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Thanksgiving and Grandma’s Garden

By Dennis Toman, Certified Elder Law Attorney  © 2016 All Rights Reserved.


Harvest time and Thanksgiving just seem to go together, wouldn’t you agree? Now when autumn fades and winter approaches, it feels right to give thanks for what the year has brought, treasuring fond memories while also smiling about good times to come. Ah, harvest time! For gardeners and anyone with a farm background, harvest is a special time of year.

Harvest proves the results from many months of planning, preparation, planting, tending, praying, trusting, nurturing and just plain hard work. Every farmer and gardener knows that harvest can’t come before the planting, and planting can’t happen without planning and preparation. Those are great life lessons, including for estate planning.

Memories of Grandma’s Garden

When I was a young boy growing up in North Dakota, my grandparents were farmers. And I remember the huge garden that my Grandma Patzer tended behind the trees in front of the pole barn. I promise you it was close to an acre… well, at least it seemed that way to me! She tended it all by hand, with a hoe and many buckets of water. Each spring the garden took shape from cold flat earth, which she transformed (through much hard work) into neatly hoed rows and hills ready for planting.

I especially remember helping plant seed potatoes. Grandma had saved potatoes from last year. She stored them with the rest of the harvest in the outdoor root cellar, which was tucked under a large mound of dirt with a door leading underground. There vegetables kept safely all winter, even in the frigid North Dakota winters. When spring came, we cut last year’s potatoes so that each piece would have an eye or two, and planted each piece into hills of soil in the garden. I thought we would never reach the end of the long hills for planting!

Before long the garden was in full swing thanks to sunny days, warmer temperatures and (hopefully) rain. Naturally it needed lots of hoeing and watering and pruning by Grandma…and her helpers…to reach its potential. It provided vegetables throughout the summer, until the final harvest when cold weather claimed the garden patch once again for the winter.


By the time Thanksgiving dinner arrived, the ground at my grandparent’s farm often would be covered with snow and we’d be ready for a long winter. Warm inside the house around Thanksgiving dinner, we looked through frosted windows at bare tree branches that now revealed the sleeping garden. With our extended family gathered we’d enjoy mashed potatoes, canned beets, peas and beans, along with onions and squash and other vegetables from the garden. And of course wonderful pumpkin pie…I can smell it now! It’s amazing how a whiff of pumpkin pie can bring back memories of years of Thanksgiving dinners in an instant in my mind’s eye, and then that thought lingers in my heart.

A Time for Thanks

Enjoying Thanksgiving dinner (and many other Sunday afternoon dinners on the farm), it was easy to understand that what we had on our plates wasn’t there by accident. It was there because Grandma made sure it happened through her determination, hard work and love. That’s a tremendous gift I treasure today and give thanks even more as the years pass.


Again this year it’s time for Thanksgiving Day, when we give thanks for the blessings of life provided to us like a bountiful harvest. Truth be told, we have lots to be thankful for every day of our life. This time of year… at Thankgiving… is a wonderful time to reflect before plunging into the Christmas Season and another New Year.

Where Does Harvest Time Find You?

If you’re a senior or a boomer planning for the second half of life, you’re “harvesting” in retirement what you’ve grown through a lifetime. Your “harvest” includes many things, including your finances, your health, your friends and your family among others.

And just like farming and gardening, where you are now depends on your decisions and actions to date. And also like farming and gardening, some things are out of your control, because even the best tended garden can be devastated by pests, bad weather, or just plain bad luck (like when the cows get out and wander around the garden for an afternoon).

I hope that the next whiff of pumpkin pie (or your other favorite dessert) can take you back to times you enjoyed with loved ones you hold dear in memory. As John Greenleaf Whittier wrote:

“Ah! on Thanksgiving day….
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl  smiled before.
What moistens the lips and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich pumpkin pie?”

Wherever your life has brought you this Thanksgiving Day, may your blessings be many and your gratitude overflowing. If you’re planning ahead for the second half of life, we’ll be here guiding, caring and protecting along the elder care journey.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dennis Toman, JD, CELA
and Founder of The Elderlaw Firm in Greensboro, North Carolina
For more information, please visit or call us at (336) 378-1122.

© 2016. Dennis Toman. All Rights Reserved.

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