Everything is bananas right now.
I’m cautious speaking this aloud because some people are having a dreadful time. I’m not. Sounds bananas to some, I’m sure, but I’m thriving in this time out. I feel reconnected, recharged. I’m finishing projects around the house that I thought would take me years to tackle. I’m working, writing, following coaches and healers, practicing self-care and mindfulness . . . I’m never bored. I don’t hate this collective pause.
The battle of the bananas
This weekend, I chose to battle the bananas. Every year, I set out to get rid of them, but as I begin, my heart softens (the flowers are so pretty!), and I thin them instead, knowing they’ll be just as fierce next year.
Today, I cut down the dead ones, the tall ones tangled in the dead ones, alternating between swearing at the tangles and apologizing to the ones I took out by accident. Even though the execution feels powerful and fulfilling, it’s anticlimactic looking back on the finished job. The raggedy patch of banana trees probably looks a little worse than when I started. I take comfort knowing the patch will fill in nicely in about a week, and I’ve given the slain trees a last hurrah as a carpet of weed-block to help choke out that incessant Virginia creeper that creeps in from the arboretum.
Next on my to-do list today: the juniper tree. The first weekend of the quarantine, I leaned against the tree and I could feel the dead roots give.
I messed up.
About four or five years ago, mom was visiting. She was already talking about forgetting, worrying about her mind. But she was still comfortable driving an hour and a half from the farm to my house. She would make special trips just to help me out, attend a choir performance, watch a game. I’m not sure why she came that trip, but she was working in the yard.
What can I do to help you?
Do you want to work on this area? These weed trees under the fig tree are out of control.
Just that week I had already trimmed the juniper tree, fashioning a hanging basket area. I had eight to ten pots hanging from the two main branches.
What about this tree?
I already trimmed it. See? I use it for my hanging baskets.
Where’s that . . . Mom made a sawing motion.
The saw you gave me? Right here, in the green house.
She loves that little tool, and I get it. Slices right through! I used it to slay the bananas.
The juniper tree day was a weekday. After I gave her the saw, I went inside, back to work. When I came out a couple of hours later, the weed trees were all down. So was most of the juniper.
I stopped in my tracks as I came around the greenhouse. I guess she looked up just before I wiped the dismay off my face.
Uh oh. Did I mess up?
Over the last three years, she has used this phrase quite a bit: I messed up. In that moment, I felt our roles clearly turn that parent-child corner.
No, no, it’s OK. I hadn’t planned to chop it down, but . . .
Maybe it’ll grow back. There’s still . . . she motioned at the trunk area.
Yeah, maybe it’ll grow back.
Some things grow back. Some things don’t. The banana trees will grow back. The juniper didn’t.
I think I was OK with mom’s condition, knowing that I could spend good quality time with her on a regular basis, encourage her in her battle. We’re beginning our fifth week of quarantine with no clear end date, and I feel less OK about it.
I’m thriving, but I’m sad. The distance from mom and dad breaks my heart. The isolation is hard on both of them, and I know the burden and sadness of dealing with mom’s Alzheimer’s alone is exhausting for dad.
When are you coming back?
I don’t know, Mom. We have to wait until after the virus.
Post Covid-19, some things will go back to normal. Some won’t.
After the shelter-in-place is lifted, I’ll go back, start my regular visits to the farm. Normal? I know I won’t pick up where I left off with mom. But we’ll pick up where we can. We’ll miss picking dewberries together, but maybe I’ll be back in time for blueberries. I’ll miss her birthday. Probably mother’s day too.
Today was a good day. I used the saw mom gave me to thin the banana trees. Then I pulled up the juniper. I knew it wouldn’t recover. Mom won’t either. Virus or no, everyday, someone is losing grip of something. That life my dad enjoyed with mom for over 60 years, his grip on it is slipping.
Thriving and hope
From time to time, I feel a little survivor’s guilt swell up, but I swallow it down. I’ve had both a new acquaintance and a dear long-time friend tell me: “It helps to know some people are doing well. Thanks for sharing. It gives me hope.”
So I am sharing. Cautiously. I’m feeling blessed and grateful, even as I move through the grief for the distance, the grief for this nation, for this planet. My thriving is just a drop of hope into an ocean of fear, but maybe it’s just the drop someone needs.
Post virus, some things will still be bananas. Things will get better, some things might even be better. But some things won’t. We might not be able to pick up where we left off, but we’ll all pick up where we can and, hopefully, do our best with what we carry forward.
©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2020.