I am as old as my grandpa was then, the first summer I came home from college. It was around Father’s Day. I remember and I remember the present I brought him too and how his face lit up seeing me carrying it across the yard.
He was sitting on the front porch. Grandpa sat on the porch right much. Sitting on the porch was his way of staying clear of grandma when she was watching her stories or giving herself a permanent and making the house smell all strange. That particular day he wasn’t sitting on the porch to avoid the tears grandma was bound to cry when something went bad on one of her stories, and he wasn’t trying to avoid the noxious fumes from the chemicals that made grandma’s hair curl up real good. That day he was waiting on me. Since I started college, I hadn’t seen the old man very much. He missed me, even though he never got around to saying so. I missed him too.
“Whatcha got there, Buzz?” I remember him asking as he pushed back in his rocker watching me struggle across the yard under the weight of his Father’s Day present.
“Happy Father’s Day,” I beamed proud of what I had bought him this year, a big improvement over my usual gifts. That year, I decided, someone else could give him underwear and socks; I was going to give him something he could enjoy forever, a tree, and not just any tree. It was a special tree; a tree one of my professors at college had developed. Grandpa like trees, especially fruit trees though he had little space in his millhouse yard to grow them. There was a crabapple tree, a pear tree, blue berry bushes and grape vines, loaded with bees in the spring and grapes in the fall.
“Just what kind of tree is it?” he asked growing curious at the spindly shrub looking thing that looked like a cross between a pine tree and a dog wood. He became even more curious when I told him.
“It’s a banapple tree,” I told him before going on to tell him how special it was and how my professor created it and how they were selling them all over the country and even the world and how some of the money was going to help support the college’s athletic teams. With this, I stopped and reminded him we won the championship again that year.
More interested in the tree than football and basketball, he listened until I got back to telling him how he and grandma were going to have more apples and bananas than they could eat from the skinny little tree we would soon be planting.
“You might have to even give some away like you do your tomatoes and squash,” I told him. Grandpa was big on his little garden and always had an abundance of vegetables spilling off the things he planted.
“We’ll see,” he said still wearing his curious look and suggesting we get a shovel and get to planting. What my grandpa said bothered me a little, because grandpa only said “We’ll see,” when he wasn’t buying what was being sold. Like when the men running for mayor came by politicking every few years saying they were going to reduce taxes and get rid of the drug dealers.
He’ll see, I remember thinking, reminding myself that grandpa was an old man who never finished school and had no idea how smart my professors were and their professors before them. It wouldn’t take long not according to what my teacher taught me. By the fourth of July, grandma wouldn’t have to buy bananas for her pudding and apples for her pies.
“Just come right out and pick’em,” my grandpa said echoing what I told him as I followed him around the yard dragging the tree as we speculated on the best place to plant it.
“Full sun, full shade, it doesn’t matter it will grow anywhere,” I promised him. ”It even grows in the moonlight,” I added throwing in, “reflective photosynthesis,” and a few other big words my professor liked to use when taught us the nature of things and how this tree could endure global warming and global cooling, another motivating factor behind his creation.
Then grandpa asked if the tree I was dragging around was male or female suggesting that was something to consider. I told him the professor had all that figured out too. This tree was a modern tree.
“Gender neutral,” I told grandpa just like the professor told us when he explained the science behind his creation. Grandpa shook his head and tried to smile.
We got the tree planted and watered just before grandma called us in the house for supper. After that we watched the Braves game on grandma’s three channel TV. Grandpa suggested we let what kind of tree I had bought him be a surprise for grandma with which I went along. Grandma liked surprises.
It was a long summer, waiting for the bananas and apples to come spilling off that tree. It did bloom twice before I went back to school but not being able to make pudding and pies from blooms, grandma and grandpa still made their regular trips to the produce aisle of the Piggly Wiggly.
“It is a pretty tree,” my grandpa said as he saw me off to college that fall, when it was just me and him sitting on the porch. Then he made me promise I would come home for fall break so we could go fishing. The spots should be running by then. Then, he made me make one more promise.
He made me promise that I would not let school interfere with my education, which was not a hard promise to keep, when I thought about the banapple tree.
This a work of fiction dedicated to those who teach us the difference between wisdom and knowledge.
Edward Reed 2019