I love being a caregiver at this time of year because I know that all I have to do to get my mother’s eyes to sparkle again and bring back her smile is to bring her a bunch of fresh flowers from our yard.
I’ve written in the past about how Mom was always a gardener, with that magical green thumb. It seemed that all the plants needed to thrive was to be in her presence. Our neighbors would dump their dying houseplants or perennials on the doorstep and Mom would have them sprouting new growth within days.
So this is a part of her life I’ve wanted to keep going. She’s had to give up so much of herself. I often hear her say things like, “I don’t know who I am or what I can do anymore,” but when a plant project ends up in front of her, it jolts her back to a self she knows, and she gets bossy. I love it, because to me that means she feels competent, knowledgeable, and useful again.
After a string of days when she’s been barely able to get out a coherent sentence, when I brought in the flowers she found the words to tell me exactly how she wanted this vase arranged and where to put it in her room:
I’ve noticed this effect with many of the residents at her memory care. When I bring in plants or flowers, their hearts and stories open up. The smell of fresh dirt or the sight of a peony seems to be a powerful memory elixir for their generation. (And as I write this, knowing so many people my age and younger don’t connect with the natural world anymore, this leads me to wonder what their memory portal will be.)
When I brought in the lilacs today, Mom ordered me to put them out in the living room so all the residents could enjoy them, rather than keeping them in her room. I love that despite all her struggles and increasing self-centeredness as she shrinks back into herself more each month, she still has these grand moments of generosity and thoughtfulness.
After she said that, I told her that when I grow up I want to be just like her.
She smiled and said, “Well that’s kind of nice.”