Mom wasn’t perfect. She shredded tires on barbed wire, broke some things—hearts included—, lost her patience, and had to be pulled out of ditches and bogs. But when I see the evidence of her imperfections, like the divot from the day she jammed her Kubota in the ditch, I smile. What lives on is her energy and spunk, a trail of bright, scattered flowers that return every year to remind us.
What lives on is her humble largess. Humble and large sound contradictory, but they capture her.
What lives on in our hearts is her generous spirit and presence.
You know what else lives on? The flowers we planted together eighteen months ago. When I see them now, I have clear visuals of her jumping right in to be present with us, whether that meant putting on the garden gloves to dig in the soil or stripping them off, along with her hat and ear protection, to be fully present.
I write for myself, but I certainly hope part of me lives on through my words. I hope it’s the good part. And I hope mom lives on through me.
What will live on when you’re gone? What gems will fall out?
©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2023.
Planning (Planting?) gems
My headlights shine on the twelve risers to the front porch.
Planting in the dark
We’re not fans of standard time.
Mums to replace the amaryllis
A new raised planter on the back porch
We move bulbs, empty pots, scatter soil, then collect it and fill the containers with new life.
Mums, pansies, petunias, and some twenty more I can’t name
Her play blanket:
- blooms for glee
- dead leaves for busy
- arrangements she can fuss over and water
Thick as thieves
We’re having fun! Thieves in the night, moving things about in darkness.
But Alzheimer’s is the real thief, not us.
I used “we” loosely. Alzheimer’s took it, so I plant. We can’t because she no longer remembers how.
I arrange the planter, mix the soil, arrange the plants while she busies herself with what she remembers: collecting leaf debris and scattered soil.
These are things she would have done anyway, along with weeding, turning the soil in the seven pots I didn’t touch, and more.
I’m my mother’s daughter but she’s more —has always been more than me— in a garden.
“I broke off the dead ones.”
Us vs. thieves
What do thieves take from us? What do they leave behind? How do they change us?
“It’s so dark.”
We’re not fans of standard time. Nor of Alzheimer’s, weeds, dead gardens, loss, grief…
Do we become a pile of scattered shards of what we were? Or do parts of us, the nearly tangible parts, turn in the chaos of disease, loss, and grief, rolling over and over smoothing edges, polishing the surface, until out of the vortex of this thievery falls a gem. Different, yes, but with a gift.
I think of Michael J. Fox and the gifts we’ve received from him on his Parkinson’s journey.
After our garden thievery in the dark, I draw mom a bath. I’m happy that, after a difficult day, she found joy in the flowers and dirt.
I have other “important” things on my mind, but I decide to roll in the vortex of the evening, allowing the edges to smooth, turning away from the shards of my day and to-do lists.
And I’m rewarded. I see the joy on her face as she slides into the warm bath. She’s still more than me, gives more than me.
To polish off the bath, I scrub her down with nearly-forgotten bath salts. When I get to her feet, she starts giggling and wiggling, laughing as if I’m tickling her on purpose. I haven’t seen her face so bright in more than a year.
The shards of her —the yards she used to mow, the giant garden she used to keep, the cleaning, the cooking, the painting, the fixing— will continue to dig into our feet on this journey, but there are gems in the moments. And if we roll with those moments, if we do better with the time we have with her, we become smoother, shinier, better.
Before I leave for the night, she gives me a big hug and kiss and tells me, “Thank you so much. I’ll never forget this.”
But she will forget. Add it to the pile of shards. But I won’t forget her giggle and smile, the gems that will carry me over the shards.
©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2021
What a legacy your mom left. Visible and invisible.
Legacies have been on my mind a lot lately. What will I leave my chicks and chicklets?
I love hearing your stories. Bittersweet now but growing more and more sweet with the passage of time!