Volleyball Grandpa let the screen door slam behind him as he left the house and headed across his lawn towards the court, giving me a one hand wave along the way. He wears flip flips and jean cut-off shorts; his skin is brown to the point of being crispy from spending so much time tending and playing his beloved game. It is unclear what came first, Volleyball Grandpa or the volleyball court. The only certain thing is that he is the unofficially official ruler and overseer of the park and the volleyball court contained within it.
After four years of living in rather close proximity, I think he is starting to recognize me. The pregnant waddle and belly certainly helps his ability to pick me out of a line-up. When he waved, I felt like I was being recognized by royalty. I have yet to be invited to a volleyball game, but there is still time for that particular honor.
From my observations, VG spends most of his time playing volleyball, prepping the court or chasing off prospective court infiltrators. He lovingly rakes the sand in the court and edges the grass around the perimeter, he picks up sticks and drags heavy fallen tree limbs towards the road for the street crew to pick up at the end of each week. He goes so far as to put out bright, yellow cones between the stop sign and park entrance stating, “Slow Down. Kids play here.”
What the sign might say to convey his personal message more clearly is, “Keep driving if you are looking for a volleyball court because this one is taken but do it slowly.” VG is not above calling the police on vehicles that fail to heed his warning which occasionally prompts the presence of a cop car and a stake out of the area for rolling stops and speeders. Absolute criminals, in VG’s mind.
Earlier this summer, a day came when maintenance and policing of the park was no longer enough to keep VG satisfied in his civic duty. And perhaps out of an overgrown sense of ownership, VG decided to try his hand at horticulture. (Why not? He had the undisputed space of the entire city park.) It was then that a pathetic fruit tree appeared with a black, protective plastic around its base and a few branches barely strong enough to support the flock of three sparrows that took up immediate residency at the top.
Every day, VG watered the little tree and then put on his magnifier glasses to inspect the branches for pests which he pinched off with two fingers and shooed the birds off with his skinny arms. People walked by the little tree in wonder of its sudden appearance and later with an even greater amazement when the little tree began to flower and produce peaches. The little tree was a literal head turner.
“After just a few months of being planted, how it that possible?” I asked my husband, somehow expecting an answer to the unknown.
I suspect that Miracle Grow may have played a hand in the incredibly early and health growth but will give most of the credit where its due. Mother Nature was at her finest, combining the elements to create little peaches that given time would have become juicy and delicious fruit. Unfortunately, it is an opportunity that will have to wait until next Summer. Between the birds and the people of the trail, it wasn’t long before the tree was stripped bare.
So VG is back to tending the volleyball court and I am back to watching him. Not even with VG’s best efforts could he protect his tree from the forces of the world, a risk he knowingly took. Yet, he still gained pleasure in caring for the tree, watching it grow and bear fruit. He didn’t need to eat the fruit to know that it would have been good and he doesn’t need to get permission from the park to know that he will definitely try again next year.
Maybe next year, he will add a cherry tree.