I grew up shelling butterbeans and field peas in the summertime. Last week, my husband brought in his first giant buckets of vegetables from this year’s garden. He lined up his tomatoes and cucumbers in long neat rows on the kitchen counter. “Thirty-three of each. Can you believe it?” He pointed to the bucket of peas.
“Uh-huh,” I said, trying to remember how my grandmother froze tomatoes. And wondering how long it would take me to shell all those peas.
The next day I sat at the kitchen table shelling peas, my mind wandering through childhood summers. Mother called.
“What ‘cha doing?” she said. I told her.
“Reminds me of your daddy’s garden. Remember how much I hated it? Your daddy grew up with a garden and most folks in our neighborhood had one. Sometimes he worked in it by moonlight whistling, “Blueberry Hill” while I sulked inside the house. For years I hated his garden. Until September of 1982. He was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. The sun was broiling hot that day, but he never stopped smiling. The diagnosis didn’t seem to be a big deal to him. He got his bucket and said, ‘I’m going to pick butterbeans, and I said, ‘Let me go,’ and he said, ‘You don’t like picking butterbeans.’ But I wanted to more than anything in the world. So I did. Bugs and maybe a snake crawled by. It was so hot I had spots before my eyes, but I wouldn’t have left his side for anything. Finally he said, ‘That’s it.’ We went inside where it was cool and sat at the kitchen table drinking sweet tea and shelling butterbeans. That was the first time I’d ever shelled butterbeans with him. I told God I could do this for the rest of my life if He would just let your daddy live.”
A pause formed in the conversation.
Then she said, “He never stopped smiling shelling those butterbeans. Somewhere inside my heart I found the grace to smile with him.” My father died the following July.
Swallowing the lump in my throat, I decided to praise my husband and my Father for our glorious garden this year. “Plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them.” Jeremiah 29:5 (KJ)