Toad in the Hole

May 02, 2005

Don't leave me alone with this.

Raw Chicken Viking Hat Knit-Along

As for that school picture: serves you right, Janis, for the above. Never mind that boring old cause-before-effect thing. (Yes, I have some that are as bad.)

We spent yesterday wrangling volunteers, which is much harder than staking trees, which I also did a little of. Someday, with a little help from my friends, I'll post before-and-after pics of the Chaparral House garden here.

Today we toured a few of the gardens on the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour in the East Bay. I'd had a preview, so I took Joe to see a few I thought he'd like (and he did) and revisited Scott and Jenny Fleming's magnificent garden of California native plants. Neither of us had been there in years. The big sequoiadendron by the meadow patch is gone, just a twenty- or thirty-foot barkless stump left. It hurt to see that.

Jenny's in a nursing home now; Scott was there, speaking a little and receiving visitors, but clearly not in good shape either. Chaparral House is a nursing home, a true nonprofit skilled nursing facility. Joe's mother lived there about the last two years of her life.

There are accidents and exigencies of getting old; you never know what you're going to get out of that particular pig in that particular poke. Joe's folks are generally long-lived. His mother lived to 98; he sat in his great-grandfather's lap and pulled his patriarchal beard before the old man, a Civil War veteran, died at 102. Other assorted relatives have gone into their late 90s, though in various conditions, what with broken hips and mild or not-so-mild dementias.

(Mine don't make it past 70. One person -- my paternal grandmother -- has managed to in the last three generations.)

His mother was losing it, getting less and less verbal and having cumulative physical problems, toward the end, from her last birthday in November 2003 till she died in February 2004. But I swear the last thing she responded to, after she'd stopped responding much to us, was the Chaparral House garden. Other gardens, too: one October day we bundled her up and pushed her in her wheelchair around the neighborhood. She asked me, as usual, "What's that?" every now and then, about a plant. Otherwise, she seemed less than conscious about much -- what meal she'd eaten last, where she was, the usual.

But when we passed an azalea in full late second bloom -- something that happens in our climate, especially in a warm autumn -- she stared and asked rhetorically, "What's that doing, blooming now?" So in some way she was aware of what time of year it was, and what that shrub was. She has a safety belt on her wheelchair because she'd forget and try to stand up and walk, and had broken her arm once that way, but some set of reactions remained that told her it was the wrong time for an azalea to bloom.

That's why we still volunteer to work on Chaparral House's garden.

Posted at May 2, 2005 04:51 AM


What a nice story.

Posted by: Rurality at May 4, 2005 03:09 PM

That is a wonderful story except the part where you make fun of school picture and raw chicken viking hats!

Posted by: Janis at May 4, 2005 10:31 PM

I have school pictures just as bad, and I make fun of them myself. If I had a raw chicken Viking hat, on the other hand, I'd never... Well, maybe I'd still make fun of it. Now I'm wondering where my Hawg Hat got to. Yes I have a Hawg Hat. I do not, however, have a Cheese Hat.

So are you gonna knit Mr. Barbecue Man a longhorn hat?

Posted by: Ron at May 6, 2005 01:03 AM