Susan Boyd and her husband, Blake, had a life, and it was normal, and then came a symptom.
Tests and biopsies and scans – the nervous knot in the stomach – many of you know this bad dance – and then the diagnosis, and though both are in medicine, they’re in the patient chairs now, the doctor pauses, that last moment of innocence, before pronouncing the two terrible syllables of the C word…
…time slows, it speeds, it blurs, it’s 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, on the necessary conveyor belt of medicine, finding heroes in the local cavalry of cancer specialists, then the trips to Houston, exhaustion, then pause, exhaustion, then pause, the blessed Window of Better, a season of grace, and then the dreaded It’s Back…
That’s how they ended up at this house. It’s a nice house, on a nice street, but the real reason was to be near the hospital.
God Made Them All Different, God Adores Them All The Same
If you divide humanity into two categories, we always start with male and female. Another way is by introvert and extrovert.
Susan is an introvert.
Few activities are more suited for introverts than gardening. It’s solitude with plenty company: the family dog napping in the grass, birds in the branches, bugs and lizards, caterpillars and butterflies, these are your companions in that wonderful natural space where we get near the echo shadow of humanities first residence – the Garden of Eden.
It’s breezes and wind chimes, textures and colors, it’s dirt on your knees, and dirt on your hands, it’s dirt in all its could-be, dirt, the womb of earth, where just about anything has a chance, and the blessed therapy of feeling like you have some control over at least one thing, at exactly the time when you feel so out of control of everything…
…except…there’s sadness now…
It’s a natural sadness. It’s part of the cycle. When your husband is within the house, and going down, it is hard to find the peace, the neutral, that gardening requires.
After The Funeral
Her friend, Laura, sent a check for fifty dollars. Just because.
She knows she’s going to move. “That place needed some living people,” she says.
“Because you were a shell?”
Even though she knew she would be selling the house she invested the fifty dollars into a baby live oak, and planted it.
When she listed the house, there was the realty sign, plunked into the yard, and if you stood at a certain angle, the live oak was lost behind the temporary Buy Me of real estate advertising.
She was now in the Land of W’s.
Wounded. Widow. Those words.
The house she bought needed help. She hired men. They took down, they added, they made it Home. But the yard…the yard was hers…and it had nowhere to go, but Up…and neither did she…
She’s got a hole in her heart, and knows it, but every day the sun rises, and there’s living to be lived. The down lasts and lasts, and all she has to show is Still Here, In Motion, but inside, little by little, the miracle of healing is happening.
…and one day…she goes to Lowes, and buys some caladium bulbs…like she used to do, as if a dormant bulb of her old life was tired of winter, ready for spring, green coming up through the brown…
She’s on her knees, with a trowel in one hand and bulbs in another, and a friend stops by to check on her.
The friend asks, “Whatcha doing?”
“I’m living,” she says. “I’m living.”
That’s how it goes. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, and we are not meant for defeat.
The House With The Live Oak
I imagine her avoiding the old address. Maybe for years.
But time passed, with all its mysterious medicine, and she drove by the old place, and the live oak was no longer a puppy. It could live for centuries…and people would think, O, the precious acorn, but really, it was the fighting spark, of a cold heart.
For whom did she plant the live oak?
…for husband, for herself, for their pairness…
Or maybe it was planted for something even higher, a person in pain, giving, for strangers, planting something that lasts, and few living things last longer…than live oaks…thinking, here neighbors, here town, here world, here God, here future, here I plant you a pleasure, with no gain unto myself…
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This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is brought to you by Eighty-one, which loves a story with roots deep and aim high…
Uncle P can be reached at email@example.com. Other Bedtime Stories can be found on the Eighty-one Facebook page.