Marigolds for Robbie
by Jan Hasselius
I'd almost died. All the way home from the hospital, I thought
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.