Today I felt like no one liked me. Have you ever had a day like that? I simply felt alone even when I was with people. It was too busy of a day, and I didn’t spend one moment doing anything I enjoyed. The day went too quickly, and I didn’t accomplish everything that I had planned to get done in the office.
I am officially on vacation. I am not smiling about that. I feel like everything is going to fall apart when I am gone. I feel like I am going to have a messy shitstorm waiting for me when I get back. OK, now le’s add some paranoia to the mix. I’m afraid someone is going to purposely cause trouble for me. You know….”When the cat’s away…” I’m just trying to tell myself that everything will be OK. It’s just one week. It can’t all possibly fall apart in just one week, right?
Yes, we are going to go away for vacation, and yes, my mother has not taken this news lightly. She called me yesterday during my lunch hour. She never calls me. I am always the one who calls her. She asked me if I had time to talk, and I said that I did. Then she asked me if we were still planning to leave town for a vacation. I said that we were, and she said, “Oh, well that’s OK. Don’t worry about it. I don’t want you to change your plans, but I have scheduled angioplasty for Tuesday morning of next week.” Oh, indeed. Doesn’t that just figure? We have known that Mom has needed angioplasty for well over a year. The doctors advised against the procedure, and now Mom has scheduled it for when she knew that I would be out of town.
Yes, we are still going on vacation. I sat there stunned for a moment while she told me not to change my plans for her. I was silenced. I didn’t know how to react. All I could think of was the girls. They have sat home alone all summer while T and I work. I am stressed out. T is stressed out. I NEED a vacation. We all do. The past year or so has been so very difficult. What to do? What is my duty, to be a good mother, or to be a good daughter? Would there really be an impact on the outcome of her surgery if I were to stay home? Well, I’m not going to be able to guide the surgeon. The boys will be home. If there is an emergency, they will be able to let us know. If there is an emergency, I can fly home. Settled. We are going on vacation.
Truth be told, my mom has been an invalid for more than 17 years now. No, I don’t believe she was actually incapacitated for that entire time. Yes, she had a real illness, but many people live active, productive lives with that same illness. I will never forget T’s reaction when my mom was diagnosed. “Well, she’s been waiting her entire life for this,” and T is NOT the kind of person to criticize unduly. Enough said about my mother. Yes, she is in horrible shape now. I have real compassion for her, but I also have other responsibilities that require me to set boundaries and priorities for just how much of myself I can give. It is a difficult, guilt-ridden balancing act.
All week, I have been remembering something from the past. It was early in the month of August when my son, Adam died at birth. I almost died, too. Earlier that spring, I had planted flowers to dry for wreaths and arrangements. I had planted and harvested yarrow, statice, allium, globe thistle, and artemesia. All summer, I had cut my flowers, tied them into bundles, and hung them up in the rafters of the shed to dry. It was fragrant and beautiful to enter the shed that summer.
When I returned home from the hospital without by baby, I was unable to leave my bed for about a week. I was so sick and weak that I couldn’t go up and down the stairs. T had carried me upstairs, and there I laid-sat-cried. Gradually, my strength returned, and I ventured out of my room. I wanted to see those flowers. I had picked them when I was healthy, when my baby still lived, when I was so happy and hopeful. As soon as I was strong enough, I made the trip out back to the shed. It’s an old shed. Believe it or not, but we salvaged it from a friend. They were going to get rid of it, and we took it and gave it a home. We hauled it in pieces in the back of a truck. I loved that shed. I still do! It has cute paned windows, a funny slanted roof, and dutch doors.
As I walked out to the shed that August afternoon, I wondered how I would feel to see the flowers. I still remember how much it hurt to walk that far, and how weak I felt as T helped me hobble out to the shed. I opened the top portion of the dutch door and stood in shock. There was no color. Bunches and bunches of flowers hung from the ceiling rafters, but every single bit of color had drained out of them. I stared. Suddenly, I felt satisfied. It was as it should be. I couldn’t use any of the flowers I had grown and gathered. Well, good. There would be no additional reminders of that painful summer.
I have thought about that summer of faded flowers often over the years. I have continued to dry flowers. I have a wreath hanging on the door of my front hall closet that is made from flowers that I grew and dried several years ago. The colors are still vibrant. The strange and sudden loss of color has never occurred again.
This summer, I haven’t had an event quite as dramatic as the flowers. Still, I feel a lack of color all around me. There seems to be a sepia haze covering my world. The sky isn’t quite as blue. The flowers in my garden are struggling to find their way through the weeds. Their petals are dull and pocked with insect damage. They are dying where they grew instead of being preserved or brought inside to fill a vase on the table. The grass isn’t dewy and green. Instead, it looks patchy and straw-like. Colors all around me are fading. Just like me, a faded version of all that they could be.