I tried last weekend. I tried again today.
I couldn't bring myself to pull my withered old cherry tomato plants from the ground. The rest of the tomato plants went last week, and the green pepper bush was listing to the side today, so I jettisoned it too.
But last week, I fully gleaned every last red cherry tomato from the bushes and decided to leave the others on the vine to ripen. I didn't expect much, and today I set out on the sad end-of-season task of cleaning out the vegetable garden for good. But there were about three cups of newly reddened cherry tomatoes, with more still to come, if frost holds off.
These last tomatoes are really sweet. I needed tomatoes for a kitchen project I have planned for tomorrow, and it is a gift I don't take for granted to have land that grows produce mere steps from my back door. Some of the tomatoes had split but many were still good. I pulled every good one off and saved them for tomorrow's recipe.
As I looked among the dried brown vines that scarcely look as if they could hold themselves up, let alone pass life-giving nutrients on to the little fruit at their ends, I thought of my grandmother.
My grandma will be 91 and a half in a couple of weeks. She's had a crummy year or two compared to the rest of her life, but compared to most people her age, she's doing great. She moved into a retirement home nearly a year ago after a bad fall at a party. Once that broken hip healed from surgery, she had a little tussle with a bath mat that left her with a broken pelvis and wrist. That was in March.
I thought we were going to lose her then. Really, I've held my breath about her for the last few years -- although when I sent her flowers a few years back, explaining that I would rather send her flowers while she's living than at her funeral, she tartly declared that she had plans to be around for a while longer yet.
She had her feet up when I called the other day -- she was tired after doing a half hour on a stationary bicycle in the gym. At 91 and a half, she's doing what she can to regain her mobility after a fall. Most people don't: for most people, a broken hip signals the beginning of the end.
Realistically, the end will likely be sooner than later, both for my grandma and my cherry tomato plants. Death and frost come to us all eventually.
But, there's my grandma, still producing fruit, still sending out love and life to all her little cherry tomatoes, even in the late October of her life.
I'm not plucking those plants out of the garden until I really, really have to. No matter that my garden would be tidier, that I could cross that task off my list. Nope. Not while it's still doing what it was made to do. Not while it still has life.