As Spring approached each year, my Great Aunt Bertha Schumacher seemed to blossom right along with it. Her favorite flower was the Crocus, and while I can agree that they are beautiful, the fact that they last for such a short time, makes them a flower that I hadn’t really considered as a favorite, or even given much thought to once they had faded away for another year. Nevertheless, for Bertha, Spring was a time to feel alive again. The long winter was finally over, and she and her sister, Elsa reveled in the beauty of the flowers, as they drove their horse and buggy to school in the mornings. Bertha called the drive to school, one of her wildest joys, because the Crocuses were so abundant in the fields along the road. The view must have been amazing!
The Crocuses she would see around Boulder, Colorado later in life grew much taller in the mountains there, but on the prairie, they grew in sheets, and they were magnificent. I can only imagine how amazing they must have looked along the road as the girls went to school. It would be enough to give you a horrible case of Spring Fever when you got to school, and had to try to apply yourself to your studies. The only time I can remember seeing flowers that dominated a field was when my sisters and I visited our sister Caryl in Bremerton, Washington and we took a drive up to Bellingham for the Tulip Festival. That was magnificent, so I can somewhat relate to Bertha’s feelings on so many flowers in one place.
Another of Bertha’s favorite flowers was the wild Tiger Lily, which grew in “unbelievable abundance” in the lake country near their home in the Fargo, North Dakota area. The wild Tiger Lilies grew only where the ground had not been “turned by a plow” and in the 27 years the family lived there, they saw them completely disappear. The family occasionally saw the wild Tiger Lilies when they were driving home from Minnesota. They were always so tired, and then they would come up over a hill, and there would be a whole field of them., They got so excited. They stopped to pick some of them, and then go to enjoy them for days.
The only spring plant that Bertha thought was a worthy rival to the crocuses and lilies, was her mother’s strawberry plants. the strawberries were planted at the edge of the garden so they could be easily picked, and often the early ones were picked and eaten long before the main harvest. The strawberries grew so large that they could not hide among the leaves and were easy to see. Of course, as with any garden, there was weeding to do, but nobody seemed to mind, because as they worked, they were reminded of the luscious harvest to come. Great Aunt Bertha, and her sister, Elsa loved to garden in her later years too, and tried to transplant some of the wild Tiger Lilies and the wild Crocuses into their own garden in Boulder, but they just wouldn’t grow. I guess that some flowers will only grow where they choose, and not where we wish they would…unfortunately.
My mother-in-law is in the hospital tonight. Her age, Pneumonia, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Diabetic related Kidney disease are taking a toll on her body. We don’t know how long she will be with us, as she is in and out. When she is somewhat lucid, this dear sweet lady is asking us things like, “Do you want me to make you some breakfast?” or “Did you feed that brown dog?” Here she is very ill with Pneumonia and very messed up electrolytes, causing her to hallucinate about things like the crocheting she used to do, and the pets she used to have, yet she is thinking about doing for others. She isn’t moaning and complaining about how much she hurts, and demanding that something be done for her. She is thinking of others…or she is resting quietly…asking very little. She just weaves her story as she goes along.
She has always wanted to make sure that guests didn’t go away hungry, and so offering to make breakfast for Kevin, Corrie, Amy, and Josh isn’t so unusual, but she hasn’t cooked in years, so you would think that she wouldn’t bring that up. That is what Alzheimer’s Disease does though…takes away your present and leaves you only the past. She lives in an alternate reality…a review of the life she lived. Much of what she says makes sense only to her, and those who knew her in her young life.
I mentioned the dog question to my father-in-law, telling him that I had assured her that we fed the dog this morning. He said the dog had to be Brownie, a dog they had when Bob was a baby. A picture popped into my head…a picture of my sister-in-law, Marlyce with a brown dog. I had written a story about that dog with Marlyce just 3 days ago. I didn’t really know the whole story, when I wrote the story, I could just see that Marlyce and her dog loved each other. It would take my mother-in-law’s trip down memory lane to bring out the full story of how protective the dog was of Marlyce…often stopping her from going where she shouldn’t…like too close to the railroad tracks near their home. And yet, it was just what I was thinking when I looked at the picture.
