My grandparents were always–and still are–a source of great inspiration for me.

In the dictionary alongside the definition for “work ethic” is a picture of both of them. Most likely
with something in their hands. When I was about 10, my grandmother would call our
house line (I don’t know why I say that–like in 1974 there was any other kind of telly…)
and ask me, “What did you accomplish today?” No pressure or anything. These two
folks had more stamina than has ever been available to anyone before or maybe since.
Even after decades of working third shift, my grandmother would still keep an
immaculate home and garden and assist at our family home and those of my aunts and
uncles with their chores. Big stuff, too. Like painting, stripping old cabinetry, ripping out
old shrubbery. Whenever I feel a spell of lazy coming on that question still rings in my
ear. “Plenty of time for rest in the grave,” Grandma would say. They were generous
and hardworking and helpful.

Both were gardeners. Behind their garage, they had a veggie patch that produced
volumes, even before “square foot gardening” became a vogue term. I liked to hang out
with “Black Joe,” as my grandpa was called, and since he was in the garden, so was I.
From this experience I learned that when you put something small in the ground, it will
root, grow, reach for the sun, and over the course of the season, bring some very
amazing things to eat. I especially loved –and do to this day–the grassy taste of green
pepper. There were ornamentals, too. I specifically remember a stand of yellow yarrow
and being eye-height to it on a hot summer day in Lackawanna, New York. Wash
hanging on the line behind me. The garden was part of the home.

All these years later, I understand how these lessons, those seeds planted, have come
to be such an integral part of my life and my story, all connected over time from the

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