Jody felt sad as he worked alone in the flower garden. He wished that Grandpa was here to help him. Hoeing weeds wasn’t much fun alone.
Mother came out the back door and crossed the yard to the garden. “Jody, I’m going to the nursing home this afternoon to see Grandpa,” she said. “Do you want to come along?”
Jody kicked at a clump of dirt with his toe. “I don’t know,” he said.
“If you don’t want to go, you can stay with Mrs. Knight while I’m gone.”
“I want to see Grandpa,” Jody said slowly, “but, Mother, he just doesn’t seem like Grandpa anymore.”
His mother smoothed back the damp wisps of hair on Jody’s forehead. “I know, Jody. When Grandpa had his stroke, it affected his brain so that it doesn’t work the same anymore, and he can’t do very much. But Grandpa is still Grandpa.”
Jody sighed. He wanted Grandpa to be the way he was before his stroke.
Mother smiled at him gravely. “It’s the way things are, Jody. When you were a tiny baby, all you did was sleep and cry. Someone fed you and dressed you then—the nurses do that for Grandpa now—but today you can run and sing and do things for yourself. You’re different from what you were, but you’re still Jody.”
Jody thought about that for a while. Finally he said, “I guess I’ll go see Grandpa with you.”
“Good! We’ll go right after lunch.”
Jody began hoeing weeds again. If Grandpa is still Grandpa, he thought, then he must miss his flower garden. Grandpa always spent a lot of time in his garden and looking through the seed catalogs for new flowers to plant.
His thoughts gave Jody an idea. He went to the small shed where the garden supplies were kept and hung up the hoe the way Grandpa had taught him so that no one could step on it and get hurt. Then he chose a clay flowerpot from a row of pots on the shelf.
Carrying the pot, he went back to the garden and looked at the bright clusters of flowers. The pansies were just beginning to bloom. Pansies were Grandpa’s favorite flower.
Jody chose the sturdiest pansy plant and dug around the roots carefully with a trowel. He lifted the plant gently, making sure that there was still plenty of soil around the roots, the way Grandpa had taught him. He put the plant into the pot, filled it with more soil, and watered it.
When Jody and his mother went into Grandpa’s room at the nursing home, Grandpa was sitting in a wheelchair. Before, when he’d been here, Grandpa had seemed like a stranger and Jody had held back, a little frightened. Now he went directly up to Grandpa, kissed him, and put the flowerpot on the bedside stand beside him. “I brought you a plant, Grandpa,” he said.
Grandpa looked at the plant, then at Jody—he was smiling. He could only smile with one side of his mouth, but it was a real smile.
Jody slid his hand into Grandpa’s and smiled back. Grandpa isn’t a stranger, he thought. He’s still Grandpa.