Of course, I'm not comparing my mother to a vegetable garden. But there are some parallels.
Both are givers. The garden, sustenance for our bodies. My mother, her love, her prayers, her blessings.
Both are takers. The garden requires my physical presence, hovering to make sure I harvest at just the right time before the zucchini turn into zucchini bread right on the vine, the tomatoes don't become tomato sauce, and the beans become tough and chewy. It has to be kept watered, just enough, but not too much that the vegetables become watery.
It's all one grand experiment this year of my first garden in 13 years. My friend, Sue, helped me in the garden yesterday and chided me for how crowded the rows were.
"I was greedy," I responded, but three rows per bed will be more appropriate than four.
I thinned madly yesterday, and suddenly stood up and took a deep breath, as I was imagining the garden was doing now that it could breathe without interference from encroaching leaves from other plants.
My mother requires love, time, energy, endurance, patience, and physical presence, hovering just a little to make sure the water in her cup by her sofa doesn't make the inside of the cup slimy from sitting too long, making sure the knife the caregiver uses to cut up her oranges is properly cleaned. For months and months I would come in and find dark and crusty orange rind caked to the serrated edges. I would rant. Finally, after years of that knife perched dirty on a napkin, every day it's in the dish drainer--clean.
Every week or so I tweeze her "feathers," what my great niece Tai calls those pesky whiskers that us women are prone to as we age and our hormones desert us. Mom puts her head back and closes her eyes and I tweeze away. She loves it, being nurtured in that way.
I comb her hair, even though at this point it's often a lost cause, especially when her perm is gone. I make her doctor appointments and take her to the doctor, helping her maneuver her walker into and out of the office and into and out of the bathroom twice on each visit. I lose my patience at the time it takes. I pause and wonder who will wait for me.
Today she needs cash for her hair appointment, yesterday she needed prescriptions at the store. The day before she wanted pain medication for the vascular disease that is plaguing her. The day before that it was medication for the gout she got the first time in her life.
When crises come, and they have many times over the last ten years, I am always there. I sometimes chafe at the interruption to my life, but then I remember the words of my good friend, Bonnie.
"This may be the most important work you ever do."
I hope there is more work for me to sink my teeth into when my mother is gone. But this work I do with her and for her, is indeed important work.