Gardening was something my Granddaddy Hewell flat-out loved doing. He had no sense of landscape design, but he had two green thumbs, and that’s enough because as a little girl, I didn’t give a twit about what was planted where, I only cared about spending time with my granddaddy.
He grew day lilies, and it seemed to me as I stood there beside him surveying the back yard, that they went on forever (or at least into the next county). They certainly filled the land as far as my little 3′ high eyes could see. Every day after work during day lily season, Granddaddy came home, changed from his banking clothes to his gardening clothes, and we headed out to deadhead, plucking the spent blooms and tossing them in a trashcan. We told each other the highs and lows of our day, and once that was done, we worked silently. Side by side.
Granddaddy had a greenhouse – a real glass greenhouse – with raised tables and a hose and spigot and everything. Inside those four glass walls, he started seeds to give them a head start on life, and nursed ailing plants back to health. One year we spent the afternoon of his birthday working in the greenhouse, Granddaddy stood on the ground, his hands busy in the dirt, while I stood on an upturned wooden box next to him asking questions (many of which began with “Why?” or “What if?”) and, every now ‘n then, fetching him what he needed.
Mother, Daddy, and I had recently moved into Granddaddy and Grandmother’s house to help Granddaddy tend to Grandmother who’d had several strokes and had to have everything done for her. While we worked in the greenhouse that day, Mother was in the kitchen, and before Granddaddy and I even knew we were hungry, she hand delivered two of the most beautiful cakes you’ve ever seen: a birthday cake with chocolate icing and yellow embellishments for Granddaddy and a kid-sized matching cake for me.
His whole face broke into a smile, and he did that little understated chuckle that meant he was very pleasantly surprised. Me, I danced a happy, happy, happy jig. It was Granddaddy’s birthday, and I got a cake! Mother had never made me a Jeanne-sized cake before, and I liked it. I liked it a lot. So as we ate our birthday cakes right there in the greenhouse (Mother didn’t even make us go inside and wash our hands!) I posed what was likely the best idea I’ve ever had: I suggested that Granddaddy have a birthday every . . . single . . . day. Though he didn’t say it in so many words, I could tell he wasn’t so keen on the idea, but I believe given half a chance, I could’ve sold it to Mother.