How does my garden grow?
one month following mom’s death 5/25/12: Dad is very weak. I took him to the garden anyway. It’s been raining all week so the flowers are blooming like gangbusters. He loves sitting even in the slightest hint of sun and strips off his shirt to warm his bones. There is so little flesh on them, not much to speak of anyway. We discuss each plant, taking note of how many inches this one has grown, if there are any new leaves or buds, he leaves nothing out. They are like children, each with a personality, what mood are they in today?
Going back in the house has to be done in relay segments, he is so tired. Climbing the steps takes every ounce of effort. I’m in awe of his determination. He doesn’t complain or whine, instead, he bears down as if in labor. He braces himself for the next step and all it will take from him.
In the house now, we have about five steps to cross the threshold to his room and the edge of his bed.
You don’t know how fast I want to get into my bed now, he said with a chuckle, still three steps away.
Lickety split? In two shakes of a lambs tail? I felt a sharp pang as soon as these old fashioned expressions of mom’s passed my lips.
Dad sank to the edge of the bed, quickly, his knees giving way with relief. He lay back panting with gritted teeth. When the dust settled and his breath was peaceful, he said, Well kid, I‘m getting weaker, day by day. I don’t want to scare you, but if upstairs isn’t ready for me, I have to wait, but if upstairs is ready for me, I can’t resist. That’s the way of life.
Then he talked about each person in the family, how the kids will take his passing, how my husband Tim will be. He’s the black cat of his family. What, Dad? You know black cat, misunderstood. I thought maybe dad was having a bit of dementia, until I realized he meant that Tim was black sheep of the family, the Ohio born artist, who ran away to NYC, striking out on his own, against convention. He reminisced about the first words he ever said to Tim: Take good care of my little girl.
sometime in June: Once the passionflower bloomed, I desperately wanted dad to see it but he could no longer walk or even stand. One warm day, Tim scooped dad up in his arms like a baby or a bride, lifted him off the bed, down the steps and carried him along the garden wall so he could see and smell the passionflower blooming on the vine for the first and last time in his 92 years of life.
three days after he died 7/6/12: Suddenly everything I look at hurts. The garden. The tree he planted. the things that he loved remind me so acutely of him. My stomach hurts. I’m suddenly a ten year old – it’s like when I’d be at a slumber party, hit by a wave of homesickness in the middle of the night. Dad would have to come and get me. I remember him fetching me at the door, driving me home in the dark and putting me back into my own bed, safe and sound. It’s like he’s left me at a giant sleepover in the big wide world and now there’s no way for him to come back, pick me up and take me home.
I forgot the physical pain that comes with grief. My body hurts all over. I need to take it slow. I need to paint and to write.
Today 10/29/12:Those gerbera daisies are in full, crazy bloom, don’t they know that Hurricane Sandy is sweeping its way to us? Mom’s high school friend sent her a little pot of these daisies in the hospital, the week before mom died.I planted them in the garden and they have been quietly, greenly growing, no second blooms all summer long. Suddenly this weekend they exploded into this ridiculously lavish cluster of multicolored daisies, spanning several feet across in the back garden where dad used to sun himself. I filled several vases this morning with them, waiting for the rain to hit.
Images: dad looking at the gifted gerbera daisy plant at first bloom in May, same plant in it’s second bloom, today, about six months later.