You Say Tomato

This past week, I drove my daughter to Atlanta to help complete her move to St. Augustine.  The problem with living at the beach, I’ve come to realize, is that I’m not a very happy girl until I get back home.

But I made good use of my time away by booking an appointment with Andrew Johnston of Triumph Training, one of my favorite people in the whole world.  He’s been my trainer for seven or eight years, and he’s a truly great person.

During the workout, as we were catching up on the past four months, the longest I’ve gone without seeing him, Andrew asked how I’m feeling.  The truth is that I feel wonderful, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been, but I just had a breast thermography that showed a few suspicious spots.   It’s not what I wanted to hear, not after the botched biopsy I had two summers ago.

Andrew said, “I want you to think about something.  The heart is the closest organ to your breasts.  Maybe by presenting as a problem in your heart chakra, your body is trying to tell you to open your heart.  Do you have trouble giving or receiving love?  And how much do you love yourself?”

I don’t know much about chakras or energetic healing, but I do know this:  the very first time I had a suspicious mammogram was the same year I filed for divorce.  My husband had just left me for a much younger woman, and I had vowed to never, ever be that vulnerable to heartbreak again.

The day after my appointment with Andrew, I met my grandfather for lunch.  While Andrew Johnston is one of the great people I know, my Granddad is the greatest man on the planet.  He was one of the original tough guys, growing up during the Great Depression, liberating POW camps at the end of World War Two, and loving the same woman for over sixty years.  Eleven years after her death, he still tears up at the mention of her name.  I’ve said before that I won’t remarry until I find someone as good as he is, but those aren’t the reasons why I feel that way about Granddad.

When I was eight or nine years old, my grandparents picked me up from school one day.  They took me to dinner, and then they took me shopping.  They wanted to buy me a pretty new dress for my upcoming piano recital.  I’ll never forget sitting in the backseat of their powder blue Ford sedan and saying, “I don’t really want a new dress.  What I want is a softball glove.”

I saw them exchange glances.  Grandmom was trying very hard not to laugh.  Granddad didn’t say a word, but when we walked into the department store, our first stop was sporting goods.  Then we went to find a dress for my piano recital.

It probably bothered them that I wanted a softball glove rather than a new dress.  Nevertheless, the message they sent to me that day was that they loved me and weren’t interested in forcing me to fit their mold.  But that’s still not the reason Granddad’s my hero.

After lunch the other day, Granddad handed me a huge grocery sack full of his homegrown tomatoes.  He’d gotten tickled during the meal as I recounted my attempts to grow my own tomatoes this year.  I spent a good deal of money hiring someone to plow me up a 5×5 foot patch, work in some organic fertilizer, and divert my sprinkler system because my well water is too salty for tomato plants.  I ordered heirloom seeds and cheered when they poked their little heads through the soil.  And to date, all that work has yielded six perfectly formed tomatoes the size of my kitchen cabinet knobs.

Granddad’s tomatoes are giants compared to mine.  He’s so good at growing tomatoes, in fact, that this year, rather than growing his own, my uncle simply bought two tiny plants, took them to Granddad, and said, “These are mine.  Please plant them in your yard and grow them for me.”

My mom tells me that after I was born, Granddad used to call her when he got off work in the afternoon and ask if he could come see me.  “She’s sleeping,” Mom would often tell him.  But she says that didn’t matter.  Granddad would simply come sit next to my crib and watch me sleep.

That story tells me all I need to know about how much I am loved and adored.  Thinking about being abandoned by my husband, the man I loved, troubled me until I decided to see myself through Granddad’s eyes.  Now, as I contemplate Andrew’s advice to open my heart so that I can give and receive love, I picture myself handing Granddad the tiny seeds of my self-love and saying, “I know they’re ultimately my responsibility, but please plant them in your yard and grow them for me.”

It’s going to be a bumper crop.

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