Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Stinking Rose

It was an apricot orchard once, in the middle of a valley filled with them. Blenheims. Best apricots in the world. Then it became a back yard filled with fruit and nut trees. And a worm farm. Best fertilizer in the world; worm poop. But worms are not as low maintenance as you’d think, what with having to turn them over every day, and the occasional unfortunate shovel accident. Maybe they regenerate and grow new worm bits, but it was too disturbing. Plus, they tend to tunnel out of the yard.

In the 70’s as the trees died out, Dad planted elephant garlic, lettuce, beans, horseradish and corn. Mom would yell out the back door that the water was boiling and he’d run up the path, shucking the ears as he went, and toss the fresh cob into the pot.  The lettuce had these weird little triangular contraptions over them because Mom had read some article about “pyramid power”; the concept being that the light, heat, and vegetable chi, was channeled to produce mega heads.  It just fried them.

Eventually “the Aunts” decided what Dad needed was an authentic “English” garden and started ordering rose bushes from exotic catalogs. Every week UPS would deliver bare root shrubs with fancy names like Amethyst, Just Joey, Mint Julep, and Sterling Silver. Then they decided that he needed a brick pathway and a hideous fountain with the giant artichoke on top. Eventually the gentleman farmer’s field turned into a fragrant field of well over 300 roses, and his garden then became the family focus for garden parties, Scottish dances, weddings and funerals. Dad named it Tiraluin, the Gaelic word for “Beautiful Land”.

As friends and family die a rose is planted and labeled for them. Little brass badges that say, Mary Beatrix Stine, Paul Krol, Frances Baxter. Their ashes have been scattered into the soil under their rose and they continue to live and thrive in the garden they loved.

Tiraluin has continued to morph and change over the years. It’s not as flora-bountiful as it once was, but it still is where we all gather. The ugly fountain is gone and has been replaced with 2 ponds, one with Koi.  A gazebo has appeared and wrought iron swing sits under the 30 year old redwood that my father planted from seed.  And still fighting their way between the roses is the prolific garlic that Dad planted 35 years ago. The true Stinking Rose.


Monday, February 28, 2011

Keep Calm and Carry On

Focus: Latin for hearth; the dwelling place of Lares & Penates the Roman household gods who observed and protected and influenced all that happens with the boundaries of their location or function.

A friend once called me “the most focused person she’d ever known”, that I just dive in and dig in until I got it done. No matter what the “it” was. If it needed doing I’d do it. Need your garage or closet cleaned? Need your project managed skillfully on time and on budget? Need to manage up or out that nightmare employee? Call on me. No task too dirty for me. Queen of the multi-taskers. My brain was a constantly shuffling deck of cards and I could pull out the ace of any suit with my mind’s eye closed.

Then my focus narrowed into one prime objective; keeping Dad alive.  Managing his day-to-day existence of daily living, of weekly doctor visits, hospitalizations, transfusions and infusions. I became expert in knowing his intimate medical details and could recite the litany of blood pressures, symptoms/aches/pains, calcium, magnesium, potassium, white blood cell counts and radiological findings from any given day, on queue. I’d stand by his bed in the ER and rattle off the details to round after round of interns, hospitalists, consultants, and specialists who’d come in. They all asked the same questions and never wrote down the answers for the next guy. No need to, the daughter’s got it all.  Don’t bother pulling the medical records-I’ve got it all here in my head. Guaranteed accurate. The doctors would look at me agog and ask, “Did you go to medical school?” Nope. Just focused.

My prime objective has been changed and it’s almost like learning how to switch from driving a stick shift to an automatic transmission. I’m stuck at a stop sign staring at the floor, wondering what happened to the clutch. Now days I can’t seem to hone in on any thought or task longer than twenty minutes before I disconect myself and flit on to something else that distracts me. I was going to write my blog every day-wait a minute-I had that thought last December! What happened in the meantime, and what was I doing instead of writing? I find bits of my thoughts and intentions missing as if my brain has been given the once over by a military censor. Big fat black splotches inked over critical details to keep the enemy in the dark. Brain exhaustion. Processor overload.

All I can do is Keep Calm and Carry On.