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Marigolds for Robbie

by Jan Hasselius

I'd almost died. All the way home from the hospital, I thought about it.

The accident had left me a mess. It was the beginning of April, the season of beginnings. Not for me, though. It felt like the time for endings, most of all, the end of gardening.

Gardening was my soul's passion, my stress reliever, and my artistic search. Gardening was like life to me.

My friend, Robbie, who was a down-to-earth person and also a gardener said to me, "I know you can still garden, Jan. " she'd say. " People in nursing homes garden! My Grandma Jean stills gardens. She put up 30 pints of raspberries last summer, and froze 40 apple pies. And she has arthritis so bad it hurts to move. You'll just have to try. And tomorrow you'll have to try more, and more. Pretty soon, you'll be back digging in the dirt."

"Only God knows what is in store for each of us." Robbie was giving me a pep talk to pull me out of the down mood. "And you will garden again." I was too morose to believe her, but she went on, anyway. "Don't be depressed, Jan. Only God knows what is in store for each of us. I could be dead tomorrow! But while I'm here, I'm going to make the most of every day. So will you. You will garden again, wait and see!"

I knew she was trying to help, giving me pep talks to pull me out of my depression. But they didn't work.

One sunny day three weeks later, Robbie said, " I have a present for you." She went to her car and brought back a flat of marigolds. "Marigolds are very hardy. They have cheerful faces. You just can't fail with Marigolds."

I looked at her. I just looked at her. "Those aren't for me! How can I plant them? I can't use my right arm, my legs don't work, what are you thinking of?""

"Easy", she said, "I have it all planned." With that Robbie pushed me out onto the patio and up to the patio table. "Now you wait here, I'll be right back." "Sure, I thought, like where am I going to go?"

In a minute she was back with a bag of potting soil, vermiculite and four flower boxes. "We're going to plant them in flower boxes, using your left hand! We'll put the flower boxes here on the railing and you can water and weed and feed them without ever leaving your wheelchair. When you get to walking better, you can stand up and lean on the railing to do your weeding." She smiled triumphantly at me.

I looked at the little plants, each overgrowing its little plastic container. I looked at Robbie, beaming down at me. "Oh, what the heck, all right, all right!" I said.

I could only use my left hand.... but if felt so good! Robbie chatted beside me offering encouragement, letting me do as much by myself as I could. The spring sun warmed my back the way the work warmed my heart. When we finished she exclaimed, "Just look at that! You're a gardener again!"

All summer I nurtured those marigolds. I thought they were the most beautiful flowers I had ever seen. Oh, I had planted marigolds before, but as I became a more sophisticated gardener, I'd thought they were too ordinary. Now I rediscovered the reliability and beauty of this strong, always blooming flower. They became like a beacon. "Come here", they called, "Come here". The rest of the garden became unkempt and full of weeds. But Robbie just said, "Don't look at that, Jan. Look at the bright and cheerful marigolds! Next year you can worry about the other part."

She was right--about my garden and my life I began to look for the bright and cheerful parts, never mind what I couldn't do. Eventually I'd get there- one plant at a time.

The summer turned into fall and the fall into winter. Robbie helped me plan for the coming spring. "You can do a lot more now, " she said. She was right again. The glorious day came when I could stand with a walker and take a few painful steps. Then I could walk with one crutch, sometimes with just a cane. "This year we will plant marigolds again," Robbie said. "Lots of different kinds. We'll line the whole patio with them

April came --and a shocking telephone call, from Robbie's daughter. "Jan, Mom just died. She had a heart attack in the night."

I walk steadily now on my patio and I decide by myself where I am going to plant this year's marigolds. But they're not for me. They're for the person who gave me back my life; for the person who taught me to live every day to the fullest.


They're marigolds for Robbie.

 
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