Hindsight is 20/20 and a sense of humor is important to one’s sanity. When my wife was incarcerated, cheap therapy included walking the dog and doing yard work; lots of it. I spent countless hours cutting the lawn, killing weeds and watering all the Annabelle Hydrangeas. In the interest of full disclosure, I am not known for moderation, so when I cut the lawn I go for real precision. When I kill weeds, they’re dead. I once sprayed Round Up on our lawn to kill weeds; yup, Round Up. Killed the weeds all right, all of them plus the lawn.
However I would rather fish than garden, but desperate times called for desperate measures. I found our white “Annabelles” to be really beautiful when blooming and my wife loved them, so by default I became a gardener; who would have thought. I found that while methodically watering each plant; I reflected on my day, my job, my wife, my sons and my situation. It forced me to slow down and be outside in the sunshine while nurturing something non threatening and beautiful. It was healthy and I sensed it.
You want humor? I recall clearly one scorching August day I was busy in the kitchen cooking yet another frozen pizza, when my good friend Rod burst into the house on an absolute mission. “The Annabelle’s are stressed from the heat,” he exclaimed. “They need to be watered 20 seconds each, right now; then do it again in an hour, 30 seconds each plant.” “Rodney, relax,” I stated, “Sit down, have some pizza.” “Not a chance, we need to do it now!” Rod has flower credibility, so there went a perfectly good supper. Truth is stranger than fiction.
You want irony? I would stand by the plants, individually watering each one, watching people go by our house week in week out; joggers, mountain bikers, families, old ladies with little dogs resembling gerbils and a few punks as well. One jogger who went by our house regularly was the same police reporter who had been knocking on our door for 18 months to get Patty’s side of the story. He never made eye contact and I never sprayed him with the hose. With his gait and speed, there was more than ample time, but he was all washed up anyways.
Flower power? Ladies walking their fluffy dogs and some old guys wandering by would say, “The Hydrangeas are just so beautiful, you put a lot of time into them, they look good.” I couldn’t say my wife is in the slammer and I’ve got nothing better to do. So I’d joke and say it’s cutting in on my fishing time or that I had another woman in my life, Annabelle, she does take up a lot of time. Much laughter, nice compliments and the water would keep pouring on the plants.
The good news? I wasn’t in the tavern risking it all. Bad news, I was drowning the plants while nurturing a parched soul. In fact, a case could be made that I was water boarding the Hydrangeas while seeking some truths. I deny it of course. Perhaps Dick Cheney would back me on this one; on second thought I’ll pass. The “new normal,” I’ve talked about in previous blogs, had me wearing a dorky sun hat looking like a refugee from the local memory care unit, while tending the flowers to death and cutting the lawn too much. A truly wonderful neighbor once asked me why I water the flowers so much, I said it was relaxing. I drafted an email update on my wife later that night, sent it to our friends; detailing my recent visit with Patty. The next day, knowing my neighbor had read the update, I inquired, “Now do you see why I water the flowers so much?” She admitted welling up reading the update; the burden was understood.
What’s a few flowers in the big scheme of things? It’s all about choices. In hind sight, I’m sure I drowned 15% of the Annabelle’s. This is far cheaper than drowning my sorrows in a bottle. Lawn care over liquor, it worked for me. Better to be alone outside doing yard work, getting some sun than being alone inside the house watching CNN week after week. Better to be in the back row of church, alone and aching, surrounded by Jesus, than running from life and causing big time heartache everywhere.
Hydrangeas’ status? The survivors are not perfectly even, robust or perfect. Rather, they look like the teeth of a backwoods hillbilly; I wish they were perfect but hey this is the new normal. The lawn is neat however, my wife is just stunning, my faith walk is growing, my wisdom increases with age and hindsight; plus I’m told my sense of humor has returned.
Bottom line: If I can instill hope in just one person who is gutting it out with a spouse behind the wire, this blog is for you. Drown the flowers, walk your dog too much, sit in the back row at church, drink in good worship music, do what you need to do. Most people won’t understand. I certainly do, Jesus certainly will. Forge on.