I Have Sunflowers
When my mom’s health began to wane, I began to take over her yard goals. This was not an easy task. When most seniors start to take down their living spaces, give back little doodads, my parents did the exact opposite. They sold the two story house, bought five, (yes five) lots and built my mom’s dream house. Their motto for a good marriage was "whatever my mom wanted, he made it happen for her," and this wasn’t an exception. It took two years to finish, and we ended up with five lots of groundskeeping that never is caught up. The pool helped take space, the front yard is managed by a company, and we all try our hand at finishing the back lot. We do it for my dad. I do it for her.
I had a little thing I did. I would plant giant sunflowers. I would clean out a large area out of the space, of which we had plenty, and made a garden that she could see from her chair. I know it caused her pain inside that she wasn't the one out there, but that is how it goes.
Last year was the last such garden she got to see. As the sunflowers grew, we would look out the window and she always had such a distant, melancholy stare. I knew then that she would never plant a garden, or feel the dirt she loved so between her fingers. I know we both were sad about it. One day, the flowers started to open. I ran in and opened the wooden shudders. “Look Mom, the flowers are opening! We will grow more and I will put in different types next year.” I tried to act as if this were the plan, and so did she.
Her smile was getting weaker, but it was still beautiful to me. In fact, as I realized she was going to die, I began to memorize the little nuances of her expressions so that I wouldn’t forget them, and I have not. “I love those, Babe. Next year...” She stopped pretending and I felt the tears welling in my brain, getting ready to spill out for the rest of my life.
“Yep, next year, Mom, next year.”
We stopped saying “next” anything after that. It seemed empty and foolish to make any plans beyond our new realm of simple, like what she would eat for her next meal. I think that is what hurts the most. When that ominous moment arrives when there is not going to be another spring, another summer. It was all going to be buried with her. Don’t try to be strong, it is futile. If this is your parent, that has already passed, or in the process of packing their hearts for the infinite journey, memorize everything. I wish I had taken more pictures, answered her every phone call, and visited more. In part, this is my journal of her last days. I wish she were here to see it.
Yesterday, I grabbed my tools, the seeds and went to the empty house that is exquisite and sits on five lots. I couldn’t make myself plant where she would have seen them. Instead, I made a new area in the front yard. I cleaned the dropped leaves, pulled weeds, and planted a pack of giant sunflowers. She will never see them, and those who can will never know how stunning they used to look in the back by the pool that she could see from her chair. I just couldn’t do it. My will is stoic, my heart broken, but my memory is alive and filled with little things from my life, from our lives together.
In a few weeks, there will be stalks that are thick and green. There will be a yellow flower that is as large as a plate, and it will be a fantastic flower that makes the house even more alluring. I will follow this up next year with another garden filled with different varieties of a weed that is perfect and shouldn’t have that title.
As I care for this little farm of wonder, I will look heavenward and tell her how great our crop has turned out! In my heart, I will hear it. “It looks great, Babe! Just great!”
I have a sunflower garden. It is for my mom.