A pain-filled fall and winter got worse as we headed toward spring: the few times I went out, I caught something.
A cough that wouldn’t end.
Worn out and afraid of falling, I rarely even went into the garden.
Stuck in bed, I tried to write my way back to sanity and health.
“You’ve relapsed,” the specialist said flatly during my hospital visit.
“Guilty,” I replied. “Sorry.”
“Do NOT feel guilty,” she answered. “It was an awful winter. All my patients with complex injuries had a very tough time.”
“But your immune system is also weak,” she warned. “Be very careful this spring.”
And I was.And then.
It was gardening season.
Day after day, my husband worked hard in the garden.
I watched, feeling entirely useless.
He left, on an errand.
I spied a large crop of forget-me-not growing into the lawn from the garden beds. I know they bug him, and I know they’re easy to dig with a trowel. And so I thought I’d help.
A small thing.
A good thing.
I could do this. I crouched over the lawn and started digging, feeling useful. When the back and leg pain intensified, I lay on my front, face just above the grass.
I dug, sneezing as dust went into my nose.
Then I spied a few dandelions nearby. Now I crouched over them, trowel engaged.
“Stop!” said my wiser self.
I meant to.
In just a few seconds.
My sense of time did not kick in. It rarely does.
When I got up, the pain almost knocked me out. I staggered. Stumbled. Fought against falling, my cane desperately trying to find purchase in the ground.
“Cynthia! Cynthia!” came the panicked shout.
I had not heard my husband return.
I ask you: which is worse?
To watch your partner struggle to do the gardening duties that you loved doing — on top of everything else on his plate? Or risk even worse pain — and his distress — by doing a few small gardening things to help? Some days, I’m almost used to the pain. It’s with me all the bloody time.
But the guilt? I never get used to the guilt of watching him do all the gardening work. It drives me nuts.
“Why do you do this?” He shook his head, frustrated and angry. “You know better!”
Yes I do.
So I’m obeying the doctor. Again.
Sparing my husband distress. Again.
Trying to cope with guilt. Again.
All stuff that requires a person to be not just smart, but wise.
So far, so good.
Wish me luck.
Dedicated to all gardeners who are struggling due to age, illness or pain. And to the caring people who help us: thank you.