I don’t know how this hospital stay will end. My mother-in-law is a fighter, and I don’t believe that she will leave this world until she is ready to go. We all hope and pray that she will stay with us a little while longer, because we are not ready to have her go. I guess we never will be ready, and it doesn’t matter anyway, because when it comes right down to it, we will have no say in the matter. All we can do, when the time arrives is to remember that she lived a good long life…even if part of it was lived in the past…in an alternate reality.
As much as I dislike snow, and the inevitable wind that always seems to come with it, there are times when, if I have just a moment of free time, and if I stop long enough, I can look at the snow and possibly see something beautiful. It’s hard to do that though…slow down…look around…stop and smell the roses, so to speak. Everything in life these days demands a hectic schedule. Every day I try to cram everything I need to do into a day that doesn’t have enough moments in it, let alone hours.
I had just such a moment on New Years Eve. I had the day off, and Bob had to work. I still had my caregiving duties, but I had a little bit of quiet time late in the morning. I took a look outside, and there it was. The wind had quit. The snow was a little bit windblown, but smooth in many ways. The sun had come out and was shining brightly on the snow. The air was cold…frigid really, but it didn’t matter. I stepped outside, and looked at the snow. The sun was so bright, it made my eyes water, but I still couldn’t take my eyes off of it.
The snow was beautiful, but looking deeper I saw what the snow tries to hide from those who just casually glance at it. So often we miss the deep inner beauty of the snow. There in front of my eyes I saw the riches of the snow…the gems that it had been hiding…snow diamonds. “What”, you might ask, “are snow diamonds?” Well, they are not just ice crystals sparkling in the sunshine. They are much more than that. They are the little glimmer of hope that no matter how heavy our burdens are…no matter how tough our job or our life is…there are still beautiful things around us that can lift our spirits, brighten our days, soothe our souls, and mend the brokenness that comes from a life that is lived far too often in a hurry.
As I stood there in the crisp cold air, looking once more at the beauty that had been pointed out to me by my Lord, in an effort to show me the things He has made that I might have missed, I felt a warmth inside me…a smile that started in my heart and after making a brief stop in my consciousness, it came to rest on my face. I closed my eyes so I could fix the image in my memory. With their beauty, the snow diamonds had completed their appointed work. They had lifted this caregiver’s spirit…brightened my day…and made me feel like I could breathe again.
As a young bride, I wanted to be the best wife ever. I suppose that is what all young wives what to do. So they go out of their way to please their new husband. I was no different. Bob went to work at 5:00 am, so I got up at 4:00 am and made him a nice breakfast of all his favorite things. Bacon, eggs, hash browns, and pancakes, with orange juice and coffee, a breakfast fit for a king, or so I hoped. Going out for breakfast was one of the things we really enjoyed doing when we were dating.
For months Bob faithfully ate his breakfast every morning before he left for work. I then went about my day of cleaning and planning his dinner. I was in Seventh Heaven. Our life together was shaping up to be a “happily ever after” kind of life.
We went on like this for months. I was tired, getting up at 4:00 in the morning, but I was doing it for my man, and I knew that I could always go back to bed when he left for work. The main thing was that I knew that he went to work feeling full, well cared for, and most of all, loved. And he did feel those things, without a doubt, but there was something else he was feeling. Something I didn’t know about. After such a big breakfast, so early in the morning, Bob would go to work feeling so over full that it almost made him feel sick…even though the food was good.
Finally, after months of dealing with this problem, and not wanting to hurt his new wife’s feelings, Bob couldn’t take it any more. I remember him telling me that he needed to talk to me about something. Of course, as a new wife, I didn’t want to hear that, but I agreed. Bob…carefully choosing his words…told me that he simply couldn’t eat breakfast that early in the morning…it made him feel sick. He was so apologetic, and I could tell that he felt horrible telling me that.
What he didn’t know, is that I really hated getting up at 4:00 am to cook breakfast. I felt tired all day. I had never really been a morning person, although I learned to be later, but at that time…no way. I told Bob we really needed to talk more, and we both laughed about a what a funny situation that had been. I guess it was all about learning to communicate.