Today one of the rescued roses in my garden bloomed, we cut our last peony of the year, and my mother forgot who my father was.
* * *
I ‘rescued’ some roses from the discount plant section at Lowe’s, where root-bound, sawdust-filled pots of flowers that have moved past their bloom are left to die in the heat of the parking lot. They’re 50% off, and 50% off roses is, as far as I’m concerned, a terrific deal.
And the peony was a transplant that got stashed in its pot in the backyard for a month longer than it should have, because the sewer project was digging up the backyard and I had to find new homes for all the garlic and climbing roses and lily bulbs.
So it was late to bloom, and only gave us four cabbage-flowers, but they were spectacular.
The rose is deep red, very classic, and smells wonderful. The peony started coral pink, faded to pale pink, and is now brightening to white in its final stages on the dining room table. My mother loves peonies. I bought them for her.
* * *
She was angry and upset and frightened this morning, because she didn’t know who this man was who was asking her if she needed to use the bathroom, or if she wanted to change out of her nightgown. Imagine! Changing out of her nightgown in front of a stranger!
“Do you know who he is?” I asked, pointing at my father.
She gave him a passive-aggressive side-eye and said nothing. Her anger is sharp and devastating.
“Do you know who I am?” I asked.
“Yes,” she replied immediately.
“Who am I?” I countered, irrationally angry at her for being angry at Dad.
She paused there, obviously stuck. She KNEW she knew me, but she wasn’t quite sure who I actually was. “Don’t worry about it,” I said, regretful that I had pushed the issue. “Let’s go look at the flowers in the garden.”
My father, saddened as he always is when she forgets him, retreated to his office to write, and I helped my mother change into clothes, and we wandered through the neighborhood, looking at trees and flowers and enjoying the sunshine.
By the time we got back and had an early lunch, she was content to sit and watch TV with me. Her mood can change from panicked to angry to tearful to laughing in mere seconds. It is wildly disconcerting. It is exhausting.
When Dad came back inside she looked up and smiled at him, clearly fully aware of who he was.
“Do you remember who I am?” he asked her.
“Yes I do, Mr. Phillips,” she replied.
“Oh, good,” said my father, and kissed her. “You forgot me for a little bit this morning. I was worried you’d confused me for one of your other husbands.”
“Well, I mean, I have so MANY,” she said, and laughed.
* * *
This evening, after I helped my mother brush her teeth and change into her pajamas and tucked her into bed – because these are things she can no longer do for herself – I loaded the dishwasher and changed my shirt and drove back over to Lowe’s, and spent a long time wandering through the discounted plant section.
50% off mostly dead annuals isn’t good for much except priming a compost heap, but 50% of perennials is a different matter. I bought four more. At this point, I’m not buying the flower, I’m not buying the show, the display in the window.
I’m buying a plant that will be need to be de-potted, soaked overnight, hard pruned, roots trimmed, fed and manured and repotted and soaked and drained again, and will likely not flower again this year.
But it might next year.
So I suppose I’m buying something that – no matter what the next year brings to our family – has a chance to grow, and be beautiful, and live.
Beautiful and so perfect for a not so perfect world. Glad you are able to spend time with mom and dad…..and the plants will be back next year.
I am sorry for what your Mom is going through but soooooo happy that she has you to lean on.
Stay strong and take care of yourself also. Sending good thoughts and prayers your way.
At the most difficult times, Martha, you seem to find the most empathy, patience, and guidance to be able to guide your patients through. Your Mom and Dad are so blessed to have you there at this difficult time. You and your family are thought of often and heart hugs are coming your way.
When I woke up today, this was the first thing I saw on my computer and read it immediately ( a couple of times ) and cried. Bless you for being there. I’m sure it can’t be easy at all. I’ve learned so much from reading your stories…your real stories of real life. What a devastating disease for people to go through (and their families and friends). May your flowers always bloom.
My heart goes out to you, your dad and mom. Thinking of you all.
As always, Martha, graceful, heartfelt–and heartbreaking as well–but isn’t that the way with everything meaningful? Your father writes; not a surprise. You certainly inherited the gift, and what a gift he himself–and his sense of humor– must be, especially now. It is difficult to read the stories about your mother, remembering what it was like taking care of my grandmother through her dementia, while trying to work on my college degrees. But there were moments of release: the way her eyes lit up when the Lawrence Welk show came on (bless that cheesy program). And moments of catharsis, though I had to wait till the very end for her to not only recognize me, but really see me–the granddaughter she called ‘my kid’–and remember our life together. As she looked at me, the cruel fog of dementia lifted to reveal her eyes so clear, open and brimming with loving tears, and she whispered her last words to me. She chose them well, and they remain the greatest gift I have ever received, apart from her wonderful, quirky self. Remembering can be as hard as forgetting, but I thank you and your writing for helping to bring memories of my Nana closer.