“Denise, do you see the yellow finch on the feeder box? See him? He comes every morning to get the seeds that have dropped because he is chased away by the larger birds. He waits for the others to scratch and drop his seeds. Could you go out and throw some of the finer seeds where he can get to it?”
“Sure, I’ll be glad to do it. Where are they, again”
Pointing toward me, she raises her voice, “Right next to the back door on the table.”
The bag of seed was right where she pointed. The large wooden bird feeder is installed in front of the full-length door, so she can view with her boxseat binoculars. She calls out to me over the course of the morning, pointing out a colorful or unusual breed. It’s never been clearer, Mom’s crossed over into elderly living, her decline especially obvious to me since my last visit. This past year, she was administrating her residential care facility, handling admissions and managing employees like a pro. Her decline being more obvious since first of the year, bringing in other administration and spending more time away from the office.
As I step out onto her deck to lay out the seed for her visiting finches, my heart is warmed a bit. My oldest son Ben, who takes after her love for gardening and farming, constructed a large planter box around the deck. It is empty with a lonely plant of rhubarb, because the summer is ending. Ben stops in on his way home from work to share plants with her and check on her raised, deck garden.
Mom rocks to stand to her feet from her chair and joins me on the deck. She begins to clean the soil of seed hulls and small weeds popping to the surface. I contemplate doing the gardening for her, but I hold back. I see she wants to do it, and I don’t want to take away her purpose.
“The rhubarb can survive in colder temperatures and I’ve read not to cut it back until the first of the year. “
My mind wanders a bit, “How long have you used these planting boxes, Mom?”
“Ben built them for me at least 4 years ago. I have enjoyed having the harvest of lettuce, radishes and tomatoes and look forward to the fresh vegetables. They are at the right height for me to plant and weed.”
All of my children love their grandmother, I made sure of it. They had no need to feel the hurt and hardship we knew as mother and daughter, though bits and pieces of our story come to light now and then. They remember the good times working with her Longhorn cows, and feeding sweet feed on days end. Our boys drove the farm trucks as young teens and learned what it meant to care for her animals.
Now, the farm’s sold, a thing of the past. These later years, she still worked hard, yet enjoyed her simple life at home.
I think back to the time I was about to give birth to my daughter, Megan, Mom’s 3rdgranddaughter in a sea of grand-boys.
“Mom, Greg has taken me to Mary Black Hospital. It’s time!”
“Ok, I am getting dressed now.”
Mom immediately begin to get ready for a quick exit.
“You are NOT going to the hospital, Betty! Denise has not respected us in this whole mess.” My step-father was implicated in some serious charges, and we set hard boundaries about having our children around him, and as sad as it was it included his not being welcome at the hospital.
“Yeah, and who is going to stop me? That is my grandbaby being born and I will not miss it.”
I still remember the day she came in to hold our daughter, Megan. I was so glad to have her with us for this once in a lifetime event. I didn’t know how God was going to restore our family, but I had faith He would in His time. We would get through all of this current mess. He had drug us through so much already.
Like a tap root deep into the center, bitterness can take hold and suck all the life out of our relationships. There is a time to say, “No” and demand the respect and safety you need for yourself and those you love. This issue with my step-father caused a serious break across the family. I knew Mom had some hard things to face, and I allowed her to come to our house, but no longer agreed to visit at her home. She had never been able to detach herself from his problems, always hoping things would change. In the end, she chose to separate though she hated divorce, and God protected her through the ordeal.
Mom never remarried. She always said that deep hurts ruined her with all men. To this day she is content to live alone in peace and quiet. I must admit she became an even better grandmother, than she was as a mother. I am so thankful our children never knew our pain.
It is hard to face the patterns of hurt placed upon us by our families. I regularly come face to face with how those hurts have affected me, making sense of why and how things developed. I made a conscious decision to grieve out the days I cannot get back. I didn’t allow the offender to continue to hurt me, but removing myself from his proximity is not enough to find God’s freedom. A part of me had to die. Die to the concept of being the righteous one, die to the thought that an “I’m sorry” from them would make the journey easier, die to my own thirst for revenge for the damage done. Freedom lies on the other side of letting the hurt-story die the death. In this case, I will no longer let it reach in to be a weight to my soul. And when a thought is triggered with a hint of opening the old wound, I remember my choice to release it to God to rectify.
Looking at the garden boxes on Mom’s deck, I consider Mom as she is now. God took the burden of her wrongs from my life, when I chose to release them from her charge and place them with Him. And I can treasure her for who she is now. In the end, we were fortunate, she chose wisely. She is not your typical Proverbs 31 wise-woman by any means, and yet her children and grandchildren rise up and call her blessed
As she works to finish up her container garden, I look at her hands crippled with arthritis. I am brought back to the moment enjoying the day doing these little things. I am grateful to enjoy what time I have left with her.
“Mom, Greg and I brought up a low country boil for tonight, does that sound good?”
“Oh man, I think I’ve died and gone to heaven, Denise!”
I pat her back and smile.
“Just some fresh seafood, Mom, heaven still awaits us.”