When did my mother stop caring about plants and flowers? When did she begin to think of them as work she had to do, even when she received bouquets of flowers from friends or family? When did she stop listening to the birds chirp outside at the feeders? When did it all become simply too much work for her? How on earth does loving something equate to having too much work to do?
She’s 93 now, closing in quickly on 94. Is this the problem? If we live long enough we’ll stop loving? The idea is so foreign to me I can hardly speak it. Surely that won’t happen to me, or will it?
Even five years ago, at the age of 88, my mother went with me to a garden center, where we picked out a beautiful pale pink hydrangea for my yard on Yale Court. Even five years before that, when she was only 83, we bought a beautiful French Hybrid Lilac for the corner of our condo yard, out by the trellis that Dennis had built us, at Whisperwood. Surely I won’t stop loving my garden when I’m as old as my mother.
I always watched her in our yard in Pensacola, Florida, when I was just a child. I’d watch her pampering her plants, bringing in living vines to put in the crystal glass dish on the living room coffee table, as she settled down to play the piano and sing for me. I thought my mother was the most beautiful creature who had ever lived, and with the voice of an angel.
And now, she’s a shell of her former self, living in an assisted living community, where she receives excellent care, but no longer wants to have flowers around, or plants; she wants no books to read; no tapes or videos will be left in her room. Nothing. Nada. Just the weather channel on TV and a few pamphlets she likes to read again and again, from some evangelistic preacher.
If I live long enough, will this happen to me? Will I ever fail to notice when the iris bloom, when the peony opens up for the first time, or when the quail walk across the patio? Will I ever decide I’m too tired to watch birds at a feeder? Or that I don’t have enough energy left to love anything?
I do so love touching and nurturing my plants, love seeing them thrive, just like my own children and grandchildren. And I always have. Maybe that’s the difference, the secret we must remember. At least I can hope.