The tree planter

When my grandpa was in fifth grade he and his father decided to plant a Red Maple tree in their backyard in Missoula, Montana. My grandpa said he remembered how small that tree had been when it first started growing, “about as thin as a broomstick…” When he was a kid my grandpa's family moved around a lot so he didn’t have the time see that tree grow up the way that he wanted to when he was younger. Still, he never forgot about it. Even as the years went by that little Red Maple tree was tied to a special memory of him and his father doing something good together, and that was important. In fact, that memory stayed so strong in my grandpa’s mind that 50 years later he decided to go back to his childhood home and check up on that same tree. He said that when he saw it again, he noticed that it still stood just where he and his  father had planted it, except for now it wasn’t small and thin as a broomstick, but tall and beautiful and strong with branches reaching up toward the sun. To see it there made my grandpa proud.

Since that day in the fifth grade, my grandpa has been on a journey of planting trees at every house he has ever lived in. He  made a promise that he would do that for the rest of his life, and so far he hasn’t broken it. When I asked my grandfather what he thought that trees might have taught him about his life, he said without hesitation that they have taught him about resilience. "Trees can get through just about anything," he told me. "They can grow just about anywhere and then stay there for hundreds of years. Animals can build their homes in them, all kinds of weather can hit them, and yet they still stand tall and strong.” I think that’s what resilience really means, and now when I look at trees, I think about my grandpa. I think about all of the special trees that he has in his life, and how he planted each one of them just so he could watch them grow.