I said, “Dad it’s not going to work, it’s gotten too big”. There was just no way to get it to pass through again after another year of summer growth. Our arms were bleeding from the long sharp thorns. It was becoming a bloodbath every time we moved it outdoors and this time was going to have to be the last move.
Ed was fascinated with plant life. He built a shelf along the windows of the old inoperative garage door and started seedlings there each year. His nursery contained an odd variety of specimens; avocado trees, peach trees, cherry trees, and pretty much any other fruit he ate that contained a seed. His prize and only true growing success was his grapefruit tree.
Starting out like most other plants, it broke through the soil and sprouted a leaf. Unlike most of the others, this grapefruit continued to reach for the sky. The plant was much like Ed, surviving through harsh conditions, overcoming illnesses, and just making the best possible life out of the conditions they each found themselves in.
The grapefruit tree had reached the point where the small cup Ed had started it in was no longer large enough to support it roots or weight, so he transplanted into a pot. As it grew, its home grew from pot to bucket to larger bucket and so on.
With the tree now being healthy and strong Ed decided to start putting it outside for the summer. Each year near the end of May he would carry it out into the backyard and place it in a safe sunny location. He continued to nurture the plant and guarded it from threat of both animals and kids by way of chicken wire.
The plant prospered in the summer sun and warm air. Before long he had to transplant it again…and again and as it grew he would commandeer help with each year’s move from its winter refuge in the utility room to its summer retreat in the backyard.
With the tree now residing in a wooden whiskey barrel it became too heavy to lift, Ed added wheels to the bottom of the barrel and a chain to pull it. The next issue became the back door, it wasn’t wide enough. Somewhere he got his hands on one of those solid wood, extra wide hospital room doors and replaced the smaller utility room door with it. He also created a removable ramp to safely roll the plant over the threshold. Ed and the tree were back in business.
Grapefruit trees are subtropical citrus plants and will not produce fruit this far north. That didn’t stop Ed. He would cut out pictures of grapefruits from magazines and pin them to the long thorns of the tree. He would then call out, “Mary, Mary come look at my tree”. Mom just played along with it each year knowing it made him happy.
School kids in the sixth grade where required to make a tree leaf collection and Ed’s grandchildren would proudly display the exclusive grapefruit leaf in their scrap books. It’s distinct shape and dark green color stood out amongst the other leafs in the collection but I think the grandkids greatest pleasure was in the telling of how their grandpa actually had a grapefruit tree growing in Northern Illinois.
In time the tree grew so large that the branches had to be lassoed with a rope and drawn tightly together to pass through the even now larger hospital door. The move was hard on the heavy tree. Branches broke and the long thorns tore into the arms of it movers. The grapefruit tree was taking a beating and Ed decided that he needed to plant it in the ground outside. We planned to build a solar tent to put over it in the cold months and hoped it would survive the winter. We never got that far. My uncle, who fancied himself as a tree expert, convinced my dad that the tree needed trimming. He offered to trim it for him.
I pulled into Dad’s driveway and found him standing there looking kind of lost. I asked him if something was wrong and he said, “You better come take a look”. The “expert” trimmed the tree down to a stump… a two foot high branchless stump. What was once a handsome sprawling tree now resembled a stake in a horseshoe pit. Needless to say, Ed’s grapefruit tree did not survive.
This Spring I started an avocado pit with my granddaughter Julia. We put in a glass jar and staked it up with tooth picks. Julia would check the water level each time she visited. Yesterday I transplanted the one foot tall plant into a pot…I can picture Dad smiling …