Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Newsy news

I know I've been spotty on my postings of late, but what can I say? It's the usual end-o-spring-semester madness. This year, it has been made even more challenging by my decision to plant early spring flowers in the garden. Usually I wait until classes are over before turning my attention to planting the ornamentals. Now I remember why I always waited.

Anyway, everything is looking fair spruced-up and sparkly, which is a good thing, since I am having my Landscapes class over for a cookout tonight. Our last couple of classes have focused on the Landscape/culture of the suburban lawn and garden, so I am feeling not a little pressure to have mine looking nice. But it is nearing mid-day now, and I have decided that while it is looking presentable, I simply cannot get everything perfect before the cookout, so I might as well stop, sit down in the shade, and get caught up on my posting. So, here is a bit of news about one of the things that's been going on:

Last week I drove down to San Angelo for a couple of days to be with my mother while she had surgery. My mother has bulbar palsy, a progressive nerve disorder that ultimately results in the inability to talk or swallow. She's lost a lot of weight this year, primarily because it has become a real chore for her to eat without choking. So as of Thursday, she now takes her meals in liquid form, directly through a tube into her stomach. It occurred to me, the first time I watched the nurse pour a can of Ensure into the "peg" tube, that my mother has suffered many such indignities as she has aged.  Even so, she has endured them with quiet grace. I am struck by the importance of this lesson.

To me, however, one of the most troubling results of the bulbar palsy has not been her difficulty with swallowing, but her inability to speak. Unlike me, my mother has always been a very sociable person, who never walked into a room of strangers. And all the while she was losing her voice over the past few years, she was not losing her mental capacities at the same rate. So imagine how frustrating and heartbreaking it must have been for her to move, after my father's death last year, from her home of many years to an assisted living facility, and then later to a nursing home, all the while handicapped in making new friends by her lack of language. Still, she seems to have managed to make some friends, even without words. She plays bridge once or twice a week, and people seem to miss her when she's not there. And the nurses who tend to her many needs seem genuinely to feel affection for her. In fact, when she was being transferred back to the nursing home from the hospital on Friday, I witnessed something remarkable. I was waiting in her room when one of her regular nurses came rushing in, saying, "Frances is back!" in the same sort of manner one might announce that Elvis has just entered the building.

Perhaps it is the power of her innate kindness, undiminished by a lack of language, that creates this affection. I don't know, but again, it strikes me as important. Eighty-six years old, mute, wheelchair-bound, suffering daily indignities, and still never meets a stranger. Would that I had that sort of superpower.

So as I drove back to LBB, I was wondering what to make of it, thinking, as I have so often the past few years about what lessons I can take from it in the matter of how to age gracefully, when I spied these prairie winecups along the side of the highway. For some reason, they remind me of her.

In the Department of Other News: Unbeknownst to me, some bunch of you got together and nominated my post, "Sustainability and the 'hood" for a Mousie this year. The Mouse and Trowel Awards are considered by many to be the "Oscars" of the garden blogging world, so to say that I am tickled is understating things a bit. To imagine that that post is a finalist in "Post of the Year" is really nothing short of stunning.

To see the range of finalists in all their categories, click on the link below. Check them out--there are some really superb candidates. I think you can even vote, too, if you so feel the urge. To that end, I think the organizer, Colleen Vanderlinden of "In the Garden" is setting up a sidebar poll widget we can use for our category. If I can get it all worked out, I'll install it sometime today. Even so, you should check out all the other entries in other categories. Truly amazing and more than a little humbling.


  1. Susan,
    Winecups seem to be a strong wild flower. This seems to be fitting as a reminder of your mom. She seems to be adapting to her situation with dignity and grace. What is to be wildly applauded. Thanks for sharing this with your fans. Congratulations on the nomination. The Ant

  2. What a lovely piece on your mom and the quiet grace with which she manages to bless the world. She still has a voice, it's just not made up of words.

    And congrats on the nomination for the "mousies!" It's well deserved. Fingers crossed for you!

  3. Congrats on your post's nomination for a Mousie. :) Love those wine cups, and even more, love what you wrote about your courageous mother. Lessons learned, indeed.

  4. Ant--I do love those winecups, don't you?


    Nancy--I'm still learning from Mom. :-)

  5. Hi Susan -

    I have been a spotty poster and visitor too, but I have been thinking about you and am glad to hear your news, even if some of it is rather sad. Your poor mom. I know I don't have that kind of grace, as much as I admire it in others. Even without a voice, I would find a way to complain about my circumstances, I'm sure! Glad that you could visit her and I'm sure she appreciated it a lot.

    Beautiful wildflowers, never seen those! They look almost like purple California poppies in your photos.

    Congrats on the Mousie nom, that's great! You totally deserve it. :)

  6. I'm so glad to find your blog, and what a touching post about your mother. After my grandfather died years ago I started having tea with my grandmother (who herself never met a stranger) every Thursday. It was wonderful to hear all of her jokes and stories again and again; I'm now so grateful that she did not lose this ability. Thanks, and congrats on the Mousie nomination; come visit me at InterLeafings sometime!

  7. Your mother sounds like a remarkable woman. It was especially poignant that I got to read it on Mother's Day.


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