Best In The Box

Like a box of chocolates- you never know what you’ll get with your aging mother. Sometimes, you put your finger in the middle, and feel an OMG-I-can’t-believe-we’re-doing-this-again piece. Others are harder to the touch, but taste more like OMGosh-I’m-glad-I-got-to-share-this-with-her-today. Yesterday, was one of the latter....

The day progressed predictably enough with a quick trip to the gym (“me time...”)...thena little real estate work, then a meeting, then some birthday party planning, then a quick trip to the grocery store, throw in a load of laundry and some dinner prep, and – whew... I was exhausted. It was 3:00 and I couldn’t wait for a little break in my day (more me-time).

An absolutely spectacular sunny, sun-soaking, SPF 70 kind of day...not a cloud in the sky. The kind of day when worshipping pundits like myself ponder important possibilities like public, private or tide beach? Patio or backyard? ...that kind of beautiful day.  OR... I could just take a nap.

Relishing the thought of well-earned rest, the nap won. I began shedding my gym clothes (still sporting them 8 hours after the fact...), got my blanket out... reached for the the blinds, and.... CRAP!... Is that Mom out there on her back step? In and of itself, this was no big whoop. But the speed with which the guilt rushed to my brain was almost crushing.

Earlier that day, during my morning Mom-check-in (who lives Right.Next.Door.), I extended a potential gardening date for later in the afternoon. Back in my pre-employment days, Mom and I would spend hours “out back” tending our shared garden. She would get right in there with me... pulling weeds, staking Peonies, clipping and pruning anything and everything, and digging to China for good root depth. At 91, she’s not the mover she used to be, so now it’s pretty much me in the garden, receiving expert instruction from the Master. She’s the brains, and I’m the gardening brawn. It’s an equitable arrangement that seems to work ... but only in the garden.

Seeing Mom outside, I re-robed and stepped outside to say hello. My plan was to assess the situation, secretly hoping she’d forgotten our potential gardening date, and was perhaps just getting a breath of fresh air. Nope. The good news is that she was very clear about her purpose for sitting on the steps (“I was waiting for you...”). The bad news was that my nap was definitely not happening now.  

Luckily, when Mom feels joy, I know it! Her interest and intent on getting into that garden could not be misinterpreted... no hidden messages... she was absolutely giddy about gardening. Once I got over my pissy, “what about me?” attitude, I was all in. Mom’s need to be in the garden, became my personal permission to be in it myself.

Then came a moment that highlighted the ongoing changes in my mother’s life. She remained on her step, hesitant to navigate the ten feet between the step and the table. Granted, this patch of dirt had been blown up by hungry worms and greedy rabbits, but just a month ago, she wouldn’t have thought twice about teetering on over. So I went to the shed, got her “cart” (aka walker), and we rolled into our garden.

While I was knee deep pulling weeds, Mom talked... and talked. But it was good talk.... Not like the daily indoor talk about meds and bills. The range of our outdoor topics was astounding....stories about family and old neighbors... historical facts about our home and yard (we’ve been there for generations), plant names (both Latin and local), current events (but never personal politics), what-ifs about everything and anything in life... and even in death.  

While the conversation meandered topically (Mom has a lot of pent up conversation to unleash), I peeked from the weeds, and saw signs of awe and wonder on her face.... like a toddler in their first eureka moment. She was delighting in nature’s simplest things ... the owl in the tree, the new (hole-digging, plant-eating) bunnies, the birds in their house, and the (ridiculously thorny) 100 year old rose bush... Her cup runnethed over, making my job just that much easier.

Two and a half hours later, we were done for the day and rolled back to Mom’s house in time for the evening news (routine does matter). Later, when I brought dinner, she was oozing gratitude and we both got a little sappy... Mom – because, with help, she was able to get out to her beloved garden. And me - because I’d been reminded of what’s important. I’d been reminded that Mom’s days may be numbered, and that she needs me to help her make the most of them. I’d been reminded that nature matters.... and that sharing it with Mom was an excellent reason to miss my nap. Any day.

Emily GaffneyComment