Way back in 1997-1998, when I was really getting into gardening here on my corner of Katy, I began visiting the Garden Chat folder on AOL's gardening forum. Gardeners from around the country posted there to talk not only about their gardens but about what was going on in their day-to-day lives. The folder had that feeling of a close-knit community, where you'd lean on the fence or stroll across the street to share news, trivia and rueful complaints about your life with your neighbors. At a time when I was absolutely enthralled with learning about gardening and wanting to know more, each time I read the posts from gardeners around the country, I came away happy to be a part of that community.
When Sally from Maryland's daughter got married, she sent an e-mail to a group of us who had expressed interest in seeing the pictures from this event. From the reply-alls that were sent amongst the group, the GardenBobs were born: 20 gardeners from around the county who didn't want to give up the pleasure of those e-mails and the friendships that were becoming stronger and more important to all of us. One of those gardeners was Jeanie, who lived in the same suburb of Maryland as Sally and had even met her once or twice, but didn't connect until they both joined AOL.
In the fall of 1998, I traveled to Washington, D.C., to stay with a friend I'd known since junior high days and to meet some of the DC area gardeners I'd met on the Garden Chat folder. Much to the concern and puzzlement of my friends here in Katy, I was met at the airport by Sally and Jeanie. Back then, the Internet was still a big scary place to many people and the horror stories were rampant ... but I knew these women and counted them as friends, even though we'd never seen each other before. I walked off the jetway and into their hugs, and off we went on a delightful weekend together. They have been ever more cherished friends as the years have passed and we have shared so many of our joys and sorrows.
I write all this with a heavy heart because I learned this afternoon that Jeanie died unexpectedly this morning. Jeanie had some serious health problems earlier this year but we had hoped she was on her way to overcoming them. Sadly, she was unable to do so. Although her health problems had prevented her from being at the computer for more than a brief note for many months now, the Bobs have a legacy of messages from Jeanie to treasure.
I have to admit, before I met her in person, I was a little scared of her. Jeanie was one of the most determined and tenacious people I have ever met and she was never hesitant to tell you how she felt about a particular issue. She was passionate about her opinions but open to hearing what others had to say. All of us who knew her were aware that there was quite literally nothing that she would not do for her family and friends. Jeanie didn't wait to be asked: she stepped in and offered whatever she could of herself in support of those she loved. For many years, she worked as a medical transcriptionist and she retained most of what she learned from that job. When one of the Bobs had a health issue to confront, we could be sure that Jeanie would be first to do the research and provide us with information that was pertinent and helpful.
I learned after my first phone call from Jeanie that when she called, it would be necessary to drop everything, settle into a comfortable spot and prepare to talk for a couple of hours. Or more. It was always time well spent and I'd come away feeling warmed by our conversations. I know she was a great source of support for me in some difficult moments, and I believe I was for her too.
Jeanie loved her gardens and provided us with many humorous moments describing her husband T's assaults upon her plants. T is a man of boundless energy and when he had nothing else on which to expend it, he'd grab some clippers or loppers and wreak havoc (without informing Jeanie first, of course). He's fortunate she didn't take them away and use them on HIM, considering some of the depredations her plants suffered at his hands! He did stay away from her pond, however, which was Jeanie's favorite part of her garden. Each spring, we'd hear about her cleanout efforts and she'd report on Franklin, the resident turtle, and the bullfrog count.
I take comfort from knowing that she is free of pain and reunited with the newborn daughter she lost many years ago and her beloved granddaughter, who died in a car accident in 2007 at the age of 18. I ask that my readers take a moment to send prayers of comfort, healing thoughts, positive energy and caring to her family, which includes T, daughters L & A and 3 grandchildren, as well as numerous friends.
You are missed, PondBob.