taking a quarter of my own. And if I want to walk forward another step and become a Giver, my little envelope could probably hold two…?