“I can’t wait for you to see the beautiful oranges growing on Methuselah this year,” my grandmother smiled as we walked through the grove.
“’Methuselah’ is a crazy name for an orange tree,” I declared.
“Methuselah was the first orange tree we planted,” she retorted. It has survived many storms, and hard freezes, not to mention major bug infestations, so, the name stands.”
“It was planted in 1963, the year I was born,” I said ruefully. “To me, the name ‘Methuselah’ means ancient.”
She shook her head. “Age is a silly thing to worry about. I’m proud of every single one of my eighty-four summers. I’ve survived cancer, open heart surgery, diabetes and various medical nuisances that would defeat most people my age. My faith in God keeps me going!”
I chuckled. “Remember last year when you went to the emergency room, and I was going through your purse, searching for ID?”
She pretended to ignore me.
“The only official-looking document in your wallet was a fishing license!”
“You guys may ultimately take my car keys and driver’s license, but I’ll never surrender my fishing license,” she vowed.
The sun was in its highest zenith, and cicadas stirred the humid air with their frenzied, insistent hum. Despite the heat, my grandmother was swathed head-to-toe in mismatched clothing, red sneakers, and a lime green hat. Maximum sun protection was the purpose behind this bizarre ensemble.
“How’s Kendall?” She knew that my husband and I were having problems.
“We don’t see each other much . . . we both work a lot of hours, and are rarely home at the same time.”
“Sounds like two ships passing in the night,” she remarked.
“It is what it is,” I said softly. “In the old days, we were poor and struggling, but during those years, we were a team . . . it was us against the world.”
“What changed things?” My grandmother never shies away from the tough questions.
“Now, we’re too busy to spend any time together. Even when we’re home at the same time, we’re typing frantically on the laptops, or reading reports, trying to keep up with the workload. There’s very little conversation, other than reminding each other to pick up the dry cleaning. Beyond that, there just doesn’t seem to be any purpose to the relationship. I’ve begun to think that we should just go our separate ways.”
“Here we are,” she interrupted as we walked up to the majestic old orange tree, known as “Methuselah.”
Inhaling the sweet fragrance of freshly turned earth and ripened oranges, I watched as she trained her expert eye on several limbs laden with fruit, before selecting one and gently plucking it from the tree. After my grandfather’s death, she started carrying his favorite pocket knife, which she used to deftly cut the orange peel into a tight, uninterrupted spiral to reveal the sweet, succulent treasure.
Handing me the spiral of orange peel, she asked,” What do you think should be done with this?”
“I guess it can be thrown away.” I shrugged. “Why keep it?”
“Don’t be so narrow-minded. The purpose of an orange peel is not limited to protecting the fruit from the sun and the elements. Once it’s removed from the orange, the peel can be used to make cattle feed or cosmetics. No part of an orange should go to waste.”
“What are you saying?”
“Everything has a purpose. Don’t be quick to judge something as useless . . . think twice before you throw it away. When I was sick, did you want to give up on me?”
“Of course, not! I’d never give up on you.”
She stroked Methuselah’s bark. “Like me, this old tree is scarred, but still standing, bearing fruit year after year. With careful nurturing and loving care, things will last longer. Relationships are like that, too.”
“So, you think I should try to work things out with Kendall? There are no guarantees our marriage can be salvaged.”
She smiled confidently. “One of my favorite verses is Leviticus 26:3 . . . ‘if you follow My decrees and are careful to obey My commands, I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit.’”
I promised to try.
A few months later, my husband, grandmother and I held a friendly competition to see who could catch the most fish. Guess who won?
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