Author: Melissa Klein

From the Garden | NeNe’s Legacy

From the Garden | NeNe’s Legacy

More than future flowers are stored within the cells of a bare bulb.

Last year my friend, Cindy, gave me two amaryllis bulbs from her Grandmother’s garden. Having met NeNe and experienced her kindness, I understood what a precious gift I’d received. Cindy thought enough of our friendship to share part of her beloved grandmother with me. I carried the paper-wrapped bundle in my lap on the ride home.

Upon my return from Alabama, I planted the bulbs in the best-dug hole possible. And waited for spring. Tiny stalks poked from the ground in early March, and I carefully covered them from the frosty mornings.  When the flower formed, I calculated the days until they would open, only to realize I would likely be out of town when they bloomed. Fortunately on the morning of my trip, I was able to capture the attached photo.

While waiting, I contemplated the gifts I will leave. What treasure will my children and grandchildren share as a symbol of love, friendship, and affinity? A cutting from my garden, a recipe, a copy of one of my books? Will they look at zinnias and be reminded of me as I am of my Grandmother-in-Alabama when I see a dahlias?

If so, I couldn’t ask for a better legacy than to have my family share with a friend something that reminds them of the love I have for them—just as Cindy did.



This interview takes place six months after Hank and Mia finally get together. They’ve move to Sope Creek, North Carolina where they’re adjusting to a new town, new careers, and new love. I finally convinced Hank to talk to me after weeks of nagging. He agreed on the condition we meet at the place of his choosing. I expected him to say his apartment or the basement of the Methodist church where he attends his daily AA meetings. He picked the park. After driving around in-use baseball fields, playgrounds, and skateboard ramps, I finally found the fenced-off area where the park meets a good size creek. Entering at the gate, I find Hank tossing a tennis ball to a Golden Retriever mix that looks to be about two.

Melissa: You got a dog?

Hank: (he shrugs) Yep. Susan and I are in training. She’ll eventually be my service dog. (he gestures to his eyes). You know. When the inevitable happens.

Melissa: That’s cool. I know you and Mia have a lot on your plate, so I appreciate you talking to me.

Hank: (Tosses the ball to Susan) It’s fine. Whatever. Glad to help.

Melissa: What would you like my readers to know about you?

Hank: (His whole body stiffens) I really hate talking about myself. Now, my Mia, she’s someone worth spending a word or two on. But, if you have to know about me, the most
important things are that I was a throw-away kid, just like Mia. I grew up in foster care. The navy and Mia have been my family and my salvation. I recently learned I have two step-brothers and I’m slowly getting to know them. My navy buddies, Titan, Opie, and Bash are the best mates a guy could hope for. Thank God they helped me see how much I need Mia and that my “issues” don’t need to keep me from her.

Melissa: Why did you become a navy pilot?

Hank: Doesn’t everyone want to fly? The thrill of being catapulted off the deck and the challenges of landing are bigger thrills than anything I’ve ever experienced—excepted for making love to Mia, of course.

Melissa: At what age did you first meet Mia? What did you think of her then?

Hank: I was four years old when newborn Mia was brought to the Gilbert’s foster home. She was pink, wrinkled, and screaming her head off. My first though was, “she’s pissed off at the world just like me.”

Melissa: What is your first meeting with Mia like, years later?

Hank: Mia and I have always kept in touch through email, letters, and visits when I was on leave. Following her accident and my discharge, we really started spending more time together while she recovered at the hospital. Her tenacity and determination blew me away. She’s the most stubborn, brave, and beautiful woman I’ve ever known.

Melissa: Did it shock you when you discovered you have un-brotherly feelings toward Mia? What did you do to suppress these feelings?

Hank: Those un-brotherly feelings shocked the hell out of me, and I had no intentions of acting on them at first. I fought the attraction. Man, I really tried. She was engaged to Tripp the Fucker, after all. She’d suffered a traumatic brain injury, and I was losing my sight. What could I possibly do for her other than be another burden. She saw through all the barriers I threw up, called me on my shit. How can a guy not love a woman as brave as Mia?”

Melissa: If there’s one thing you could change, what would it be?

Hank: I wish like hell I didn’t have retinitis pigmentosa. Of all the things I could have gotten from my no-account father, why did it have to be that? If it weren’t for that, I’d have more years of seeing my beautiful Mia. We’ve also decided to adopt from the foster care system rather than possibly pass on my genes to another generation. I would love to see her belly grow ripe with my kid. On the other hand, if I weren’t going blind, I would be out on an aircraft carrier. I wouldn’t have been there for Mia when she was attacked and recovering. She and I likely wouldn’t be together, and we wouldn’t be giving a couple kids a chance we never got. So, maybe I don’t regret anything after all. Maybe like Mia says, “Things happen for a reason.”

Hank and I take turns throwing the ball to Susan for a while longer. Neither of us says anything, of importance. Just talk about the weather, how much this area of North Carolina has grown, and how cute Susan is. After a few moments Hank turns to me.

Hank: Anyone else getting the interview treatment, or am I the only lucky one?

Melissa: I thought I’d head down south and see what Grace and Bash are up to. Bash owes me a couple favors I plan to cash in.

Hank: Do me a favor?

Melissa: Sure. Anything.

Hank: No softball questions. Really let the big guy have it.

Melissa: (smiling) My pleasure.

…Check back soon for my interview with Sebastian Baron, aviator, author, arrogant son-of-a-gun